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Dual-serving coastal commissioner resigns under fire

William Burke, targeted for also chairing the air quality board, spurns request by politicians to quit AQMD.

April 17, 2013|By Jeremiah Dobruck

California Coastal Commissioner William Burke — who vocally supported dousing beach bonfires in Newport Beach and Huntington Beach — has resigned amid pressure from two state legislators.

Burke is chairman of the South Coast Air Quality Management District's governing board, which is considering banning wood-burning rings along the coast from San Clemente to Malibu for health reasons.

Until this week, he also held a position on the Coastal Commission, where staff has recommended the board deny Newport Beach the ability to remove 60 fire pits along its coastline. The resignation was made public Wednesday.

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After Burke said smoke from the popular fire pits looks like "carpet bombing" in Vietnam, Assemblyman Allan Mansoor (R-Costa Mesa) and Sen. Mimi Walters (R-Irvine) tried to oust him from the AQMD.

They sent a letter to state Attorney General Kamala Harris on April 15, questioning whether Burke could simultaneously serve on the AQMD and Coastal Commission, suggesting he had a conflict of duties.

"The clashing interests between the South Coast Air Quality Management District and the California Coastal Commission make it impossible for one member to be an effective and loyal representative on both bodies," the legislators wrote.

The organizations' respective missions — to ensure beach access to the public and to guard air quality — are directly at odds when it comes to beach bonfires, Mansoor and Walters wrote.

The two argued that Burke should resign from the AQMD because, they claim, California's Government Code 1099 dictates that he keep the most recent appointment, which was to the Coastal Commission.

Instead, Burke resigned his Coastal Commission post in a letter to Assembly Speaker John A. Perez dated April 12.

"Unfortunately I can no longer serve and therefore tender my resignation effective immediately," Burke wrote in the one-paragraph-long letter.

The Coastal Commission was not aware of any resignation until the letter was submitted to them late Wednesday afternoon, said the organization's legislative director, Sarah Christie.

Mansoor and Walters sent their letter to the attorney general after dozens of constituents complained to the assemblyman about Burke's Vietnam comparison, said Saulo Londono, Mansoor's capitol director.


FOR THE RECORD:
An earlier version of this story incorrectly referred to Mansoor's capitol director as Saul London.

"It's pretty offensive, and they were pretty much livid at the comments," Londono said.

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