Azusa Council Puts Refrigerator Squabble on Ice

Times Staff Writer

A resolution that forced Mayor Eugene Moses to share his office at City Hall with other council members and instructed him to stop raiding the employees' refrigerator has been rescinded by the City Council.

Councilman Bruce Latta said the year-old resolution was repealed Monday in an effort to "put a stop to the dissension and bickering in town."

"Our city does not need continuous fighting," Latta said.

Besides, the mayor has been using the resolution to portray himself as "a poor martyr" under assault from political enemies, Latta said, adding that by leaving the resolution on the books, the council is providing him with a reelection campaign issue. Moses will seek his fourth two-year term in April's municipal voting. Councilman James Cook has said that he will run against Moses, but has not yet filed papers.

However, if withdrawal of the resolution was intended as a conciliatory gesture, Moses did not take it that way.

The mayor charged that Latta is not interested in harmony but in saving his own political skin. Moses said that the resolution was rescinded because it had backfired, evoking sympathy for him instead of ridicule.

Latta responded that the repeal had not been based on public reaction to the resolution. In fact, Latta said, he has not received a single complaint from the public about it.

The resolution was adopted by a 3-2 council vote in December, 1986, after Latta complained that the mayor was exceeding his authority in several ways. It established 23 rules of conduct for the mayor and council members.

For example, Rule 16 said: "Stay out of the employees' refrigerator in City Hall unless you have brought food."

Latta said he included that provision because two municipal employees complained that Moses "was hanging around City Hall all day and he would get into the food. When they went to eat their lunch, it was gone."

Moses denied that he ever ate anyone's lunch and said the refrigerator rule was included to ridicule him. "The stupid one about the icebox was just to humiliate me," he said.

The resolution directed the mayor to share his City Hall office with council members, and prohibited the mayor and council members from using a city car, issuing orders to municipal employees, bestowing awards or sending out letters without the approval of their colleagues.

Latta asserted that Moses, who ran a stand selling fish bait and gold-panning equipment before retiring to devote full time to city business, constantly disrupted work at City Hall. He also accused Moses of spreading misinformation, taking credit for every city accomplishment and browbeating staff.

Moses responded to the resolution by hiring a private detective to find out why council members were trying to curb his power. He said it is now clear that the resolution was part of a strategy to weaken his authority so that he would do less and become politically vulnerable.

Moses and Latta agreed that repeal of the resolution would have little practical impact. But Latta said the resolution had been beneficial in leading to new procedures for appointing city commissions.

The resolution tried to shift the power to make appointments from the mayor to the council, but the city attorney later ruled that California law gave that power to the mayor and that the council's only function was to approve or reject his nominations. However, the resolution led to a change that requires potential commissioners to be interviewed by the council and mayor together before appointments are made.

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