In his first meeting as mayor, Lou La Monte chose to put aside tradition and nominated Councilwoman Joan House, not the top voter getter, Councilman Skylar Peak, as Malibu's mayor pro tem.
The council approved House’s nomination in a 3-2 vote, with Peak and Councilman John Sibert dissenting, drawing some boos from the audience and chants of “shame” and "no faith council.” Peak left the room for about 20 minutes after the vote, and later said it was because he had a cold and had been drinking lots of fluids.
Both La Monte and outgoing Mayor Laura Zahn Rosenthal said the ongoing into Peak's alleged behavior at a Malibu shopping center needs some time to work itself out.
“I know you have only been in office for four months, but you have been involved in so many incidents and now there is an active police investigation. There’s been TV news stories, headlines in the L.A. Times, as well as all the local papers, threats of lawsuits, conflicting stories about your behavior, and I don’t know any of this to be true or not to be true, but neither does anyone else,” La Monte said.
Peak, a 28-year-old surfer, fought to claim the title. In the April election, Peak received 1,658 votes, while Sibert came in second with 1,290 and House in third with 1,146. In the past, the Malibu City Council has appointed the top vote getter as mayor pro tem.
“I believe it is utterly ridiculous that you would reorganize this city council in a different manner than it has been done before and I think you should follow the precedent,” Peak said.
Just before the vote on mayor pro tem, the council voted unanimously for La Monte as mayor, with Rosenthal handing over the gavel.
“I have worked hard to try to provide the leadership that this City deserves and wants and I have really enjoyed my time as mayor,” Rosenthal said in her outgoing comments.
Before the vote, Peak started off the discussion by nominating himself for the position of mayor pro tem. Peak is for accusations that he got into an altercation with a security guard while wearing a Speedo at the Point Dume Village shopping center in July. According to the L.A. County District Attorney's Office, the case has not been handed over to prosecutors for review.
In response to Peak’s self-nomination, Rosenthal recommended Sibert for a "five month interim term as mayor pro tem," which Sibert declined, instead throwing his support behind Peak.
Sibert said if Peak had not nominated himself, he would have recommended his fellow councilman based on precedence.
“The largest number of voters voted for Skylar Peak, and for that reason I think we ought to follow that rule of succession,” Sibert said.
Rosenthal said she came up with the compromise following lots of thought.
"You have an active police investigation right now. You’ve only been on the council for a few months. I think if we just waited five more months, I really think that you would have the chance. I think that you could then get those things behind you, step up and do a really great job for the city,” Rosenthal said.
She said the mayor pro tem fills in often as a mayor.
“I supported you and I still support you. As a doctor of clinical psychology, I know the effects of stress,” Rosenthal said, being interrupted with jeers from the audience. “I know how much stress you can have when you are mayor.”
In response, La Monte came up with an alternative.
“Since there is controversy about Skylar becoming mayor pro tem and John is declining to become mayor pro tem, I would like to officially nominate Joan House for mayor pro tem,” La Monte said.
House accepted the nomination with the stipulation that it was temporary.
"I just care about making the votes on the issues I care about. I don't really care if I am ever mayor or mayor pro tem, but I will do whatever the city needs to set it in the correct direction. We have to have an image that worldwide we can rely on. We have to have a steadiness that we can rely on. We have to have a thoughtfulness that we can rely on. We have to be very careful when we are out there, because everybody, every country, Mongolia, Tibet, Nepal, they know Malibu, and they carry what we have online,” House said.
La Monte said Peak’s behavior has the potential to undo all the hard work of the city on serious issues.
“It’s about Malibu, not about what some late night comedian thinks is a funny punch line. We’ve worked very hard to have Malibu taken seriously,” La Monte said before calling for the vote.
Former Malibu Mayor Sharon Barovsky thanked the council for their hard work and chimed in on the decision.
"You're elected to council. You're not elected mayor. When people said the voters, vote, no, voters vote to elect the council person. For instance, if they knew they were electing a mayor ... it may have been a different result," Barovsky said.
Many also thanked Rosenthal for her service and her decision.
"I'm proud you are my best friend," Laureen Sills said. "I really respect you for taking that position. I know how much you struggled with it. It was very difficult."
Former council candidate Hamish Patterson criticized the council for the decision.
"All he did was wear a Speedo and you belittle him publicly? Shame on you," Patterson said.
Another former candidate, Andy Lyon also put the pressure on the council.
"Why even have the mayor-go-round?" Lyon asked. "We're a big city. Is it mayor and mayor pro tem on the ends? Let's have a real mayor."
After the meeting, Peak said he believes his leadership has been proven.
"I don't think that [decision] is what's best for the city," Peak said.
The councilman said he believes the probe into his alleged behavior "will just stay as an investigation."
Peak said he is ready to move forward and offered his congratulations to La Monte.
"I'm focusing on our city and moving our community forward. That's what I'm focused on," Peak said.
Malibu Patch will have more on La Monte’s plans for his time as mayor soon.