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Pierce resigns from Sebastopol council

Sebastopol City Councilman Sam Pierce resigned Thursday, two days after he drew criticism for raising questions about Councilwoman Linda Kelley's conduct during her recent vandalism trial.

"Due to recent developments -- personal, professional and within the council -- I am compelled to step down as council member for the city of Sebastopol," Pierce explained in a letter to the city.

"Most significantly, my recent acceptance of a senior position within an applied science and engineering firm will not allow the devotion of time and energy required of an effective council member."

Pierce did not mention Kelley in his resignation.

"For the most part, I have enjoyed the work with you on the many important issues that have come before the council in the past 3? years," Pierce's letter said, "and I will always value the time spent developing effective, progressive policy for the city."

In an e-mail to The Press Democrat, Pierce said he would have no further comment on his resignation, which is effective immediately.

At Tuesday's council meeting, Pierce proposed that members examine whether Kelley violated the council's code of conduct during her trial for allegedly using a key to scratch a pickup belonging to one of Pierce's friends.

Pierce and Kelley are neighbors, and the truck had been parked in front of Kelley's house. The trial ended last month with the jury deadlocked 9-3 in favor of convicting Kelley, who later reached a plea agreement to pay the truck's owner $500.

The plea deal also included Kelley's admission to a low-level drunken-driving charge stemming from a May arrest in Guerneville.

Pierce was called to testify at Kelley's trial. He said on the stand that he was uncomfortable testifying against his neighbor and colleague.

On Tuesday, Pierce told council members that during the trial, Kelley's attorney, Lisa Gygax, suggested Pierce was conspiring with city police against Kelley. She asked him questions about whether he and Kelley routinely disagreed on issues and whether the police union and city were negotiating a contract when Kelley was charged with vandalism.

Pierce's failure to get another council member to second his motion for an inquiry effectively killed the proposal.

Pierce then left the meeting as a dozen people took to the podium to criticize him. He said at the time, "you'll have plenty of time to pillory me in many different venues, so you know, have at it."

City Manager David Brennan confirmed Thursday that he had received the resignation. He said the council likely would discuss filling the vacancy at its May 20 meeting.

Pierce was elected to the five-member council in 2004, running as an environment-minded candidate and a member of the Green Party.

City staff members said the council can appoint a replacement within 30 days or call a special election. Since Pierce's term expires in December, the voting could take place on the date of the regular November election.

Kelley, Mayor Craig Litwin and Councilwoman Sarah Glade Gurney didn't return messages seeking comment Thursday.

Councilman Larry Robinson said the venom he heard directed toward Pierce at Tuesday's meeting was "dismaying" and something the city needs to work to avoid in the future.

"This is going to be a challenge. I think this is something our community needs to take a look at, how we talk to each other," he said. "Over the last year and a half, the dialogue in this community has become very uncivilized.

"I know there are a lot of people who are disgusted by the tenor of the public debate. So a lot of people are just staying out of it. The people whose voices are the loudest are not necessarily representative of the whole community."

You can reach Staff Writer Robert Digitale at 521-5285

or robert.digitale@

pressdemocrat.com.

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