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Newsletter No. 11, Sept. 19, 2022

  • Civil Service appointment rescinded.

Full Disclosure: As I wrote in my previous Newsletter, I currently serve as chair of the Civil Service Commission, and I will welcome and look forward to serving with whomever the Council decides should fill any open positions. That edition of the Newsletter dealt with the process of choosing, not who is finally selected. This Newsletter covers the Council’s meeting on the issue.


It was indeed an unusual City Council meeting on Monday. First, it started at 8 a.m., not p.m. Then, the Council, by a 4-3 vote, rescinded the Civil Service Commission appointment of Shamindra Mahbahal.


In the discussion leading up to the vote, Council members Mike Griffiths, Sharon Kalani, Asam Sheikh and Bridgett Lewis consistently made the same point: This was not about the individual involved, but the process in which he was named.


Aurelio Mattucci and Jon Kaji, supporting Mayor George Chen’s appointment, repeatedly attempted to make it appear the issue was about the candidate, not the process.

What transpired during the two-hour meeting? Here are some takeaways:


  • Chen tacitly agreed to support a change in the Torrance Municipal Code to transform a historical practice into law, promising to use that practice when selecting all future appointments, even if they are made before the change goes into effect.

Chen claimed he only changed the process because he wanted to streamline it.

Evidently, he also failed to inform his colleagues about his goal. Sharon Kalani said

she, for one, was caught off guard by his action.


The comments made by the prevailing four gave me, and I hope others who watched, hope for Torrance as we move forward. Kalani’s statements were especially masterful. She consistently made these two points: She has respect for the Mayor’s leadership, and she only asked for this meeting because of her concern for the process, not the person chosen.


  • Griffiths thanked her for getting the special meeting going and he gets credit for originally asking for the motion to change the TMC. Lewis was the signer of the special meeting request that City Clerk Rebecca Poirier distributed. Sheikh also made valuable points aligning with the other three.

These four represent a variety of political views, but they are showing that they can work together for the City’s best interests.


  • Kalani also criticized herself for her original yes vote. She is being too hard on herself. When people are sucker-punched, they shouldn’t be faulted for not instantly recognizing the best response.


  • Lewis, in countering the minority’s points, said she is not asking for a change in the process, but a return to the one that has been used in everyone’s memory. The motion that the Council will be voting on – probably Sept. 27 – will not be to change the process but to codify it, she explained.


  • Mattucci and Kaji both tried to make it about the candidate, and they both spoke in a style considered typical for each: Mattucci rambled and Kaji delivered written notes in a prosecutorial style.


  • Kalani apologized to Mahbahal, reiterating that this wasn’t about him but about the process, and she encouraged him to reapply for the seat to give the whole Council an opportunity to consider him.


  • Chen specifically denied making a power grab. He said he was just trying to streamline the process. Janet Payne, speaking from the audience, pointed out that streamlining is fine, but that Council members need to be included in such changes.


Before I go:


In its coverage of Chen’s recent State of the City speech, Daily Breeze reporter Clara Harter said that Torrance projects that next fiscal year’s budget will have a structural deficit of more than $12 million. This is something that Chen’s opponent Cliff Numark stressed needing fixing. Thus far, Chen has said nothing about his plans for addressing this major problem. Is it time for residents to start emailing the Council with requests that they address this issue?

Jean Adelsman

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