Genevieve Finn, Malibu Times / SMDP Staff Writer
Malibu City Manager Reva Feldman officially resigned from her post on Saturday, May 1 in a deal that will avoid the threat of a lawsuit.
Malibu City Attorney John Cotti said the city would launch a national search for Feldman’s replacement “very soon” and that Steve McClary, a former city manager in Ojai, has been named as Interim City Manager.
The terms of Feldman’s resignation were unanimously approved, 5-0, by Malibu city council. She received a payment of $150,000 on May 1, with the possibility of another on August 1, 2021, if she has not found a new job by then. Cotti said that the city’s insurer would contribute $150,000 of the total settlement amount.
The agreement also stipulated that Feldman will not sue Malibu. Both Feldman and the city council also agreed to a non-disparagement clause, which means neither party will speak negatively about the other in public.
Cotti said that the resignation agreement was not to be construed as any admission of wrongdoing by the city.
Feldman’s resignation was announced after a long saga that came to a head during the most recent Malibu election cycle, when then-candidate Bruce Silverstein pledged to work to remove Feldman if elected; Silverstein was subsequently elected in November 2020, winning the highest number of votes out of all eight candidates. On social media, Silverstein often lambasted Feldman, calling her “an unelected fascist” and “a tyrannical leader” and describing her leadership style as “opaque, unaccountable and unethical.” Feldman told the council that Silverstein bombarded her with records requests, making it difficult for her to complete her other duties as city manager.
Feldman was also implicated in allegations made by former Malibu City Council Member Jefferson “Zuma Jay” Wagner, who, with the help of Silverstein, shared a sworn affidavit last winter detailing a City Hall culture where “favors” were often done for “friends and/or supporters of [Feldman].” Feldman’s lawyer Therese Cannata rejected Wagner’s allegations via email to The Malibu Times.
Following the announcement of Feldman’s departure, Wagner said he is interested in the City Manager’s job himself.
Feldman, whose work has been defended by other council members both present and past, initially came under fire following the Woolsey Fire, the response to which many residents feel she botched.
Feldman, via Cannata, sent the council a letter in January 2021 saying that she would agree to a payout. “Because Ms. Feldman is under a constant attack by Mr. Silverstein, she lives in fear of retaliation for doing her job and exercising her professional judgment in the performance of her duties,” Cannata wrote. “[Feldman] is extremely distressed and frightened by recent events, causing her sleepless nights and stressful days. Mr. Silverstein presents as someone who is unstable and unpredictable.”
Feldman worked for the City of Malibu since 2005; she was appointed city manager in 2016, according to the city’s website.
During her tenure, she grew the city’s general fund reserves from $7 million to $30 million, helped the city acquire a large parcel of vacant land, coordinated millions of dollars of debt issuance and helped establish the city’s AA+/AAA bond rating — a measurement which signifies a city’s high level of creditworthiness and is instrumental in the city’s ability to win funding for projects. She oversaw city staff in managing environmental programs, coordinated projects such as the $60 million Civic Center Water Treatment Facility and the remodeling of Malibu City Hall and led the city through the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2019, Feldman was recognized by her peers as the CCMF City Manager of the Year and represented Malibu on multiple regional and statewide agencies, according to information shared by Cannata.
“Reva’s ties to Malibu run deep,” the statement said. “She raised her family in Malibu with her daughter attending Webster Elementary and Malibu Middle and High School.”
Outgoing Malibu Mayor Mikke Pierson said he was grateful to Feldman during his remarks and there was a “goodbye” event for her held over Zoom Wednesday, April 28, at 5 p.m.
Feldman’s original contract was set to expire in May 2022, according to that letter. Cannata asked that Feldman’s contract be bought out for $375,000, approximately one year of her salary, meaning that Feldman’s final buyout, which totals $300,000 if all is paid, was less than her original ask.
As Cotti read out the terms of Feldman’s resignation, both Feldman and Silverstein conveyed little emotion, remaining impassive against their blue Zoom backgrounds. Neither Feldman nor any council member commented following the announcement.
“It has been an honor to serve the residents of Malibu and to help the community that I have been a part of for almost two decades,” Feldman later said in a statement from Cannata. “I am so proud of how much the City has accomplished, and I am grateful for the support of the City staff, residents and councilmembers that I have had the pleasure to work with.”
This story is published as part of a partnership between the Malibu Times and SMDP.