Robert E. Ryan, a 20-year City Council member who helped incorporate Rancho Palos Verdes but came under fire for his brusque manner and for secretly marrying the city clerk, has died at age 64.
Local citizens, led in part by Ryan, fought to incorporate the city because they said supervisors allowed too much development in the area. Rancho Palos Verdes was incorporated in 1973. Ryan was elected to the first City Council the same year.
Ryan became known for his biting remarks, and in 1989, it was revealed that he had married City Clerk Jo Purcell in Las Vegas two years earlier. Soon after news of the marriage broke, Ryan resigned from the City Council to ease the stress on his wife, who he said was being harassed by city employees because of the marriage.
But one week after his resignation, Ryan jumped back into the race for a fifth City Council term and won.
In 1993, he resigned from the council after being appointed to county's Regional Planning Commission.
Ryan was a friend and adviser to Councilwoman Susan Brooks, who unsuccessfully ran for Congress last year. Brooks said Ryan would be most proud of the parks he helped found in Rancho Palos Verdes.
She also noted that Ryan helped engineer an agreement allowing Rancho Palos Verdes to receive a portion of the sales tax revenues from commercial centers in neighboring Rolling Hills Estates.
Brooks said Ryan was brilliant, but acknowledged that his forthright manner sometimes put people off.
"I think a lot of the people stopped watching the Rancho Palos Verdes City Council when he left," Brooks added.