By Jim E. Winburn
Admitting to criminal convictions now expunged from his record, Councilmember Larry Spicer apologized for his “past actions and for not making this statement earlier” at a Monrovia council meeting on Tuesday, Jul. 3.
Regarding his criminal record that was expunged on Jul. 23, 1992, he said, “My reasons for not publicly disclosing many of the details about a DUI and credit card violations is because I paid what I was fined, I served my probation, turned my life around, and started giving back to the community by serving others.”
While some in the community expected Spicer to resign, others turned out at the council meeting to voice their support for the interim councilman, who was sworn into the Monrovia council January 2012. But the controversy, defused for the moment, lingers with the air of smoldering tension over trust and transparency.
Over the last couple of months, allegations have surfaced regarding Spicer’s past behavior toward his wife, children and neighbors. But Spicer did not speak on these allegations raised by neighbors who have accused him of being a bully.
And Spicer’s detractors seemed to be nowhere in sight at the Jul. 3 council meeting. Instead of a resignation, the public received an apology, which even moved Councilmember Tom Adams to admit he no longer wished for Spicer to resign, saying, “I appreciate Mr. Spicer’s comments this evening, and I accept that apology.”
So inspired was Mayor Mary Ann Lutz by public comments in support of Spicer, and no less impressed by fellow council members who expressed the same, that she quoted a lesson right out of the Good Book, encouraging people to examine themselves before casting the first stone.
However, between the public apology and appropriate parable, a different sort of lesson received less play at the meeting – the oldest lesson in politics: the idea of transparency. And, according to Adams’s comments, a whole lot of controversy could have been dodged if Spicer would have come clean to begin with.
“I think that the big crime is not what occurred in the past – the big crime was not acknowledging it,” Adams said to former Mayor Bob Bartlett during public comment. “I think if Mr. Spicer did what he did tonight a long time ago, he would have garnered the entire respect of this community. But when you wait, things get worse … and in the long run, it becomes even more embarrassing than it needed to be.”
Monrovia resident and attorney Ernest Gonzales, who has known Spicer for nearly 50 years, disagreed. “I think the fact that Larry has made mistakes, and whether he’s disclosed it or not, I don’t think is the issue,” Gonzales said. “I think what the issue is when Larry comes to this job at night, is he prepared? Does he do his job? And that’s what the focus should be.”
His reasoning was that the City Council should be spending their time on important community issues, and “not on something that happened 20 something years ago,” a sentiment supported by most people at the meeting, who signaled their agreement with an eruption of applause.
But clapping soon turned to finger pointing as Councilman Spicer’s wife, Delphine, addressed Adams at the podium. Accusing him of “dirty politics,” she called into account Adams’s comments made to this paper (Jun. 29), which quoted Adams saying, “He’s (Spicer) not a nice guy,” and “there is an unmistakable pattern of bullying.”
“You always preach this platform of transparency, but seeing everything clearly did you practice this when you stated these allegations in the paper about his character?” she asked. “You only heard and you only chose to hear one side of the story.”
In response, Adams said that his fellow councilman’s silence left him no choice but to accept the one side of the story about Spicer’s alleged bullying. “When people get into trouble, and we all do, … the quickest path to solving problems is to be open and honest about it,” Adams said. “If you choose to remain silent then you leave peoples’ imagination to run wild. I’m sorry that’s happened.”
Spicer followed up with a final response to the discussion on transparency, saying that he initially chose not to respond to neighbors’ accusations because he knew he was not guilty of those things. “But it’s over with – I’m good with it,” Spicer said. “I know in my heart nothing is going on, and I’m not worried about that.”
Spicer, who was appointed to the Monrovia City Council in December 2011, fills a seat that was vacated by Councilman Clarence Shaw, who is on a leave of absence while serving with the U.S. Army overseas.