• The resignation: Cort and Council under fire

    By Marge Ann Jameson and Cameron Douglas

    Stunning his constituents – and most of the rest of the Monterey Peninsula — Mayor Dan Cort has offered to resign in the face of what appears to be a narrowly based recall effort on the part of some disgruntled citizens.

    Many in Pacific Grove awakened Tuesday morning, August 4, to the mayor’s email, which stated that he himself had received an email from David Dilworth threatening that if Cort did not resign by 11:45 a.m. that morning, Dilworth would go forward with a recall campaign. Cort stated that he believes it was an attempt to keep him from voting on the Police Officer Association contract on the council agenda for the August 5, 2009 meeting.

    “I believe this is an attempt to intimidate me into resigning before I am able to vote on the Police Officer Association contract that is on Wednesday’s Council Agenda,” read the mayor’s email “I will be at that council meeting and I will vote on that item.”

    The furor over the mayor’s potential resignation reached all local media and many Internet sites where support for the mayor and disgust over the issue were overwhelming. At the city council meeting, at least 15 people went to the microphone to express support for Dan Cort, including many who have disagreed strongly with him in the past. Two little girls, who read their statement together, summed up what many were saying: “Don’t give in to these inconsiderate bullies.”

    None spoke against the mayor and neither Dilworth nor his associate in the recall effort, Terrence Zito, were in council chambers. They had set up an easel outside city hall in the patio area where they were attempting to collect signatures, as they had done earlier in the day outside the Pacific Grove post office.

    Council members Bill Kampe, Deborah Lindsay and Vicki Stilwell (also Mayor Pro Tempore) are also targeted for recall based on the 3-3 council vote on police raises. “They don’t deserve this,” said Cort, referring to the councilmembers under fire. “These are good people. They work hard, they care about Pacific Grove.”

    The city council had entertained the item at the July 15 meeting, when Dan Cort was on a long-planned vacation with his wife and son. A couple of votes on the renegotiation of the police contract were split evenly 3-3, and one motion failed for lack of a second. The council voted to defer the item until Cort’s return. Dilworth had spoken against the item.

    According to a press release drafted by Terrence Zito, the recall movement is not only about the agreement with the POA. It got rolling, he said, when the city voted to cut back library funds and turn the museum over to a private foundation, referring to those actions as “the last straw.”

    “I think people started talking about it six months ago,” said Dilworth. “That was about the first I heard of it.” He named Terrence Zito as the spokesperson for the group. The two had staged a “rally” at the museum earlier this year to protest the plan to give management of the museum to a private foundation. There were more press people than protesters at the rally.

    Neither man would name anyone else directly involved with the Committee to Save Pacific Grove. “We’re really not at liberty to name anyone other than ourselves,” said Zito, referring to himself and Dilworth. “It’s been somewhat difficult getting prominent people to come out.”

    When Zito was asked if he had a replacement in mind should Cort step down, he said “At this time, we don’t have any candidates. That is a big problem; coming up with people you can get elected who are really good. As a citizens’ group, we’ve had this problem every election.”

    When asked about the possible cost of a recall or special election, Zito could not quote any figures. City Manager of Budget and Finance Jim Becklenberg estimates the cost at $44,000 in county filings alone.

    Dilworth’s role so far been as a representative. “I’m sort of the logistics guy, helping get information out,” Dilworth said. “I’m also the one who tried to give the mayor a courtesy call (referring to the email), but he took that as a threat.”

    Mayor Cort himself first gained that office as a result of the resignation of Jim Costello in 2006. Cort had been seated on the city council in 2004, after serving on the planning commission. He ran for election in 2006 and again, unopposed but for a late write-in candidate, in 2008. He has been the top vote-getter in every election in which he has run. Terrence Zito served on the PG City Council from 1992-96. Dilworth has made two unsuccessful bids for the city council.

    posted to Cedar Street Times on August 6, 2009

    Topics: Current Edition, Front PG News, Cameron Douglas, Marge Ann Jameson


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