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Catalina Island Conservancy board backs controversial president

December 17, 2012 |  3:20 pm

A group of young travelers cruise through Avalon Bay, off Catalina Island, where the focus on creation of tourism-oriented attractions rather than conservation has provoked criticism. Credit: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times

The Santa Catalina Island Conservancy’s board of directors Monday announced that it has “complete confidence” in Ann Muscat, the controversial president and executive director of the nonprofit charity that manages 88% of the island.

The conservancy’s board met in closed session Friday to discuss pressing matters, including internal dissent that has prompted the abrupt resignations and departures of several senior officers and scientists at a time when the organization is trying to raise funds for costly tourist attractions.

Former board chairman Cliff Hague resigned in October over Muscat’s managerial style.

The board Friday conducted a vote of confidence in Muscat, who helped engineer the conservancy’s shift toward tourism-oriented attractions and away from conservation on the island 22 miles off the coast of Southern California.

John Cotton, current chairman, declined to comment on the board’s actions. But sources who requested anonymity for fear of retaliation said two board members resigned Friday after the panel voted 8 to 7 in support of Muscat.

"We are in a difficult and challenging situation here, there’s no denying that," Cotton said in an interview. "And the board is committed to moving forward to resolve these issues.

"We understand that there are a lot of unhappy people," he added. "I just hope that we can navigate our way to a conclusion that will be beneficial to all."

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-- Louis Sahagun

Photo: A group of young travelers cruise through Avalon Bay, off Catalina Island, where the focus on creation of tourism-oriented attractions rather than conservation has provoked criticism. Credit: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times

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