How’s this for a bad call? A Morro Bay planning commissioner may be tossed out of office because he plans to miss a handful of meetings in order to coach his son’s Little League team.
Technically speaking, Commissioner John Diodati won’t miss the commission meetings; he’ll be an hour or so late.
We urge the City Council — which is scheduled to take up the issue tonight — to let the tardies slide.
While we don’t believe that public officials — whether elected or appointed — should be habitually absent or late for meetings, in this case there are extenuating circumstances.
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When Diodati applied for the commission, twice-a-month meetings were regularly held on Mondays, leaving him free to coach on Wednesday evenings. In January, however, the City Council changed the Planning Commission meeting day to Wednesday.
Diodati had already made a commitment to coach his son’s team. So, in keeping with past practice on the Planning Commission, Diodati asked for — and was granted — permission from his fellow commissioners to miss up to five meetings. (As it turns out, he’ll be late to only four meetings.)
City Councilwoman Carla Borchard has a problem with that, and she’s asking other council members to back her up.
Borchard believes that city planning commissioners should follow the same policy as members of other advisory bodies. Under that city rule, if an adviser misses four meetings in a consecutive 12-month period, that is considered a “voluntary resignation.”
In a written report to other council members, Borchard asks that the council require the Planning Commission to follow that same policy.
Among other arguments, she points out that project applicants have the right to have their matters heard by all commissioners, whenever possible.
We agree, but if ever there was a reason to bend a rule, this is it. The City Council decided to change the Planning Commission meeting day, and it should be reasonable in working with commissioners who had prior commitments.
Besides, why invoke this rule now?
Diodati points out that other commissioners have been allowed multiple absences with no repercussions, and he wonders whether he is being singled out.
It’s a fair question. We tried to pose it to Borchard, but were unable to reach her.
It’s true that Diodati has been at odds with the mayor and other city officials over the location of the new Morro Bay sewer plant, but that’s no reason to boot him. Diodati, a county public works administrator, is a highly qualified planning commissioner. As administrator of the Los Osos sewer, he helped obtain $87 million in federal loan and grant funding for the project. That background will be invaluable as Morro Bay proceeds with its own sewer plant replacement project.
If the City Council wants to tighten up Planning Commission attendance rules for the future, that’s one thing. But to apply such rules retroactively would be a costly error.
We believe the city of Morro Bay is fortunate to have John Diodati on board; it would be a shame to lose him over a minor scheduling matter.