The voted on Monday to spend up to $25,000 on a consultant to review all the information on the Malibu Lagoon project in preparation for voting to take an official council position on the plan. Project opponents said the consultant would be a waste of money, and the council should use the cash to help pay for the appeal of .
The proposal to hire the consultant came from , who denied accusations from Council member and fellow candidate that the proposal was an attempt to help .
Conley Ulich, who is the only council member who has taken, said the council could have called for the study in April when the plan was on the agenda.
"But now, it's almost February, and now all of a sudden you want an independent review," she said. "What happened the last nine months that you changed your mind to want this?"
Sibert responded, "It's not something that happened in the past nine months, it's what's happened in the past month with this whole campaign moving forward with misstatements from both sides, and I want to see it cleared. That's all I'm trying to do. I do not want to make a decision based upon hearsay. I want to make a decision based on fair and verifiable facts. You may be comfortable going ahead with the hearsay. I'm not."
Conley Ulich countered, "You're on the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission. They took a position on this. You agreed with it. Now, nine months later because of the campaign, you want to have a scientific study for $25,000."
Sibert angrily came back with, "I resent that statement. You have no evidence to that. All you can do is make an accusation."
Conley Ulich said he had just said his reason was due to the campaign. Sibert said she misunderstood him and he meant "this campaign of the folks who are opposing the lagoon [project]," not the council campaign.
Despite her criticism, Conley Ulich voted along with the other four council members in favor of hiring a consultant.
Jim Thorsen will contact a potential consultant after receiving recommendations from project proponents and opponents on whom to choose. He said he would select somebody supported by both sides. The person will be asked to complete the review within 30 days, allowing the council to have the person's report in time for a public meeting in March at which it can vote on taking a position.
The council heard from several public speakers who oppose the project. Proponents and people involved in the project did not attend the meeting, or at least did not make their presence known if they were there. The opponents said there was not enough time to review the project prior to its scheduled start on June 1. They said the council instead should concentrate on stopping the project from going forward and spending money to support an appeal of the rejected lawsuit against the plan
Activist leader Marcia Hanscom told the council a new environmental impact report is required because information has changed since the original document was completed in 2006. A lawyer for Hanscom's Wetlands Defense Fund wrote a letter about this last month to the California Department of Fish and Game (the letter is attached).
Department spokesman Andrew Hughan wrote in an email to Malibu Patch regarding the letter, "As you know from law enforcement, we can't comment about ongoing investigations or processes, so all I can say for now is that we have received the letter from the law firm and are currently reviewing it."
The opponents became rowdy when criticized statements they had made during the meeting.
"There are things that I'm hearing tonight and I've heard many times that I know are absolutely not true," she said. "And that really concerns me and makes me feel, 'Who do I trust?' If the opponents are saying things that I know are not true and the proponents are saying things I know are not true, then who do you trust?"
She continued, "It's escalated. It's escalated because people are getting desperate, so they're saying things that on some levels are crazier and crazier and more untruthful to me."
Opponent Athena Shlien yelled from the audience demanding Rosenthal give an example. Others shouted various comments and questions. Rosenthal did not respond, and said she had already given them a chance to speak.
The mayor has been criticized for not publicly stating how she feels about the project. Rosenthal was not at the council meeting in April when the plan was reviewed because she was on a pre-planned trip with her son in Washington D.C. The council did not take a position on the project at that meeting because it deadlocked on various 2-2 votes. Following the session, .
Lyon, whose opposition to the lagoon project is one of the major issues of his council campaign (the other being opposition to ), told Rosenthal it is important for her to state her position on the project.
"We should all know if you're going to be at the ribbon-cutting ceremony of the lagoon or if you're going to be with us chained to the bulldozers," Lyon said. "I want to know. Malibu wants to know."
Rosenthal said she would be able to make a decision after the city receives its report from the consultant.