The Santa Monica City Council on Tuesday replaced ousted Planning Commissioner Derek Shearer with a member of Santa Monicans for Renters Rights and the Mid-City Neighbors after legal action by Shearer failed to stop the appointment.
Tuesday's unanimous vote for Don Nelson came after Shearer, who is also a member of Santa Monicans for Renters Rights, failed to get a temporary restraining order prohibiting the council from filling the seat.
Nelson agreed to serve the remainder of Shearer's four-year term, which expires June 30, 1988.
"It was the hardest decision I ever made in my entire life," Nelson said.
He said some people advised him to refuse the seat "in view of the fact that Commissioner Shearer may not have been properly removed."
But Nelson said he decided to accept the position because he felt it was important for him to represent renters' rights on the commission. "If the renters are not represented, their interests will definitely be gored," he said.
Shearer was removed during a lengthy council meeting earlier this month. He had been under fire for his public criticism of Planning Director Ann Siracusa and Planning Commissioner Penny Perlman, as well as for his attendance record at commission meetings. Councilman Herb Katz also has said that Shearer sometimes voted on political grounds rather than on the issues before the Planning Commission.
Shearer, a professor of urban planning, was elected by the council to the Planning Commission in 1981. He was ousted Sept. 9 when independent Councilman Alan Katz joined four All Santa Monica Coalition members, Mayor Christine E. Reed and Councilmen William Jennings, David Epstein and Herb Katz, in voting for his removal.
Santa Monicans for Renters Rights Councilmen Dennis Zane and James Conn voted to retain Shearer.
Shearer on Tuesday asked Santa Monica Superior Court Judge David M. Rothman to prevent the city from filling his seat until the court could hold a hearing on whether he should be reinstated.
Shearer has claimed that his removal was improper because he was not notified that the council was going to consider firing him, he did not have a chance to defend himself and he was removed because he exercised his right of free speech.
He also said he has attended more than 95% of all Planning Commission meetings and that Herb Katz's charge that he voted on political grounds was a "lie" which has damaged his reputation.
Assistant City Atty. Joseph Lawrence defended the removal. He said that under the City Charter, the council may remove a planning commissioner whenever five council members vote to do so.
Although Rothman refused to issue a restraining order, he did agree to schedule a hearing for Oct. 7 on whether Shearer should be reinstated.
In denying Shearer's request for a restraining order, Rothman said, "I do not agree on the face of it that the council's action was unconstitutional. It would be inappropriate and improper for this court to issue a (temporary restraining order) and interfere with the duties of the City Council this evening.
"We will come back on the 7th and hear the merits of the case."
If the court reinstates Shearer, he may fill the commission's remaining vacant seat. The council Tuesday accepted the resignation of Planning Commissioner Edward Kirshner. Kirshner, the only other Santa Monicans for Renters Rights commissioner, is moving to the San Francisco Bay Area.
Lawrence praised Rothman's decision. "We think he made the wise choice," he said. If Rothman had issued a restraining order, it would have "placed him in the position of getting involved in the politics of the city of Santa Monica and he correctly avoided that."
Shearer said he welcomed the October hearing. "I have serious concerns about my professional reputation. What I'm trying to do is defend my name and reputation.