The incongruity of City Manager Reva Feldman’s grousing demand letter her lawyer slapped on Malibu, charging what she calls harassment, is by any administrative measure basically reasoned requests that she do her job.

Peeling away the opaque legalize uncovers the simple proposition that a duly elected councilman, Bruce Silverstein, on the governing body of a municipality of which Feldman is an employee, is exercising his responsibilities for which he has sworn an oath.

These requests by Silverstein, arguably made with uncommon vigor and persistence, upsetting the sensibilities of Feldman and her entourage, are critical to the city’s democratic operations. Given an imperious, secretive management style, this could explain her indecorous deflections and muddled responses to his requests, and the councilman’s legal background.

Indeed, it is heartening that someone qualified and committed has been elected to the council, and being retired has willingly applied his considerable experience as a respected corporate lawyer to the responsible governance of the City of Malibu, beset as it is by mounting municipal problems following the disastrous Woolsey Fire, it aftermath and now the pandemic.

If anything, these events have laid bare the inadequacies of City Hall and, in particular, those of the indulged city manager. Many in Malibu feel the council increasingly has been relegated to a self-aggrandizing ceremonial role, orchestrated by both default and design by a self-serving bloated bureaucracy and select consultants, favored by Feldman. 

No doubt she also wants to hold on to her annual $300,000 pay and benefits, and the prerogatives and perks she has coated her position with, while for nearly a decade not being challenged.

Then along came Silverstein promising reforms, “transparency, accountability and ethics,” garnering the most votes in the recent election, which was seen as a reflection of the growing awareness among residents that things are amiss in Malibu. This feeling gained further credence with the reveal of possible malfeasance within City Hall, in a signed affidavit by the popular outgoing councilman and twice mayor, Jefferson Wagner.

That affidavit was disparaged, as was Silverstein’s requests, in Feldman’s letter that reads as having been drafted late at night. Its intemperate tone noted in the social media by some of Malibu’s more knowledgeable residents prompted me to circulate the missile further among select seasoned public and private sector sources from a previous life.

The responses ranged from incredulous to instructional. Noting that for all the hemming and hewing the badly composed letter was a merely a threat, “a shakedown,” commented a hard-nosed New Yorker. He added the bottom line being that she was presumptuously seeking a $375,000 buy out and a get-out-of jail-free card.

Further, Feldman was threatening her employer, which renders her present and possible future services moot, and for which she should be put on an immediate leave of absence. “Not a day or a dime more,” he commented, adding if she was smart, she’d resign, and avoid the disclosures a law suit is a sure to generate.

“So let her sue,“ he concluded, indicating it probably will be her costly punishment for her questioned service. “She is bluffing, and will probably settle for much less. I’d start out offering a token dollar.”

Sam Hall Kaplan

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