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Morro planning commissioner's days are numbered

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A couple dozen people lined up at the April 12 Morro Bay City Council meeting to support embattled Planning Commissioner John Diodati. But in the end, the council majority voted to amend its advisory bodies’ attendance policy, which will likely lead to Diodati’s dismissal.

Under the new rules, if an advisory board member misses three meetings in a year, his or her seat will be declared vacant. Arriving after a meeting starts counts as an absence. The motion passed 4-1, with Councilman Noah Smukler dissenting.

Diodati, chair of the Morro Bay Planning Commission when it unanimously voted against the city’s proposed wastewater treatment plant in December, currently coaches his son’s undefeated Little League team, which holds games on Wednesday evenings.

The roughly 20 people who spoke on Diodati’s behalf—many with their Little Leaguers in tow—said the council’s move was unfair, that the council suddenly changed commission meetings from Monday to Wednesday nights, halfway into Diodati’s four-year stint.

Former councilwoman Susan Mullin blasted Councilwoman Carla Borchard, who introduced the agenda item, during public comment. Mullin referenced when her council dismissed their commissioners in 2005.

“But we never targeted one person, Carla. This is far from that case,” Mullin said. “The city has bigger problems right now than trying to micromanage the planning commission.”

“I hope the council will please recall that we are the ones that created this conflict,” said Councilman Noah Smukler, who added that the motion appeared “a very subjective change to the rules of the game.”

“Nights are going to change—that’s a given,” Borchard said. She noted that advisory members serve at the pleasure of the council.

After the vote, Diodati told New Times he plans to keep his obligations to his son’s team and will arrive late to the next three meetings.

“I’m not going to flake on my kids,” Diodati said.

“With this policy, the City Council is going to have a revolving door on their advisory boards, which will become a big distraction to regular city business,” Diodati said, adding that move seemed political.

This isn’t the first time since the commission’s unfavorable vote on the wastewater project that council members have tried to oust Diodati. In January, newly elected mayor Bill Yates tried unsuccessfully to have the entire commission fired after some council members showed frustration with the commission. 

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