Publication Date: Friday, November 30, 2001
Ambra should resign
Ambra should resign
(November 30, 2001)
When the Voice endorsed Mario Ambra in last year's council election, we hoped to see a community leader _ the man who called himself "the neighborhood council member" _ who would work for the best interests of Mountain View's citizens.
Unfortunately, we now feel that Ambra would do best by Mountain View's citizenry by resigning immediately from the council.
This week's news that Ambra has apparently not repaid the city for personal expenses he charged to his city credit card looks like the latest chapter in a pattern of disturbing behavior that began with public actions last spring.
While last week's grand jury accusation that Ambra engaged in "knowing, willful, and corrupt misconduct in office" has not been proven in a court of law, the charges appear to fit into this long-standing pattern.
We were disturbed back in May when Ambra accused former Mayor Rosemary Stasek of misconduct and with threatening to badmouth Microsoft if the company did not contribute to the county's housing trust fund.
While Stasek may have offended a Microsoft representative, she had merely expressed an opinion and did nothing in any way illegal; Ambra's attempt to censure Stasek was an opportunistic attack on a council member with whom he disagreed on policy issues.
We were concerned, too, when that same month Ambra, as part of the council's procedures committee, proposed a series of rules that would have made it a punishable offense for city commissioners to criticize the council in public.
Our concern mounted when it came out that Ambra chastised Planning Commissioner Carol Moholt for perfectly legal remarks she made in a public meeting _ five years after those remarks were made.
These were incidents which seemed to imperil the concepts of free speech and open government.
The grand jury's accusation this month took our concerns to a new level. For Ambra even to have put himself into this position, to have behaved in such a way as to motivate City Manager Kevin Duggan and City Attorney Michael Martello to report his behavior to the district attorney, confirms that Ambra is not what the voters bargained for.
The accusation is not based on a single and potentially correctible misstep by the mayor, but on a pattern of repeated attempts to use the power of his office for personal gain.
While it is dangerous to assume that one side is right in a case that has not yet gone to trial, it seems absurd that the city manager and city attorney would put their jobs on the line to get rid of a single council member.
If Martello and Duggan felt their jobs were secure, why would they want to threaten that situation over a personal vendetta? And if they felt their jobs were on the line, what would they have to gain by going after a council member who could work toward their removal?
Ambra has requested a jury trial to clear his name, but our concern about Ambra's ability to continue to function in elected office has nothing to do with whether the jury ultimately finds him guilty as accused, or acquits him.
For Ambra to have repeatedly behaved in a way not in the public interest directly contradicts our definition of "public service."
Beyond rendering Ambra ineffective as a council member, for him to continue in his council capacity while enshrouded by major controversy and suspicion would be a serious impediment to good government, and an insult to those elected officials who are honestly serving the community and putting the public interest first.
Ambra, and the city, have the opportunity to make a new start. His resignation from elected office would allow his colleagues on the council to decide whether to appoint a replacement for his remaining three years, or call for a special election and let the public choose a new representative.
The people of Mountain View deserve, today and tomorrow, to have fully functioning, honest representation from every one of their council members. If Mario Ambra shares that ideal, as we hope he does, he will do the right thing for his city.