Shearer Seeks Public Hearing After Ouster by Council in 'Dead of Night'

Times Staff Writer

Derek Shearer, the Santa Monica planning commissioner who was ousted by the City Council last week, has sent a letter to Mayor Christine E. Reed asking that the council hold a public hearing on his removal.

Shearer was removed about 1:30 a.m. on Sept. 10 at the end of a lengthy council meeting. In recent weeks he had come under increasing fire for his public criticism of Planning Director Ann Siracusa and Planning Commissioner Penny Perlman, as well as for his attendance record at commission meetings.

"The council's action in removing me in the dead of night shows a total lack of respect for the citizens of Santa Monica," Shearer said in an interview. If the council denies his request for a hearing, he said, he may file suit against the city.

But City Atty. Robert Myers said the council did not need to hold a public hearing to legally remove Shearer.

"The City Charter provides that any member of a board or commission can be removed by five votes of the City Council, and the council took that action," he said.

Shearer was a planning commissioner for five years. He is a professor of urban studies and a member of Santa Monicans for Renters Rights, which holds two seats on the council.

He was ousted when independent Councilman Alan Katz joined All Santa Monica Coalition members Reed and Councilmen William Jennings, David Epstein and Herb Katz in voting for Shearer's removal.

Councilmen Dennis Zane and James Conn voted to retain Shearer.

Shearer said council members technically "have the power to remove a commissioner but it has never been done in the city's history. It is my right as a public servant that a publicly noticed public hearing be held on the matter and that I . . . be able to answer in public all the wild allegations made at the council about my professional behavior."

But Reed said it is unlikely that the council will decide to give Shearer a hearing.

Councilman Herb Katz, who made the motion to remove Shearer, said at the meeting that Shearer had sometimes voted on political grounds rather than on the merits of the issues before him in the Planning Commission. Other council members said Shearer had demoralized the planning staff and impeded the work of the commission by his absences.

Shearer has denied all of those charges and has said he has attended more than 95% of commission meetings during the last five years. He said he would have appeared before the council to defend himself but neither he nor the public was notified that the council was going to consider his removal.

He said that Alan Katz, who voted to remove Shearer, had notified him the afternoon before the council meeting that a letter from Planning Commission Chairwoman Eileen Hecht had been placed on the agenda that day for discussion that evening.

Hecht said in her letter that Shearer's "irresponsible and self-serving attacks on Santa Monica city officials" had caused her to call for Shearer's ouster from the Planning Commission.

"But putting a letter on the agenda is not the same thing as publicly noticing me," Shearer said. "I thought Herb (Katz) was just going to put the letter into the record."

Alan Katz said Wednesday that he had placed on the council's agenda for next Tuesday's meeting a request that Shearer be allowed to address the council.

"Apparently he did not understand (that his removal) was going to come up, so now he has the opportunity to address us," Alan Katz said. "But I don't think there is support for a hearing on this issue."

Shearer said he has to consult his attorneys before deciding if he will address the council without a public hearing. "It seems inadequate to me," he said.

"The whole process was a violation of my rights and an insult to the public. If they want to remedy that they should have a properly noticed public hearing on my removal as a commissioner.

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