Roger Briggs, executive officer of the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, scanned the crowd at the board’s May 13 meeting.
“Tom, if you’re here, this would be the appropriate time,” Briggs said eliciting a few muddled chuckles from the audience.
The day was scheduled to recognize former board member Tom O’Malley’s year of service: the minimum anyone can serve on the Water Board.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed O’Malley—who is also mayor pro tem of Atascadero—to serve as the board’s municipal government representative, a position he began in March 2009. Following the appointment, the Senate Committee on Rules had one year to confirm O’Malley and send the confirmation to the Senate for a floor vote or the appointment would expire. The committee never took that vote.
Had he attended the May 13 meeting, O’Malley would have been given a commendation plaque for his service. Briggs later clarified that during a conversation with O’Malley the previous day, he noted he might not be able to attend the meeting.
O’Malley didn’t respond to New Times’ requests for comment.
Why wouldn’t the rules committee vote on the appointment? O’Malley certainly wasn’t a controversial board member, having been in the minority vote only once during his brief stint. But according to several legislative officials, O’Malley’s position was one of hundreds that expire due to political reasons.
Had he been confirmed by the Senate, O’Malley would have served until late 2013. Such a term length would have left him in office after Schwarzenegger terms out at the end of the year. A rules committee representative told New Times such appointments often die in committee during gubernatorial election years, preventing lame-duck governors from carrying their appointments to a new administration.
O’Malley wasn’t merely the casualty of polotics. Alicia Trost, spokeswoman rules committee chair, Sen. Darrell Steinberg, said, “Mr. O’Malley did have some opposition.”
Gordon Hensley of San Luis Obispo Coastkeeper wrote to Steinberg’s office saying that, “Tom O’Malley has demonstrated in his actions as an elected official as well as public statements a clear dislike of state regulations in general and opposition to watershed protection specifically.” The Santa Lucia Chapter of the Sierra Club also protested O’Malley based on his record as an Atascadero city councilman.
Steve Shimek of Monterey Coastkeeper wrote another letter citing instances O’Malley had attempted to give extended compliance deadlines to known polluters during his time on the water board.
“Mr. O’Malley equates water quality regulation to a paper exercise,” Shimek wrote.
O’Malley’s one minority vote occurred on July 10, 2009, when he and David Hodgin voted against listing 515 water bodies as failing to meet water quality standard