You're Fired! Or Not -- Shaky Times for Dr. Jones

Nationally recognized seismologist and local resident Dr. Lucy Jones had an unexpected addition to her day April 18 when she was attending a San Francisco program noting the centennial of "the big one" on the San Andreas fault; she was told she was losing her post on the state seismic safety commission.

Jones said she was attending an event with a number of state leaders when an aide to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger called her and said her nomination to continue on the commission was being withdrawn.

"My nomination was actually due to be considered this week in a Senate committee," the La Cañada scientist said in an interview.

Word got around about what happened, and three hours later Jones was called by the governor's appointments secretary and the notice was withdrawn. "They also relayed an apology from the governor," Jones said.

The turnabout came after phone calls to the governor by such leaders as Sen. Elaine Alquist and Assemblymember Carol Liu.

Jones said she was very clear on the motive for the attempted firing. "I've been pretty independent in working with the legislature," she said. Currently, she is working against a proposal to end the independent status of the commission and make it a part of the state and Consumer Services Agency.

"I've made it clear I will not continue to donate my time if it becomes a part of a state department," Jones said. "The commission needs to stay an independent voice." Her day job is as scientist in charge of the U.S. Geological Survey Southern California office in Pasadena.

Liu, asked for a reaction, said, "I was very surprised when I heard about Lucy Jones' dismissal. She has been an important advocate for earthquake safety and is internationally renowned for her expertise in the field. Apparently, this was a terrible misunderstanding on the part of the administration."

Most specifically, sources point to the influence of insurance industry official Dan Dunmoyer, who is now a Schwarzenegger advisor. The governor last year vetoed a measure to continue funding for the commission past next June. The group is funded through a fee on insurance policies, which produces $900,000 a year.

Jones and fellow commissioner Gary McGavin, who was also fired and reinstated, have been active on such issues as school and hospital seismic safety, frequently ahead of where the legislature and the governor are ready to go.

Jones told the Valley Sun that the commission, made up of 17 members, provides a place or experts of all kinds to get together and discuss issues. She said the group's ability to provide perspective on issues before the legislature is an important part of its charge.

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