Glendale official raises a glass — and sparks #Winegate



Greater than three hours right into a Glendale Design Evaluate Board assembly, Commissioner Francesca Smith raised a wine glass containing a small quantity of pinkish liquid.

She smiled as she appeared to toast her colleagues after seconding a movement to adjourn the assembly, held nearly due to the COVID-19 pandemic, about eight:30 p.m.

Smith has not stated whether or not there was wine within the glass. Sipping from it towards the tip of the assembly didn’t have an effect on her judgment, she stated.

However different metropolis officers have been bothered by the show of what seemed like an alcoholic beverage at the Jan. 14 meeting, at which the board thought-about proposals to raze, construct and add to properties.

A few month after “Winegate,” as some locals are calling it, the Glendale Metropolis Council handed a movement four to zero declaring that ingesting alcohol whereas conducting official enterprise is inappropriate. One other movement to state on the file that Smith was ingesting failed.

Because the pandemic stretches into its second yr, digital fake pas are piling up, from the reporter who gave a live interview in suit jacket and bare legs to the Texas lawyer who appeared in a digital courtroom listening to with the face of a kitten.

With conferences that have been as soon as in particular person now attended from kitchens and residing rooms, non-public conduct can bleed into the general public eye. A Vallejo planning commissioner resigned in April after ingesting what seemed to be a beer and tossing his cat into the air.

Smith will hold the volunteer job she has held since Could. She didn’t look like inebriated throughout the assembly and took her first seen drink from the glass about three hours in.

Her defenders say somewhat nip throughout metropolis enterprise is excusable, particularly throughout the brand new regular of the pandemic. Some say the criticism is motivated partially by Smith’s preservationist bent and inclination to vote in opposition to tasks she believes are less than metropolis requirements.

Greater than 50 individuals spoke at Tuesday’s Metropolis Council assembly, with most supporting Smith.

Joanne Hedge, founding father of the Glendale Rancho Neighborhood Assn., stated she didn’t discover Smith’s toast surprising or inappropriate.

Hedge stated she wished Smith had been on the board throughout her neighborhood’s losing battle in opposition to “a really terrible lodge design” in 2019.

Others stated they have been aghast metropolis official would create a notion that enterprise was not being taken severely.

The Design Evaluate Board votes on tasks that may price thousands and thousands of , with requests for redesign generally setting a home-owner or developer again 1000’s.

Resident Pina Jones stated that “ingesting on the job, any job, is irresponsible.”

“Is it OK for my youngsters’ volunteer instructor’s aide to be ingesting on the job on Zoom? , all of us have lengthy days, however this isn’t a social gathering,” stated Jones, who generally watches the conferences along with her kids.

Jessica Levinson, a professor at Loyola Regulation College whose experience consists of election regulation and governance points, stated the controversy suggests a scarcity of consensus about group requirements.

She is cautious of penalizing individuals for behaviors that aren’t unlawful and don’t have an effect on their job efficiency.

In any case, she stated, some public officers textual content or reply to emails throughout conferences, which might imply they don’t seem to be paying full consideration.

“The query actually must be, ‘Was she doing her job 100%?’” Levinson stated. “I truly fear extra in regards to the slippery slope of regulation.”

For John Pelissero, a senior scholar on the Markkula Heart for Utilized Ethics at Santa Clara College, the problem is cut-and-dried: Authorities officers shouldn’t do something over Zoom they wouldn’t do in particular person.

Although officers would possibly test electronic mail throughout an in-person assembly, they in all probability wouldn’t be sipping wine or different libations, he stated.

Amid the pandemic, they nonetheless have to “take the enterprise severely, and to reveal to the general public, and others that they’re partaking with, that they’re the truth is being respectful of the best way authorities processes must be performed as we speak,” Pelissero stated.

Smith, who’s in her early 60s and has lived within the metropolis for a few dozen years, is an architectural historian and former director of the Glendale Historic Society.

In an electronic mail to The Occasions, she didn’t say precisely what she was ingesting. She stated the glass, “which amongst different issues, contained soda water and ice cubes,” was given to her by her husband towards the tip of the assembly.

“It didn’t impair my skilled judgment in any method,” Smith stated in a press release. “As an expert with almost 4 many years of expertise in design evaluate, I take my appointment very severely.”

She stated she usually is the lone dissenting voice in opposition to tasks she believes don’t meet metropolis requirements.

The inclusion of the ingesting incident on the Metropolis Council agenda was “retaliation for appearing as a catalyst of change,” she stated.

Certainly, shortly earlier than Smith raised her glass on the Jan. 14 assembly, she forged the one vote in opposition to proposed additions to a single-family dwelling.

Metropolis Councilman Dan Brotman, who appointed Smith to the board, stated the wine glass was inappropriate. However he additionally believes that Smith was focused for her opinions on design.

Previously, the Design Evaluate Board had been “largely a rubber stamp” for tasks, Brotman stated. He believes that “mansionization” and hillside improvement in Glendale have gotten out of hand.

Brotman abstained from voting on each motions regarding Smith’s conduct throughout the latest council assembly, saying “this entire train is totally absurd.”

Metropolis Councilman Ara Najarian requested that the ingesting incident be placed on the assembly agenda. He stated his request had nothing to do with improvement and all the things to do with the wine glass.

“It’s not about how she votes. It’s about conduct,” Najarian stated. “Whether or not she’s an ideal designer or whether or not she’s an ideal historic preservationist has nothing to do with an excuse of conduct.”