No more gossip from Alexandria.
The new Alexandria City Council, prompted by the city's brand-new mayor, agreed last night to zip lip and refrain from uttering ill words about other city officials and high-ranking municipal employes.
"I'd like to address what's been called the gossip issue," Mayor James P. Moran said at the council's first meeting following Monday night's swearing-in ceremonies. "It's not really gossip I mind so much. What I have a problem with is downright slander."
Recent months in the city have been marked by the repeated appearance of eyebrow-raising headlines reporting acrimonious exchanges among city officials and accusations that touched Public Safety Director Charles T. Strobel, Sheriff Michael E. Norris and former city manager Douglas Harman. Finally, a special grand jury cleared the various officials and turned up no foul play.
Some of the most bitter words came from then-Mayor Charles E. Beatley and then-council member Donald C. Casey. Beatley and Casey were the only incumbents defeated in the May elections.
"It's a great time to start off on a new foot," Moran said last night. "If we don't have something positive to say, we shouldn't say anything."
The informal guidelines adopted last night forbid "uttering negative comments regarding the ability, integrity, personal lives and families of city officials."
Council member Robert L. Calhoun suggested expanding the coverage to include the city staff. "Part of being an elected official is getting used to being kicked around the ears," Calhoun said, "but the city employes don't sign up to get kicked around."
The seven council members enthusiastically -- but with few words -- agreed not to make back-biting remarks against city staff members.
In a related action, the council voted to pay Strobel $8,716 for legal expenses incurred during a grand jury investigation. Police Lt. John Stedman, another city employe subpoenaed by the grand jury, will be reimbursed for $5,567 of his legal fees, the council decided.
Moran said he hoped that by paying the legal fees the council would end gossip and backbiting and maybe forestall lawsuits.