City Attorney Robert Shannon told the City Council Tuesday that they had no jurisdiction to request an investigation into allegations made by one Harbor Commissioner against others in a closed session.
Further, Shannon said, he had already done his own investigation and there was no need to do anything more. The report of that investigation went to Mayor Bob Foster, the only person who had any power to do anything about the brouhaha.
At issue were claims by Commissioner Doug Drummond that fellow Commissioners Thomas Fields and Nick Sramek had colluded with others to strike a sweetheart deal to buy the World Trade Center as a new headquarters building for the Port of Long Beach. Fields then sent letters to Shannon and Foster saying the accusations were slanderous and asking for a public investigation. That letter later was made public through a leak to area publications.
Eighth District Councilman Al Austin said he wanted that investigation to clear the port’s good name.
“The success of the port is tied to the integrity of the leadership,” Austin said. “We need a full investigation with results made public to clear the air.”
Shannon said that because the comments were made in a closed session, privacy rights precluded any public investigation. He said as big an issue was the fact that items discussed in closed session had been made public.
Foster said he had talked to everyone involved except Fields, because Fields had said he might be considering legal action. An apology had been made and accepted, Foster said, and it was time to move on.
“I appointed both these people and I still respect both these people,” Foster said. “Frankly, we have people who are not acting as adults on either side… It’s time we get past this and move on.”
Ninth District Councilman Steve Neal argued that “the train had left the station,” and only an investigation could offer closure. But Shannon said his motion to make results public also was illegal.
Third District Councilman Gary DeLong asked Foster if he would be willing to consider removing the commissioners if they were unable to work together, and Foster said he would. As mayor, he can do so, but two-thirds of the council would have to agree with the action.
The council voted 8-1 to receive and file the request, meaning no action. Dee Andrews, Sixth District, voted no.