CIVIC CENTER -- Planning Board member Carolyn Berlin released a
private legal opinion Wednesday supporting her contention the city has no
cause to remove her from the panel because of a possible conflict of
Berlin, a Planning Board member since 1994, hired high-profile Los
Angeles law firm Richards, Watson and Gershon to offer an opinion after
two reports by Burbank City Atty. Dennis Barlow raised the possibility
that her continued service could jeopardize an agreement between the city
and the airport for a new terminal. Even if Berlin did not take part in
airport discussions, Barlow said, a problem could exist because her
husband, Phil Berlin, holds a seat on the airport commission.
But Berlin said Tuesday’s, co-authored by former Burbank Mayor William
Rudell, bolsters her position that she can stay on the board as long as
she does not participate in discussions about the development agreement
for the proposed terminal.
Barlow, who said he does not believe a conflict of interest exists,
was nonetheless skeptical of Berlin’s private legal report.
“Their position and their responsibility isn’t to advise the City
Council,” Barlow said.
Berlin, however, said she was not trying to influence the council,
merely to make sure it had all the information available on a matter that
could affect any married couple participating in city government.
“I don’t think it’s my place to tell the council what to do,” Berlin
said Wednesday. “Because of the seriousness of the issues, I felt
compelled to get an opinion from experts.”
Barlow has backed off his initial contention that the Berlins’
situation might violate state law. However, he said there are still
significant risks to the city’s approval of a new terminal if Berlin
remains on the board.
Although, he said, he had not read the entire report, Barlow said it
seemed to echo his views that a conflict doesn’t exist.
“From what I read, it sounds like they agree with us,” Barlow said. “I
think it just agrees with the position we advanced.”
Despite Barlow’s reports, no council member has asked Berlin to step
down. In fact, Councilman Dave Golonski and others have suggested
amending city law to take certain advisory duties away from the Planning
Board to eliminate any potential problems. Barlow said he is researching
the plausibility of that solution and will present his findings to the
council early next year.
The city has also requested an opinion from the state attorney
general, which could take up to six months, Barlow said. The Planning
Board is scheduled to consider the airport’s terminal proposal March 20
and the City Council is scheduled to vote on it in April.
The council is in no hurry to act on the matter, Councilman Bob Kramer
“I don’t feel any pressure at all,” Kramer said. “Hopefully we’ll hear
from the anttorney general.”