Bruce W. McClendon, the chief land use planner for Los Angeles County, was fired Friday by the county's chief executive.
McClendon said he was called to a meeting with William T Fujioka and told he was terminated from his $191,028-a-year job as head of the Department of Regional Planning. Security officers later escorted him out of the building.
Fujioka said Friday that personnel rules barred him from publicly disclosing the reason behind McClendon's termination, which was effective immediately. McClendon held the job for two years and will receive severance pay for the equivalent of six months of work, Fujioka said.
McClendon, reached by telephone, said he believed he had been fired in retaliation for blowing the whistle on county supervisors' aides. He said he had given Fujioka information that showed that aides to the county supervisors routinely sought to improperly influence decisions on whether to permit development plans.
"It was illegal, and they can go to jail for doing it," said McClendon, 62. He said his meetings with Fujioka in recent weeks made it clear that he was likely to be fired. He said he recently began consulting with attorneys in preparation for filing a whistle-blower retaliation lawsuit.
Fujioka denied that McClendon had given him such information. Aides to Supervisors Mike Antonovich, Don Knabe, Gloria Molina, Mark Ridley-Thomas and Zev Yaroslavsky declined to comment on the allegations.
McClendon said that he had to protect his staff from day-to-day interference from supervisors' aides, which was supposed to be reduced under a new county structure that went into effect in 2007.
Under the restructuring, Fujioka was to manage day-to-day oversight of departments while supervisors' offices were to turn their attention to broader policy issues.
But a report by a citizens watchdog group last year said that the division had not yet occurred and that, in fact, instances of interference with departmental decisions had actually multiplied.
McClendon arrived two years ago from Orange County, Fla., and is a past president of the American Planning Assn. He is the author of five books, including "Customer Service in Local Government: Challenges for Planners and City Managers."
In Los Angeles County, he is credited with working to update the master planning document for the county, which had been largely unchanged for 35 years. He also worked to increase community involvement in planning decisions in areas including Baldwin Hills and Hacienda Heights.
The Department of Regional Planning performs all land use planning functions for the unincorporated areas of the county. Services include long-range planning, land development counseling, project review, environmental review and zoning enforcement.
Los Angeles County's unincorporated areas include more than 2,600 square miles and represent two-thirds of the county's land and one-tenth of its population.