Let the gadfly buzz, or the watchdog bark

Conventional wisdom tells us that to stop a bully, you generally need to punch him in the nose. That appeared to be the tactic of Bill Weisman, a longtime Crescenta Valley resident and traffic commissioner, when he presented a slew of allegations against local gadfly — or watchdog, depending on your point of view — Barry Allen.

Allen has been a thorn in the side of city officials for years, trafficking in rumor and innuendo via his newsletter, often in the form of “letters” of clouded or dubious authorship. At Tuesday’s Council meeting, Weisman presented evidence that Allen, going by a different name, was arrested for counterfeiting in the mid 1980s. As a result, he said, any complaints Allen had about city governance were suspect and should be ignored.

But Councilman Ara Najarian took things a step farther, urging a policy that would prohibit city workers from speaking to Allen's group, the Vanguardians, on city time. This is wrongheaded, not because of Allen himself, who deserves little sympathy for being on the business end of the stick he so frequently wields, but because of its possible implications.

Officials already have a hard time getting people involved in local issues. If an individual fears interacting with city workers due to a shady past, problems may fester. A conviction 30 years, three years or even three months ago does not erase their right to be heard.

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