Council Tables Move for a 'Gag' on Itself

Times Staff Writer

A controversial resolution by Councilman David Margrave asking council members to refrain from calling each other names in public and in the news media has been tabled on a 3-1 vote, a move that in effect kills the proposal.

Margrave's so-called "gag order," first proposed to the council in December, would have been a non-binding "gentleman's agreement" aimed specifically at Councilman Bob Wagner, an outspoken critic of some his fellow councilmen and the lone dissident vote on many City Council issues.

Wagner abstained from voting on the resolution and made no comment on it during the City Council meeting last week.

Elected Last Year

Elected to the council last year, Wagner is a founding member of the Committee for Responsive Government, a political watchdog organization that has drawn the ire of several council members, including Mayor Ted Shaw, for its unabashed activism aimed at influencing city government.

Margrave, who cast the lone vote for the resolution, said last week that simply putting it before the council, despite its subsequent defeat, accomplished exactly what he set out to do: embarrass Wagner for his sometimes caustic remarks about former and present city officials.

Margrave said that several of Wagner's remarks have been directed toward him and Mayor Shaw, "but I don't give him that much credit to remember them."

'Golden Turkey Award'

Wagner has been quoted as calling former Mayor AlvaLee Arnold "Benedictine Arnold," likening her to Revolutionary War traitor Benedict Arnold. In press releases mailed to local newspapers in December, Wagner bestowed his own "Golden Turkey Award" on former councilman Mike Montgomery.

"There's no call for that," Margrave said. "It (the resolution) got tabled, but it was very clear that we won. It made the point--it put Bob on the spot. It won't quiet him down, but hopefully it will stop him from calling people names."

When asked after the meeting why he did not comment during the council discussion, Wagner replied, "He who speaks too much seeds his own destruction." He added: "I want to compliment my fellow councilmen for using the intelligence to see that the matter got tabled."

First Amendment Cited

Other city officials and many South Pasadena residents also had opposed the resolution, agreeing with Wagner that it was unnecessary and an infringement of the First Amendment right of free speech.

The crux of the non-binding resolution stated that "no council member will, in a derogatory manner at a public meeting or in the news media, criticize in a personal attack another council member for his actions, past actions, and/or lack of actions with regards to any issue."

Although the vote was simply to table the resolution, all the members, including Margrave, said that they did not want to bring it back before the council.

"It's just a way of killing it," City Clerk Ruby Kerr said. "It was a non-binding, gentleman's agreement that the council agreed wouldn't be of any use to anybody."

The South Pasadena Review, a weekly newspaper that steadfastly supports most of the City Council's positions and usually opposes Wagner and his Committee for Responsive Government, was one of the strongest supporters of the resolution. In several editorials, the newspaper endorsed the resolution as an "appeal for the most basic of manners," while making thinly concealed references to Wagner as a "crybaby" who uses "headline-grabbing gimmicks."

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