Del Norte Supervisor Martha McClure Under Scrutiny for Coastal Commission Ethics Violations
Coastal Commissioner Martha McClure—who represents the North Coast counties of Humboldt, Del Norte, and Mendocino—is one of several Commissioners accused of ethics violations since the February 10 vote to fire the Commission’s Executive Director, Dr. Charles Lester. McClure made the motion to retreat into closed session to discuss the firing, which was done without explanation by a 7-5 vote despite overwhelming opposition from the public, elected officials, former coastal commissioners, and commission staff.
On March 11, the Los Angeles Times reported that McClure violated state law by failing to report donations from developers and lobbyists promoting projects before the Coastal Commission. McClure accepted a $500 donation in 2012 from the business and domestic partner of Susan McCabe of McCabe & Company. McClure told reporter Steve Lopez that she thought the donor and the lobbyist were “just friends” (see Los Angeles Times, “Join me at the circus, I mean, a California Coastal Commission hearing”). McCabe & Company has more projects in front of the Coastal Commission than any other consultant, and that donation to McClure’s local election campaign is now subject of a Fair Political Practices Commission investigation.
On May 14, Lopez exposed McClure’s unreported overnight stay at the Malibu winery villa of Don Schmitz, a consultant whose website touts that he has represented over a thousand land development projects as evidence of his “expansive, cultivated, and effective working relationships” with Coastal Commissioners. One of Schmitz’s clients is David “The Edge” Evans of U2, whose controversial Malibu complex of five hillside mansions was approved by the Commission in 2015. After reportedly unleashing a “jet stream of undiluted profanity and invective,” McClure made clear that she sees nothing wrong with failing to report her stay at Schmitz’s villa in 2011 or 2012—she told Lopez she couldn’t remember exactly (Los Angeles Times: Cover your ears: Coastal Commissioner Martha McClure’s on the phone).
Since the firing of Charles Lester behind closed doors, state legislators have introduced two bills designed to increase transparency of Coastal Commission proceedings. A ban on ex-parte communications – private meetings with developers and other interested parties – is the subject of a pending bill in the state legislature (SB 1190). Another bill would increase reporting requirements for lobbyists to the Coastal Commission (AB 2002).
McClure was appointed to the Commission in 2011. She quickly earned a reputation for failing to respond to calls and emails from coastal advocates in Humboldt County, including the controversial Caltrans proposal for an interchange at Highway 101 and Indianola Cutoff. She has been vocal about defending her practice of listening to developer concerns in order to assess the merits of the project and bristles at the ActCoastal 2015 Coastal Commission Vote Chart, which gives her the worst environmental voting score of any current Commissioners (see http://www.actcoastal.org/wiki/2015_Annual_Coastal_Commission_Vote_Chart:_A_Summary)
McClure is one of four Commissioners appointed by the governor. She serves at the pleasure of the Governor, meaning she can be removed from her position on the Coastal Commission at any time. In March, North Coast environmental groups, including Friends of Del Norte, NEC, Humboldt Baykeeper, and Humboldt Surfrider, wrote a letter to Governor Jerry Brown calling for her removal.
McClure is up for re-election to the Del Norte County Board of Supervisors on June 7. If the voters reject her re-election bid, she will lose her seat on the Coastal Commission, which requires that she be a local elected official.