Hans Laetz, KBUU News / Daily Press

Malibu city manager Reva Feldman appears ready to sue the City of Malibu and one new city councilman, Bruce Silverstein, for defamation or invasion of privacy, as she asks to be bought out of her contract.

The city council voted in secret session in January to refer the matter to its insurance pool, which represents Malibu and numerous other cities. The insurance company would be involved in any legal settlement or lawsuit brought by Feldman.

Feldman remains city manager, but has offered to leave the job as soon as a replacement can be brought up to speed. Her contract runs until May 2022, but she is offering to leave in May of this year for the contract’s value: $375,000.

But, the language of her letter makes it clear she may go to court to collect big money from the city and/or its insurance company, if a court agrees with her arguments about a hostile workplace, created by Silverstein.

In a letter sent to the city by her attorney, Feldman calls Silverstein’s behavior “unhinged” and says he is acting in a way that “exposes the City of Malibu to future claims for … harassment, retaliation, hostile work environment, discrimination, constructive termination, and who knows what else, if Mr. Silverstein persists with his lies and paranoid, delusional grievances against the City Manager.”

Silverstein circulated the letter to his political allies this afternoon, but said he had been advised not to comment on it.

Feldman’s letter says Silverstein prepared “a 100-plus page diatribe, filled with false and misleading statements about the City Manager and shove(d) it into that City employee’s personnel file without regard to the internal process and review by other Council members and the City Attorney.

“When informed of this error in judgment, he published that same personnel complaint on his social media platform with reckless disregard for the truth or falsity of the claims and for the purpose of harming Ms. Feldman’s professional reputation, in violation of Ms. Feldman’s privacy rights,” the letter claims.

Silverstein has been in office for less than two months. He and two other candidates, Steve Uhring and Andy Lyon, ran as a ticket dedicated to firing Feldman and city attorney Christi Hogin. Hogin retired in December, as she had announced she would a year ago.

Silverstein and Uhring finished one-two in the November election, but those two men plus Lyon together gather amassed only 42 percent of the vote. The other four official candidates, who generally supported Feldman and Hogin, won the near-landslide total, 58 percent, but they split the vote, and only one got elected: Paul Grisanti.

Feldman’s letter was sent by Therese Cannata, a high powered San Francisco lawyer who has represented several high-ranking government officials who recovered large settlements after being fired.

Of particular note in the letter is a declaration by Feldman accusing former city council member Jefferson Wagner of making false accusations in a “sworn affidavit” that Silverstein has circulated. The affidavit, which has no force of law, contains what some lawyers who live in Malibu have described as hearsay, innuendo, and unproven allegations.

The “affidavit” all but accuses Feldman of organizing the county District attorney’s raid on Wagner’s house – outside the city of Malibu in Los Angeles County – despite laws that require city council candidates to live within the city where they seek election. No charges were ever brought.

“To be clear, Ms. Feldman had no knowledge nor any involvement whatsoever in the search warrant that was signed by a Superior Court Judge and executed by local police. The so-called citation to evidence (the “opposition research”) is literally a link to nowhere.

“I must add,” the letter continues, “that while Ms. Feldman maintained professional relations with Mr. Wagner while he served on the City Council, it was well known that Mr. Wagner possesses and stores multiple weapons in his home and appeared to have issues concerning accurate reporting about his true residence for purposes of holding political office.

“Also, for the record, Ms. Feldman’s contract was approved by a vote of 4-1, and there is not one shred of evidence that Mr. Wagner’s vote was sought or mattered in that regard.”

This story was published as part of a partnership between KBUU News (www.radiomalibu.net) and The Santa Monica Daily Press.