Manhattan Beach year in review: centennial happenings
In Manhattan Beach’s hundredth year, the city made national headlines with a political stunt involving a dead pig carcass and the arrest of NBA star Matt Barnes outside a downtown restaurant. It garnered some distinguished titles, too, when the Travel Channel named Manhattan Beach’s annual holiday fireworks show as top two in the nation and Paint Quality Institute deemed it as one of the “prettiest painted places in America.”
Police busted a major identity theft ring in May. And the annual Six Man volleyball tournament, traditionally a hectic time for police, was held midweek for the first time and saw a much smaller and tamer turnout this year.
City officials closed unfinished business from the previous year with the settlement of former Geoff Dolan’s lawsuit against the city. Mayor Wayne Powell, inducted in May, had both ups and downs during his term: While long, exhaustive council meetings frustrated the community and council members, Powell fought hard – and successfully – to preserve Manhattan Beach sand from an attempted sand-haul by Malibu’s eroding Broad Beach.
Dolan v. Manhattan Beach meets resolution
The end of the year marked the finish of the confounding legal battle between the city of Manhattan Beach and Geoff Dolan, its former city manager of 15 years. It began last May when he filed a $2 million claim against the city for damages, alleging that the city breached his contract and violated his privacy by releasing what he considered to be confidential information—an
anonymous letter addressed to then-mayor Portia Cohen accusing him of sexual harassment at a staff retreat.
Dolan, who abruptly resigned in December 2009, claimed that the letter had been confidential under his resignation agreement.
The city rejected his claim, and he promptly filed a lawsuit last October. In March 2012, it was dismissed under California’s Anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) Law, which expedites the dismissal of cases that arise from protected speech about an issue of public interest. Dolan immediately filed to appeal the ruling.
At the last city council meeting of the year on Dec. 18, city officials announced that the two parties have reached a settlement: Dolan is to pay the city $38,800 out of the $45,187 awarded by a judge to the city for litigation fees and costs. He will also drop his appeal, extinguishing a year of litigation that, according to city attorney Quin Barrow, expended roughly $90,000 of city funds. The cost of fighting Dolan’s appeal would have incurred an additional estimate of $50,000, Barrow said.
“We are all relieved to put this issue to rest and focus on the important issues facing this community,” city manager Dave Carmany said.
Manhattan Beach made national headlines in the heat of post-Election Day excitement when a dead pig clad in a Mitt Romney T-shirt was left on the doorsteps of the local Republican Party headquarters.
Passersby reportedly noticed the carcass early morning two days after President Barack Obama defeated Romney. One witness told media that the pig’s head was cut in half and wrapped in barbed wire. Manhattan Beach Animal Control removed the carcass off the street. Police dismissed the notion that a hate crime was committed and treated the case as an improper disposal of carcass.
Bob Holmes, the district chairman of the local organization and former city mayor, said that the politically motivated incident is not an anomaly, as the Manhattan Beach office has suffered similar cases in the past.
“It simply is another unfortunate case of vandalism that we’ve suffered over the years,” Holmes said. “It’s just a shame that those who disagree with us can’t engage in a civil discourse and stake their position in the way that we’d like to think democracy works.”
Tony Hales, a local Democratic party leader, called the vandalism a “repugnant act” and offered condolences to his Republican counterparts.
Reformed midweek 6-Man draws drastically fewer people
Last summer, the weekend of the annual Charlie Saikley 6-Man Volleyball Tournament drew 60,000 people to the Manhattan Beach Pier and resulted in 39 arrests, ranging from public intoxication and DUIs to thefts. In order to quell the party atmosphere of the tournament this summer, the city last year decided to hold this year’s two-day event on weekdays for the first time.
This controversial change resulted in a drastically smaller crowd estimated at 6,000, a tenth of last year’s turnout. In addition, the tournament saw a significant drop in registered teams— 65 compared to last year’s 120 team registrations —despite an extended deadline.
“It’s just a very manageable crowd,” Manhattan Beach Police Chief Eve Irvine said. By the end of the tournament, police had made just four arrests related to 6-Man, she said.
But not everybody was happy about the midweek time change. One Manhattan Beach resident took to Twitter to express her disapproval. She tweeted: “6 Man is today…and no one cares. Thanks a lot, Manhattan Beach.”
“Prettiest painted places in America”
The city added another notch on its belt of distinctions this fall when it was named one of the 12 winners in this year’s “Prettiest Painted Places in America” contest. Hosted by the Paint Quality Institute (PQI), the nationwide competition, which judged communities based on their uses of “quality exterior paint to enhance their inherent beauty and charm,” drew nearly 200 submissions since June. Among the 60 chosen finalists, Manhattan Beach, alongside Tubac, Arizona, persevered as the winner in the Southwest region. PQI announced that the winning cities will be rewarded with a nationwide publicity campaign with HGTV and USA Today.
