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Outspoken Air Board Member Receives Job Reprieve

Times Staff Writer

Sabrina Schiller, an outspoken member of the South Coast Air Quality Management District board whose job has been on the line, has been retained as the Senate Rules Committee’s appointee to the board, at least through January. The action followed a last-minute appeal by an influential senator. Meeting behind closed doors Wednesday night, the powerful five-member leadership committee initially voted 3 to 2 to oust Schiller from the board. Voting to remove her were Sens. Henry Mello (D-Watsonville), William A. Craven (R-Oceanside) and John Doolittle (R-Citrus Heights). Voting to retain her were Senate President Pro Tem David A. Roberti (D-Los Angeles) and Sen. Nicholas Petris (D-Oakland).

But, at the last minute, sources said Sen. Robert Presley (D-Riverside) persuaded Mello to withdraw his vote and remain neutral. The committee then decided to leave Schiller on the board at least until January, at which time her appointment will be reviewed. Neither Mello nor Presley could be reached for comment.

Both Senate and environmental sources, who requested anonymity, described the action as tantamount to putting Schiller on “probation.”

They said her public activities would be closely watched and she has been strongly advised to restrict her public appearances in San Bernardino County, where she has recently gone and criticized the voting records of AQMD board members from that county--a tactic that angered Sen. Ruben S. Ayala (D-Chino), who called for her removal.

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Schiller said Thursday that she had been advised to refer all inquiries about her appointment to the Senate Rules Committee.

In Sacramento, Roberti’s press secretary, Bob Forsyth, confirmed that Schiller’s appointment came up at a closed meeting Wednesday and that it would be “reconsidered” in January.

“In the interim, Ms. Schiller, in fact, continues to be a full member of the board,” Forsyth said.

Schiller, 42, was appointed to the AQMD board in 1983. The possibility that Schiller would not be retained surfaced last June, when Ayala angrily complained about Schiller, an activist with the Santa Monica-based Coalition for Clean Air.

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“We don’t need anyone coming into our area and agitating the troops,” Ayala said.

At the same time, some environmentalists said that Schiller’s confrontational tactics had alienated allies.

The 15-member AQMD board is the policy-making body for the district, which enforces local, state and federal clean air laws in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties.


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