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Waste Board Member's Ouster Urged : Politics: Moorpark leader is criticized by environmentalists for serving on the county panel while running for supervisor.

May 20, 1994|SCOTT HADLY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

An Ojai-based environmental group demanded the resignation Thursday of Ventura County Waste Commissioner Scott Montgomery, blasting the Moorpark city councilman for serving on the commission while running for a seat on the county Board of Supervisors.

Montgomery has actively campaigned to place an initiative on the November ballot aimed at opening a new landfill in Weldon Canyon near Ojai.

Members of the Coalition to Stop Weldon Canyon Dump contend that Montgomery's support of the issue has tainted his representation on the commission, made up of appointed representatives from all the cities in the county.

"It's certainly his prerogative to express his opinion," said Michael Shapiro, a member of the group. "But as chairman of a Waste Commission that has already sent a letter stating its opposition to building landfills in the county, it seems inappropriate."

Shapiro called Montgomery's campaign a "gross conflict of interest," stating that the commission's job was to review the best alternatives for dealing with solid waste in the county. By advocating a new landfill in Weldon Canyon, Montgomery showed his bias, Shapiro said.

Also, Shapiro questioned Montgomery's motivation for supporting the landfill initiative.

"It begs the question of who's funding his campaign," Shapiro said after the meeting. "When he announced his candidacy he said it was going to be a grass-roots campaign, relying on small donations. Now he's got a campaign office and consultants. I'm not saying there has been any impropriety but he should resign to eliminate any questions of a conflict of interest."

In an interview after the meeting, Montgomery denied any impropriety and said he resented Shapiro's remarks. He said he lobbied for a landfill in Weldon Canyon long before running for supervisor.

"I don't think that I have to suddenly give up my First Amendment rights just because I'm serving on this commission," he said.

At the meeting he said he would resign if any commission members asked him. None did.

Eloise Brown, a former Moorpark City Council member who helped draw up the initiative, said Montgomery was merely representing people in Moorpark. Residents there, she said, would have to deal with increased truck traffic headed for the Simi Valley landfill if no west county landfill opened.

"Those trucks are going to the landfill right now," she said. "We already have to deal with what these people in Ojai are worried about. And residents in Moorpark and Simi Valley don't want to have the whole burden for the county's trash . . . (Montgomery) is representing his constituents."

While members of the Coalition to Stop the Weldon Canyon Dump were unsuccessful in getting Montgomery to resign, they vowed to take other actions to try to defeat the effort to open a new landfill in Weldon Canyon.

"We've demonstrated that we're a potent force," Shapiro said. "We're ready to fight this throughout the county."

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