James O’Callaghan, president and CEO of the Manhattan Beach Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber decided to enter the contest after hearing about it through a regional chamber organization. The chamber submitted 18 photos of local homes and a local creamery, shot by local photographer Bradley Van Herbst of Van Images.
NBA player Matt Barnes’ run-in with the law
In July, Clippers forward Matt Barnes was arrested in downtown Manhattan Beach for an outstanding traffic warrant and
allegedly threatening a police officer. The officer, who approached the NBA player outside of a restaurant, was aware of Barnes’ outstanding $26,000 traffic warrant for driving under a suspended license, police said. He was subsequently booked into the Manhattan Beach Police Department jail, where he spent three hours before posting $51,000 bail.
Barnes pleaded no contest in September to a misdemeanor for resisting, delaying or obstructing a police officer. Prosecutors dismissed the felony claim for his alleged threatening of an officer.
That was not the end, however. The NBA, frowning upon his misdemeanor charge, suspended the Clippers forward from the Oct. 31 game against the Memphis Grizzlies.
Police bust identity thieves
In May, Manhattan Beach police detectives busted 44-year-old Shawn Berry, the Hawthorne man allegedly behind a vast identity theft operation in Los Angeles and the South Bay. In their third raid of his residence, detectives discovered notebooks full of victims’ names, social security numbers, dates of birth as well as U.S. Treasury checks and stolen mail. The investigation confirmed 30 victims of identity theft, but detective Jeanette Meers said she suspected hundreds more.
In the following month, Manhattan Beach police busted two males posing as women allegedly conducting at least 40 credit card scams at retails throughout Southern California. According to Meers, the pair reportedly used an unfunded prepaid credit card to buy $7,600 worth of sunglasses and other products as well as a $15,000 Infinity SUV purchased with a credit card opened using a Los Angeles female victim’s driver’s license. Police recovered and returned the car to the dealer. Detectives prevented potential identity thefts as well, with the November arrest of three men who were caught stealing outgoing mail with checks throughout the city. Five victims were notified and advised to take preventative measures for security.
Late council meetings prompt changes
When Mayor Wayne Powell began his term in May, he spoke of his dedication to improving public participation. However, this commitment proved difficult in the following months when council meetings began running notoriously late into the night. The breaking point was the Sept. 18 council meeting, which was adjourned at 2 a.m. At one point during the meeting, council member Nick Tell, frustrated, accused Powell of violating the Brown Act for alienating the public. Amid the tension, the council resolved to institute a number of changes to better manage time during these meetings.
Changes included a firm 11 p.m. end time for meetings. Ceremonial items, including mayoral and city staff awards, now begin at 6 p.m., a half-hour earlier than the previous 6:30 p.m. meeting time. In addition, council decided to approve the agenda at the beginning of each meeting and use that time to re-order or possibly postpone items to later meetings. Because council meetings are held twice a month, council entertained the option to hold extra meetings on off-weeks to allow more time to discuss controversial matters with the public.
The most divisive change was cutting short the public comment time period for consent calendar items. While audience members were previously allowed to comment on each ‘pulled’ item for up to three minutes, they are now allowed one three-minute session to discuss all of the items. Correction: Council later deemed this limitation on public comment as a step in the wrong direction and dismissed the proposed change.
Broad Beach sand source
The city of Manhattan Beach successfully held its ground against a Malibu project that sought to dredge 600,000 cubic yards of sand from an area off the Manhattan Beach coast to the eroding Broad Beach.
The Broad Beach Restoration Project is headed by a group of 124 homeowners living along the beach who seek to protect their homes from ongoing coastal erosion. Their interest in Manhattan Beach sand, which was made known this summer, faced widespread opposition from both the Manhattan Beach community and the City Council. Mayor Wayne Powell relayed the disapproval to the California State Lands Commission and Broad Beach homeowners, citing a lack of research on potentially adverse environmental effects. “I told them and their attorney to expect a real fight, the likes they have never seen, along with a flurry of adverse publicity,” Powell wrote in an email. “I’m very proud that Broad Beach followed my advice and have withdrawn their proposal.”
In mid-November, Broad Beach homeowners notified the commission that they have ruled out Manhattan Beach as a potential sand source for their restoration project. They did not provide a reason for the withdrawal, said Sheri Pemberton, the legislative liaison at the commission.
Editor’s note: Additional 2012 year in review articles will be published over the next week.
In this article: Dead pig found outside Republican headquarters in Manhattan Beach
In this article: Midweek Six Man volleyball tournament tame, controlled
In this article: Manhattan Beach named finalist in ‘Prettiest Painted Places’ contest
In this article: Alleged identity theft ring operator busted
In this article: Manhattan Beach City Council discusses meeting management
In this article: Manhattan Beach ruled out as sand source for Broad Beach