ENCINITAS — After violating a provision of the city’s municipal code related to commission appointments earlier this summer, the Encinitas City Council will seek to amend the ordinance on Aug. 24 to allow sitting commissioners to apply for other commission vacancies.
In late May, the council faced backlash following the appointment of Robert Prendergast, who was serving on the city’s Mobility and Traffic Commission at the time, to replace former chairman Bruce Ehlers on the Encinitas Planning Commission.
The Prendergast appointment violated Section D of Chapter 2.30.020 in the Encinitas Municipal Code: “Appointees to any city commission will not be selected from among members currently serving on any other city commission.”
The council introduced the new ordinance last week to amend the municipal code, striking Section D completely. The proposed amendment, which had its first reading on Aug. 10, stipulates commissioners may not serve on more than one commission at a time but are eligible to apply for other commission vacancies.
Under the amended ordinance, if the Encinitas City Council appoints an active commissioner to a new commission, the successful candidate will be immediately terminated from their previous position.
City Clerk Kathy Hollywood said the proposal clarifies language that has sparked “some confusion” following the council’s 4-1 vote (with Councilmember Joy Lyndes opposed) on May 25 to appoint Prendergast.
At the time, Councilman Tony Kranz acknowledged the council had indeed violated the municipal code in appointing Prendergast, calling the decision “unfortunate.”
“What changed in the past few months to change this,” said resident Scott Campbell, noting the lack of public participation for the agenda item. “I think we know. This is a retroaction in response to an illegal and very poor decision that this council made to replace the planning commissioner with an existing [commissioner]… knowingly.”
Despite having addressed the legality of the Prendergast appointment, council members said the practice of sitting officials moving to another serving body is reasonable and consistent with past actions.
Mayor Catherine Blakespear explained the item was brought before the council because the previous language in the ordinance was unclear.
“We had something in our code that said that commission members won’t be chosen from existing sitting commission members to try to prohibit people from sitting on two commissions at the same time,” Blakespear said. “But there are different ways you can interpret that sentence.”
Blakespear said the change allows commissioners to keep their positions in the event they are not chosen, while still extending opportunities to work in different areas of the city.
If the sitting commissioner is appointed, the new ordinance is clear that “their prior commission appointment shall automatically terminate.”