After a heated exchange during public comment at a Morro Bay City Council meeting last month, two city officials asked an outspoken planning commissioner last week to consider voluntarily resigning due to his “disruptive” behavior.
Planning Commissioner Richard Sadowski said interim City Manager Martin Lomeli asked him to resign in a private meeting on Friday. Sadowski said the request came one day after City Councilman Robert “Red” Davis also asked him to resign. Lomeli said he had spoken to Davis about the commissioner’s behavior.
Sadowski — who’s been critical of the city’s direction with its longstanding Water Reclamation Facility Project — said he plans to stay.
Though Davis confirmed that he met with Sadowski, he declined to comment further, saying he wished to honor the privacy of the conversation. Sadowski lost a 2016 bid for two open council against Davis and Councilwoman Marlys McPherson.
Lomeli wrote in an email Monday that he met with Sadowski and suggested the commissioner consider resigning “because of his actions (not his words).”
“I believe as a commissioner he should set an example of public discourse, and (in my opinion) his behavior was disruptive at that meeting,” Lomeli wrote, adding: “I’ve been in local government 30-plus years. I’ve never seen a planning commissioner purposely disregard the policies of the city in this manner.”
In response to followup questions, Lomeli said he had discussed that opinion with Davis prior to his one-on-one with Sadowski, but had not discussed it with other council members until Monday.
Sadowski, a semi-retired mechanical engineer who has served on the commission since 2014, was told to step down from the podium during public comment on Sept. 26 when the timer appeared to go off before his allotted three minutes was up.
I’ve been in local government 30 plus years. I’ve never seen a planning commissioner purposely disregard the policies of the city in this manner.
Morro Bay Interim City Manager Martin Lomeli
The council was tasked that night with settling on a preferred location for a new $150 million wastewater treatment plant and water reclamation facility, and ultimately selected a roughly 15-acre property near the intersection of South Bay Boulevard and Highway 1.
While more expensive than alternative sites closer to the ocean, the South Bay Boulevard location would avoid coastal environmental hazards and has already cleared some key hurdles.
Sadowski and a large number of city residents maintain that they won’t be able to afford water bills of between $207 and $241 per household per month to pay for the project. Rather, Sadowski and more than two dozen speakers at the meeting said they prefer the Hanson site, a roughly 12-acre area adjacent to the existing wastewater plant on 170 Atascadero Road.
Though that site would cost far less to develop, the property sits in 100-year flood and tsunami zones and the California Coastal Commission, which denied the project at that location in 2013, strongly urged the city to proceed with the South Bay Boulevard site.
I have no plans to resign at all. That’s not going to happen.
Morro Bay Planning Commissioner Richard Sadowski
During the roughly four minutes in total he was at the podium, Sadowski argued that the Hanson site was better suited to handle public health and safety emergencies. Later, he alleged City Council members had already made up their minds in favor of the South Bay Boulevard site without listening to the public. Two meetings of the Water Reclamation Facility Citizen Advisory Committee — on which Sadowski sits with eight other residents — were canceled leading up to the Sept. 26 council meeting.
“This has become a charade as far as public input. You come in here with a preassigned agenda that you already know what you want to do,” Sadowski told the council.
When Mayor Jamie Irons said that time was up, audience members began to jeer Irons and Sadowski tried to call a point of order. As a police commander approached from the back of the Vets Hall, Police Chief Gregory Allen interjected, “Sir, we need you to respect the process. Thank you.”
Sadowski then left the podium and immediately exited the building, while Irons attempted to calm the crowd.
On Monday, Sadowski said he suspects a majority of the City Council and the city manager’s office are trying to oust him for his criticism.
Sir, we need you to respect the process. Thank you.
Morro Bay Police Chief Gregory Allen to Richard Sadowski at a Sept. 26 City Council meeting
“I exercised my constitutional rights. I have no plans to resign at all,” he said. “That’s not going to happen.”
When reached for comment, Irons and Councilman Davis declined to answer any questions about Sadowski or whether they had any communication with Lomeli about Sadowski’s commission seat. Council members McPherson and John Headding said they didn’t know anything about the matter, though Headding said Lomeli told him he suggested Sadowski consider resigning during a private meeting.
Councilman Matt Makowetski did not respond to requests for comment.
On Tuesday, the City Council is scheduled to vote on whether to reduce the number of citizens advisory committee meetings from roughly once a month to “as needed.”