Coastal Commissioner Martha McClure Loses Re-Election Amid Controversy

August, 2016

Del Norte County Board of Supervisor Martha McClure lost her re-election bid on June 7 by a two to one margin to Lori Cowan, whose stated goals as Supervisor are “to expedite a resolution for Last Chance Grade, support a full service hospital and bring more specialists to our area, clean up and revitalize our community, expand our airport, and support term limits.” 

As a result of her resounding defeat, McClure’s appointment to the California Coastal Commission will expire 60 days after her Board term ends in December, though the Governor could remove her at any time. 

McClure has been embroiled in controversy for her actions on the Coastal Commission, most notably the firing of Executive Director Charles Lester without cause. McClure is one of several Commissioners accused of ethics violations since the controversial February 10 vote to fire Lester behind closed doors (see “Livid Over Lester” in the Apr/May EcoNews and “Del Norte Supervisor Martha McClure Under Scrutiny for Coastal Commission Ethics Violations” in the June/July EcoNews). 

Governor Jerry Brown appointed McClure to the Coastal Commission in 2011 to represent the North Coast counties of Humboldt, Del Norte and Mendocino, replacing Humboldt County Supervisor Bonnie Neely.

The 2015 Coastal Commission report card compiled by ActCoastal, the California Coast Accountability Project, ranked McClure at the bottom of the list, tied with Commissioner Gregory Cox of San Diego for the worst voting record (32 percent). The report card compiles monthly and annual summaries of issues with the most impact on the coast or those that could set important statewide precedents.  

The California Coastal Commission has 12 voting members appointed either by the Governor, Senate Rules Committee, or the Speaker of the Assembly. Each appoints four commissioners: two public members and two elected officials from specific coastal districts. In addition, the Secretaries of the Resources Agency, the Business and Transportation Agency, and the Chair of the State Lands Commission serve as non-voting members. 

What’s Next?

The North Coast representative must be an elected member of a City Council or County Board of Supervisors within the district (Mendocino, Humboldt, or Del Norte Counties). The Governor’s appointment process for new Commissioners involves calling for a list of interested candidates, followed by a 45-day period in which County Boards and City Councils can nominate colleagues. 

In response to numerous recently-revealed ethics violations, state legislators have introduced several bills designed to increase transparency of Coastal Commission proceedings. A ban on ex-parte communications—private meetings with developers and other interested parties—is the subject of a pending bill in the state legislature (SB 1190). Another bill would increase reporting requirements for lobbyists to the Coastal Commission (AB 2002). Developers and their lobbyists are strongly opposing these proposed reforms.