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Chamber Opposed Controversial Commissioner : Lawndale Planner Wins Reappointment

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Times Staff Writer

Gary McDonald, the Lawndale planning commissioner whose maverick approach to planning issues has drawn both praise and criticism, has been reappointed in spite of an attempt by the Chamber of Commerce to have him removed.

Councilman Harold E. Hofmann reappointed McDonald to the five-member commission; Councilman Larry Rudolph selected Bruce McKee, an oil company supervisor, and Councilman Dan McKenzie chose John S. Clark, a real estate agent who has served on the city’s Parks, Recreation and Social Services Commission for the past five years.

Mayor Sarann Kruse and Councilwoman Carol Norman, who were absent from Thursday’s council meeting, will make their appointments at the next meeting May 19.

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In naming McDonald to the commission on Thursday, Hofmann ignored a formal appeal by the Chamber of Commerce. In a three-page statement, chamber spokesman Gene Kusion urged that McDonald be removed from the commission and be denied “any position of authority to represent this city.”

The chamber accused McDonald of “unprofessional conduct” in an 11th-hour inquiry he made on whether safety inspections had been made on carnival rides at the chamber’s annual Youth Day event. McDonald’s inquiry nearly closed down the event before the proper documentation could be located, chamber officials said. Kusion said McDonald has demonstrated a pattern of harassment of the business community and the community at large.

McDonald defended his actions, saying he meant to put the safety of children ahead of “profiteering” by the chamber. His action was lauded by his political allies, Councilmen Hofmann, Rudolph and McKenzie.

McDonald is the most controversial of the three planning commissioners named so far. Supporters praise his vigorous efforts on behalf of the city, including the discovery of Planning Department errors that allowed permits to be given for structures that do not meet city building codes.

At Thursday’s meeting, Hofmann sought to further acknowledge McDonald by designating him as a special city envoy to monitor development in neighboring cities, but it was decided to postpone the discussion on the role of commissioners until the full council could participate.

McDonald’s critics, including Kruse, claim that his aggressive manner has alienated residents and members of the city’s business community.

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A few months ago, Kruse said she wanted to remove McDonald because of clashes with the public. She made public a letter in which the owners of a local printing business claimed harassment by McDonald. He has denied the claim.

The council also made appointments Thursday for the city’s Parks, Recreation and Social Services Commission. Hofmann named five-year commission veteran Shirley Rudolph, whose husband is Councilman Larry Rudolph. McKenzie named community volunteer Frances Ramsey, whose husband, James Ramsey, is a former councilman, and Rudolph picked business data analyst Nancy Marthens, an unsuccessful candidate (as was Rudolph himself) for mayor in the April 12 election.

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