Pismo Beach official’s supporter argues others also break the law

Pismo Beach Councilwoman Marcia Guthrie

By KAREN VELIE

Using the others do it too excuse, the only public speaker during last week’s censure of Pismo Beach Councilwoman Marcia Guthrie, argued against the public lambaste claiming others on the council also violate the law.

Susan Testa is more than just a friend to Guthrie, she was the councilwoman’s treasurer in her latest campaign. Also, the pair led an effort to promote a measure to stop development in Price Canyon.

Calling the censure an unfair double standard, Testa said she overheard “an extremely inebriated councilman” discussing confidential information from a closed session city council meeting with a couple from Bakersfield, saying he could help them get anything they wanted built, in violation of the Brown Act. Testa took the information to City Manager Jim Lewis, who did nothing, Testa said.

“I don’t understand why this councilperson can be inebriated in public making promises, talking about closed session items, and nothing happens,” Testa said during public comment. “It seems like a bit of a double standard and completely unfair to me.”

After discovering Guthrie violated the Brown Act and city Code of Ethics, the city placed a proposed censure on last Tuesday’s agenda. Through her city email account, Guthrie shared information from a closed session meeting with applicants for a building project. She also issued directions to city staff regarding the project, in violation of the city’s Municipal Code and Code of Ethics.

Mayor Ed Waage and Mayor Pro Tem Mary Ann Reiss recommended the council publicly censure Guthrie by removing her from her committee assignments, prohibiting her from contacting staff regarding the project unless it has come before the council, prohibiting her from giving any direction to staff whatsoever and from representing the city in any capacity.

Guthrie apologized before voting against her censure, which passed 4-1.

“I first want to apologize,” Guthrie said. “I take full responsibility for my actions. I cannot vote for this. No.”

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