Tony Barboza & Dan Weikel, LOS ANGELES TIMES
The California Coastal Commission fired its executive director Wednesday — a decision made despite an overwhelming show of public support for the land use agency’s top official.
The panel disclosed that it voted 7 to 5 in a private session to dismiss Charles Lester, touching off an emotional scene unique in the agency’s 44-year history.
Many of the more than 100 Lester supporters awaiting the decision broke into tears or reacted angrily. Several commissioners who voted against Lester were escorted out of the meeting by law enforcement without explaining their votes.
Commission chair Steve Kinsey, who voted against the firing, called it a difficult decision that “revolved around leadership and not around an issue of greater flexibility for development” along the coast, which many of the hundreds of supporters of Lester had claimed in seven hours of public testimony earlier in the day.
“The challenge we face now is to rebuild trust and to illustrate through our actions that we will live up to the ideals of the Coastal Act,” Kinsey said.
No other commissioners offered explanations following the vote. After giving Lester a moment to speak, they adjourned.
Commissioners Olga Diaz, Erik Howell, Wendy Mitchell, Effie Turnbull-Sanders, Mark Vargas, Martha McClure and Roberto Uranga voted to fire Lester. Voting no were Carole Groom, Mary Shallenberger, Kinsey, vice chair Dayna Bochco and Mary Luevano.