Unfortunately, last week's special meeting to discuss the incident shed no more light on the matter. Mayor Kathy McKeithen and Jim Dobbie backed the idea of conducting a deeper investigation into Mr. Marsala's highly unethical actions, but the push fell one short of the three votes needed to proceed. Councilman Jerry Carlson sided with Councilwoman Elizabeth Lewis on this one.
But even this split decision doesn't mean that the public should not get a look at any additional information about the case gathered by the city attorney in a comprehensive report made available only to council members. Mayor McKeithen has hinted that this more in-depth analysis might contain information damaging to Mr. Marsala's contention that nothing untoward happened before, during, or after he asked Mr. Buckheit for a $500,000 loan against his Atherton home.
Mayor McKeithen feels so strongly about the importance of this now-withheld report's being made available to the public that she has personally filed a public records act request with the city, but so far it is not clear if and when the document will be released. She has relentlessly pursued airing all sides of this ethical lapse by Mr. Marsala, who should have known better than to ask someone for a loan who has a legal claim pending against the city. If Mr. Marsala has told the truth, he has nothing to fear from a deeper investigation.
Although Mayor McKeithen was out of line when she hurriedly called a special meeting on the same subject two weeks ago despite the near certainty that there would be no quorum, last week's meeting was different, and provided a badly needed forum that could have cleared the air on this incident. Instead, the 2-2 council vote shut the case down, unless more information surfaces.
Some members of the public said last week that rather than focusing on what appears to be an lapse in judgment by Mr. Marsala, Atherton should focus on its out-of-control budget and the police department that is under fire on several fronts.
But that would be wrong. Mr. Marsala made a major mistake when he asked for a huge loan from a resident who had already filed a claim against the town, which is a pro forma precursor to filing a lawsuit. So far, there is no evidence that the loan was fulfilled or that anything of value was exchanged between the two men. But even if that is the case, there is still the ethics of the matter to consider.
We hope the town agrees with Mayor McKeithen and makes the city attorney's more comprehensive analysis on the matter public. Atherton deserves nothing less.