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Atkins Bill Addresses Coastal Commission Transparency

Photo by Alison St John

The bluffs at Del Mar Shores in Solana Beach, Jan. 12, 2016.

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In spite of vehement opposition from environmental groups, the California Coastal Commission fired Executive Director Charles Lester in a closed session earlier this month. The vote was 7-5.

Some of the seven commissioners who voted to let the axe fall were appointed by Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, D-San Diego.

The reasons for the firing were not made public because it was a personnel issue. But environmentalists and some in the media suspected that Lester's crime was that he was too protective of California's coast and that developers had influenced the vote.

A bill by Atkins and Mark Stone, D-Monterey Bay, AB2002, would close a loophole that exempts lobbyists on the commission level from reporting to the public what they do and how they do it. They would have to register and report their activities, just as those who lobby state agencies do; report the payments they receive from clients; and report how much they spend on lobbying.

“We think it’s really important, and we think we have the public sentiment behind moving this piece of legislation,” Atkins told KPBS Midday Edition on Thursday.

She said she thinks the firing of Lester prompted her to move forward with the legislation.

“Here is an individual who has really led this organization in a very objective, fair manner and that’s what we expect,” she said. “I mean, 29,000 Californians in emails before the commission all weighed in favor of not losing Charles Lester as CEO. So I think the time is right for us to close this loophole, because I think the public has spoken.”

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