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Fitzpatrick resigns from Planning Commission

He hopes the move will end Costa Mesa Sanitary District directors' lawsuit against him for holding a position on both boards.

May 15, 2012|By Joseph Serna
(Scott Smeltzer )

Costa Mesa Planning Commissioner Jim Fitzpatrick resigned from his post Tuesday to keep his seat on the city's Sanitary District board, according to a letter sent to Mayor Eric Bever.

In his letter, Fitzpatrick says his fellow Sanitary Board directors are using ratepayer funds in the amount of tens of thousands of dollars to sue him, both personally and as a director.

"I have become a political piñata and it needs to stop," he wrote. "Our ratepayers shouldn't have to bear the cost of political grudges."

Earlier this year, Sanitary District directors took aim at the legality of Fitzpatrick's dual roles with the district and the Planning Commission. They pointed to two legal opinions — one from the district's counsel and another from an outside consultant — that found there was a potential conflict of interest in simultaneously serving both positions.

The board then asked the state attorney general's office for the green light to oust Fitzpatrick.

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Fitzpatrick, who had hired his own attorney in his defense, said he was served with the notice last week.

The Sanitary District has a closed-session meeting scheduled for Wednesday morning to discuss its lawsuit against Fitzpatrick.

Fitzpatrick said he resigned as planning commissioner before Wednesday's meeting "as encouragement for the board to do the right thing and drop the suit. There's no longer a conflict."

Sanitary District board President Bob Ooten said he has not decided if the issue is now dead.

"That's one alternative," he said. "I haven't formed an opinion yet. I need to be counseled by the other board members [Wednesday]."

Ooten continued, "The goal of this process, in my mind, was to clarify the [conflict of the two positions] and actually take Fitzpatrick off the Sanitary District … this is just another piece of the puzzle."

Fitzpatrick was elected to the Sanitary District in 2010. He was appointed, however, to the Planning Commission.

"The Sanitary District is an elected position," he told the Daily Pilot, "and I felt compelled to serve the people that elected me to that position."

He later added: "I will say, I believe I do have a good legal basis for why I did what I did in serving in those two positions."

joseph.serna@latimes.com

Twitter: @JosephSerna

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