Crown City News
Pasadena Star News
Town council up in arms
Campaign battle shakes meeting
By Elise Kleeman Staff Writer
Article Launched: 06/20/2007 11:43:19 PM PDT
ALTADENA - The normally sedate monthly Town Council meeting turned raucous and emotional Tuesday night as council members struggled to resolve allegations of misconduct during the recent elections.
For about three hours, veteran Town Councilman Steve Lamb was disqualified from returning to his seat for a 17th year when Election Chair Jamie Bissner ruled that Lamb engaged in negative campaigning, violating election rules.
But by the end of the meeting, which was rife with accusations, threats of legal action and even challenges to manhood, Lamb had reclaimed the seat he won June 9 by a 29-vote margin.
The controversy began two weeks before, when an interview with Lamb aired on the Crown City News Web site. During the interview, Lamb said that his opponent, Matt Littell, had paid
$1.5 million for his house and was an employee of Council Chairman Ken Balder.
Similar claims were made in a flier Lamb distributed in his census tract, 4603.02.
Littell disputed both claims and lodged a complaint with Bissner about negative campaigning. Lamb later lodged a counter-complaint about negative campaigning by Littell.
According to election rules, the election chair and Town Council chair arbitrate any disputes. Because Balder was mentioned in one complaint, though, he recused himself, leaving Bissner to reach his own conclusions.
Tuesday night, Bissner issued his decision.
"I do determine that it was negative campaigning, and so Steve Lamb is removed from the election," he told the standing-room-only crowd.
He did not find Littell guilty of wrongdoing.
His unilateral declaration left several council members aghast.
"You can't have one person make all the rules," said Councilman Dennis Bridwell.
Adding to the confusion, although the election rules ban negative campaigning "as defined in the Bylaws," the council bylaws do not mention negative campaigning at all.
When the dispute came up for discussion later in the meeting - by which point Bissner had left - debate got heated as council members discussed alternatives.
Some suggested voiding the entire election. Others supported forming an investigative committee. At one point, Lamb agreed to pass out fliers clearing Littell's name, if that would resolve matters.
In the end, though, it came down to an apology. At the urging of Councilman George Lewis, Littell agreed to drop his complaint if Lamb apologized, which Lamb did.
With peace restored, the council resolved to review the bylaws and rules before the next election.
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