The recall Tuesday of veteran Rolling Hills Estates City Councilman Jerome Belsky has cast a shadow over the remaining four council members who are now targets of the citizens group that generated a 52.9% vote to oust Belsky. The seat will be filled by special election early next year.
The other council members “can start resigning or face a recall,” said Paul E. Bradley Sr., who came from relative obscurity to spearhead the campaign against Belsky.
A veteran of 12 years on the council, Belsky was named 1984 Citizen of the Year by the Palos Verdes Peninsula Chamber of Commerce and Rotary Club, and was ousted despite endorsements from three of his council colleagues and a number of elected federal and state officials.
Bradley has accused Belsky of exercising a “dictatorship” over the council and of demeaning residents. Bradley claimed to have “broken up a fine-tuned political machine” with the recall.
“I am surprised and disappointed,” said Belsky, 70, blaming his defeat on a failure to convince people of “the years of service I gave to the community and the quality of this service.”
From the outset of the recall petition drive in March, the 5-member group said it wanted to replace all the council members because they have held office too long. “People here have sent the City Council a message,” Bradley said Wednesday.
Mayor Warren Schwarzmann--describing Belsky as a civic-minded man who had served the city well--said that Bradley’s success against Belsky means the drive to replace the other council members will be difficult to fight. “If it is possible for someone, by lies and indirect attack, to succeed in doing this, then it’s just a matter of time and money,” he said.
It “will make people not want to run for office,” Schwarzmann said. “It is a volunteer job that people do to serve the community. They don’t have to put up with that.”
Those sentiments were echoed by Councilman Hugh Muller, who described the vote as a surprise. He said that he “would not act differently” because of the recall, and if a challenge were mounted against him he would not fight it.
“It is difficult to prove your innocence” of these sorts of charges, he said.
Schwarzmann and Muller called Belsky an activist on the council who expressed opinions forcefully and, therefore, became an easy target for those who are unhappy with council decisions.
Councilman Peter Weber said the results came as no surprise. It reflects “a groundswell of discontent against the whole council,” which has served together for years, he said.
The terms of Weber, Muller and Schwarzmann are up in November, 1991; Muller and Weber have said they will not run again.
Councilwoman Nell Mirels could not be reached for comment. She faces reelection next year.
In addition to recalling Belsky by a margin of more than 5%, voters called for a special election to fill the seat.
The seat becomes vacant when the council receives certified election results from Los Angeles County, which is expected to occur at the Dec. 13 council meeting. The council must schedule a special election between 88 and 103 days after that.