Morro Bay planning commissioner resigns because of meeting conflict

nwilson@thetribunenews.comMarch 21, 2014 

Rick Grantham

DAVID MIDDLECAMP — dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com Buy Photo

A Morro Bay City Council decision to move up the city’s bimonthly Planning Commission meetings one night has prompted a commissioner to resign because the change conflicts with a combat veterans’ meeting he attends.

The city’s planning staff requested the change to have more time to prepare staff reports, particularly in advance of City Council meetings.

Rick Grantham resigned from the commission on March 11, and the City Council is requesting applications to fill his seat. He was appointed in January 2011.

The move switches the commission’s meeting nights from the first and third Wednesdays of the month to the first and third Tuesdays.

At last week’s council meeting, Mayor Jamie Irons initially voted with Nancy Johnson and George Leage to delay the scheduling change until 2015, which marks the end of Grantham’s term.

But Irons reversed his decision after re-opening the discussion later in the same meeting to make the change starting in April — joining council members Noah Smukler and Christine Johnson in a 3-2 vote that approved an immediate change.

Peter Scheer, an attorney and executive director of the First Amendment Coalition, said Friday that the re-vote did not violate the Brown Act, the state’s open meeting law, if the public was also allowed to comment on the issue a second time before the vote was taken.

Grantham said he watched the meeting on television and then went to bed after the initial vote was taken that would have allowed him to continue as a commissioner.

“I’m disappointed because I can’t fulfill my obligation on the commission,” Grantham said. The change to Tuesday nights conflicts with a veterans’ group meeting he attends as a Vietnam War veteran.

“In the group meetings, we try to help each other and talk and share things. I really couldn’t see giving that up,” he said.

But Irons said the move was necessary to lessen the burden on a small city planning staff.

“It just didn’t sit well with me,” Irons said. “Originally, I wanted to try to make it work so he could make the meetings. But I realized that this is an issue that affects staff, and I had to make the best decision for them.”

Christine Johnson said her vote was to make the planning staff’s work “more efficient.” Johnson said she discussed the issue with Grantham before the meeting.

“If you look at the projects in the public services department, they are our most critical projects,” Johnson said. “Our staff needs to work effectively.”

During some months, Planning Commission and council meetings fell on back-to-back days, impacting the staff’s workload, said Rob Livick, the city’s public services director.

Having an extra day between the meetings to prepare reports will help a small staff with many responsibilities, he said.

In 2011, Morro Bay changed its meetings from Monday to Wednesday nights, leading to the resignation of commissioner John Diodati, who had been coaching his son’s baseball team on Wednesdays.

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