The Montage Beverly Hills’ Parq Bar — in the city’s Golden Triangle business district — offers a luxe refuge. Friends meet for $50 tea service, and deals get done over bottles of Veuve Clicquot.
But two prominent civic figures recall a far-from-soothing encounter at the Parq a few years ago, when they met with Clif Smith, publisher of the town’s oldest newspaper, the Beverly Hills Courier. Smith had scarcely settled in before he demanded that the head of the Chamber of Commerce be fired and then suggested that the city manager should go as well.
If he didn’t get his way, he said, he would use his small but influential newspaper to make sure that then-Councilwoman Linda Briskman lost her reelection bid, according to Briskman and former Councilman Mark Egerman, who were there.
Briskman and Egerman said they told Smith they had neither the power nor the inclination to meet his demands. Within weeks, a full-page Courier story tagged the duo as part of the city’s “ultimate insiders’ club,” which favored city bureaucrats and big developers over “the people.” Briskman lost her council seat, falling 119 votes shy of a third term.
Influencing public policy by threats is not the role of a local newspaper publisher,” said Briskman, who blames the Courier’s campaign for creating “enough questions in the minds of those who were less informed that there might be reason to doubt my integrity.”
In a recent interview, Smith acknowledged calling for the ouster of chamber chief Dan Walsh and added that he could not recall but “might have said [City Manager Roderick Wood] probably should go.”