Mike Rogge

Coastal Commission Executive Director on the ropes

By Mike Rogge

Capitol Update, Jan. 29, 2016 Share this on FacebookTweet thisEmail this to a friend

The California Coastal Commission is seeking to oust Executive Director Charles Lester, according to a January 14th letter written by Commission Chair Steve Kinsey to the director. The letter cited that the 12-member panel will consider dismissing Lester due to problems that stemmed from management challenges and project delays.

Environmentalists, however, cited the friction resulting from differences of ideology between environmental and pro-development forces. Lester, generally known for being more environmentally friendly, has invoked his right to a public hearing at the February meeting. State law, which allows state employees with the option of a public hearing prior to an agency’s consideration of a dismissal, will give Lester the opportunity to make his remarks at the February hearing.

Lester, a member of the commission’s staff since 1997, became executive director following the 2012 death of Peter Douglas, the leader of the commission’s staff for nearly three decades. Lester was a close associate of Douglas, although he had not been seen as aggressive an advocate.

The Coastal Commission is charged with protecting the 1,100 miles of California coastline. It is frequently involved in controversial, high-profile issues that pit the commission against wealthy celebrities, major developers and property rights activists.

Douglas was the target of a failed ouster attempt in the mid-1990’s orchestrated by Governor Pete Wilson and then Assembly Speaker Curt Pringle.

If all 12 of the Commission’s voting members attend the February meeting, it would take seven votes to remove Lester. That action would occur behind closed doors, but the commission’s vote would be announced publicly thereafter.

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