by Mitch Lehman
Calling his now world-recognized act of tossing a plastic bag of dog waste on neighbor Philip Lao’s walkway “insensitive, disrespectful and wrong,” San Marino City Councilman Dennis Kneier on Tuesday afternoon stepped down as mayor. He will remain on the city council, according to discussions with The Tribune. Vice Mayor Eugene Sun will take over as mayor through June 27 – the council’s next scheduled meeting – when a new a new mayor and vice mayor will be selected.
Kneier was caught on Lao’s surveillance camera shortly after 5:00 p.m. on Saturday, June 7 lobbing the sealed plastic bag containing dog excrement from the common sidewalk towards the home. Kneier’s wife, Liz, is seen walking approximately eight feet in front of her husband and appears to point to the spot where where the former mayor eventually lobs the bag before the couple disappears from the screen.
Lao filed a report with the San Marino Police Dept., who questioned Kneier about the incident.
Last week, Kneier was charged with Littering – an infraction of Penal Code 374.4 – which will bring a fine of approximately $250, according to San Marino Police Chief Harrigan, plus court administrative fees. Kneier might have the option of accepting community service in lieu of a fine.
“I can understand why this matter has some questioning my ability to lead the the council,” Kneier said. “I want to assure you that something like this will not happen again.”
A crowd estimated at 110 people, including television crews from several Southern California news stations – attended the Wednesday, June 11 meeting of the San Marino City Council where seventeen residents opined on the matter during the public comment section of the agenda. Eleven were critical of Kneier while six spoke out in support, citing a long record of public service.
Several, however, demanded that Kneier resign, claiming the incident had embarrassed the city. Kneier told The Tribune he considered the matter over the Father’s Day weekend and eventually decided to step down as mayor.
“This has been a challenging few days for our City and we’re hopeful that with Mr. Kneier’s decision, and with his public and private expressions of regret for the incident, we can move forward,’’ Mayor Eugene Sun said.
Kneier’s term on the council expires in November, 2015.
Lao and his wife, Irene, contacted The Tribune on Tuesday morning.
“The public has heard and seen enough of the incident the past week,” the Laos said in a statement that never mentions Kneier and refers to the dog waste situation only as “the incident.” “We wish to let it be the responsibility of the citizens of San Marino to direct or redirect the future of this city.”
Kneier and Lao frequently disagreed on several local political issues, including a proposal to place a recreation area for dogs in Lacy Park, which is two doors down from Yao’s home.
“Be assured that my love for the City of San Marino is not diminished, and I will continue to do my best as a councilmember to fulfill the duties for which I was elected, and at the same time, restore the public’s confidence in me,” Kneier concluded in his public statement.
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