The chairman of Fullerton’s Parks and Recreation commission will be allowed to stay on as the city council lacked enough votes to oust him at the Oct. 21 meeting.
Fullerton City Council voted 3-2 to oust Barry Levinson, who currently serves as chairman of the Parks and Recreation commission. A 4/5ths council vote is required to unseat any commissioner.
Levinson allegedly yelled at Terri Grisenti, a consultant for AT&T, at the Aug. 19 city council meeting. According to the police report filed Aug. 20 by a city employee, Alice Loya, who was concerned that Levinson assaulted one of the vendors for the city.
Grisenti was at the city council meeting since the council was voting on whether to build a cell tower in Richman Park or not. Two AT & T employees were there that evening-Cindy Hanks and Jeff Moran. Once Grisenti was done speaking, Levinson, who was allegedly sitting behind her, leaned over and allegedly called her a liar and asked how she slept at night, according to the police report.
“It’s the first time in 15-1/2 years I’ve ever left a hearing and have been fearful,” she told the council.
Once the matter was voted on, Grisenti allegedly began walking outside and saw Levinson, Joe Imbriano, the founder of the blog The Fullerton Informer and Alfred Gutierrez.
“Grisenti said as she continued to walk towards the north exit doors to the parking lot area and was near the elevators in the foyer when she noticed she was being surrounded by Levinson, Gutierrez, Imbriano and a couple others she did not know. Grisenti said she remembered that Levinson was standing behind her and appeared to be “standing over” her as he was yelling that she was a liar and didn’t know how she slept at night. Grisenti said she knows that they were very close to her…” the police report said.
The police report also said that Gutierrez allegedly spit in the direction of Grisenti.
Moran ended up coming over to tell Levinson to back off and walked her to her car, according to the police report.
“It’s complete intimidation. Complete. Somebody should-anybody should be able to come here and respectively speak their mind and have the peace of mind that once they’re done and business is completed that they can leave and walk to their car and not have, thankfully, the chief willing to escort them to their car,” she told the council.
Grisenti did not return a phone call asking for clarification.
Levinson wholeheartedly denied assaulting Grisenti but did admit to calling her a liar as he walked out of council chambers. He said the incident lasted maybe half a second at most.
“Now, in retrospect, should I have zipped it? Yes,” he said.
Levinson called the action a “political witch hunt,” as he attends and speaks at every city council meeting. He said that it took the police four weeks to speak with him about the incident, showing up at his home unannounced.
Supporters for and against Levinson were lively during the discussion item, applauding and yelling at times as speakers came and left the podium.
Fullerton resident Zonya Townsend defended Levinson’s character, calling him a gentleman and said he has never been disrespectful to her. She chided council member Jennifer Fitzgerald over allegedly smirking from the dais.
“I can not believe this is happening. Yeah Jennifer, I see you smirking and I’m so sorry. I’m so sad that these things are happening in our city,” she said.
Former council member Pam Keller spoke in favor of removing Levinson from the commission. She also defended Loya and mentioned that there were many council meetings that she sat through while on the city council that were contentious.
“This is not political. Jennifer’s not running. Bruce isn’t running. Barry’s not running. It happens to be election season, unfortunately… When I was on the council we had lots of contentious meetings…People were upset, but I never felt fearful for my life. I never felt fearful for my family,” she said.
Council member Jan Flory said she read every single word of the police report and called the decision to vote to remove Levinson an “easy call.” She referred to Levinson as “a very angry man.”
Flory mentioned the video tape of the incident in the city hall lobby, which Levinson requested access to, as did council member Bruce Whitaker and were both denied. She said that what she heard about the video was that it only showed what happened from the waist down. The police report said that the cameras were focused on the north doors of city hall but didn’t show the entire foyer.
“The video tape depicts the north doors of city hall but does not show the entire foyer or the area in front of the elevators where the assault is alleged to have occurred. The video depicts on 8-19-14 at 2208 hours that Loya exited the north doors being followed by Grisenti, Hanks and Moran. Gutierrez can be seen walking next to Moran until the group exits the door,” the police report said.
Council member Whitaker, who appointed Levinson, called the vote that evening “an effort to suppress and censor countervailing opinions and views.” He said he was concerned that if Levinson was voted off the commission that the council would go after his other appointees.
Council member Fitzgerald made the motion to remove Levinson from the commission and Flory seconded it.
The Orange County District Attorney’s office declined to file criminal charges Oct. 20 citing lack of evidence.
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