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Schwarzenegger appointee dumped after voting against administration

May 27, 2010 | 10:43 am

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has removed one of his own appointees off a state transportation board — the second board member he has dumped in nine months – the day after the appointee voted against an administration-backed proposal.

Schwarzenegger yanked Larry Zarian off the California Transportation Commission last Friday after he opposed a plan to allow private companies an increased role in a San Francisco freeway construction project.

“It seems to be a pattern,” said Jim Ghielmetti, whom the governor withdrew from the board last fall after he raised questions about similar public-private partnerships.

Aaron McLear, a Schwarzenegger spokesman, said “Mr. Zarian’s position on this issue was not in line with the direction the state’s headed … We’re at a critical point and need commissioners who share the state’s vision of attracting private investment.”

Zarian, a Republican and former chairman of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority who had served more than four years on the transportation board, did not return phone calls or e-mails for comment. Zarian’s confirmation to a second four-year term had been pending in the state Senate.

That is until last Thursday, when the commission approved the public-private partnership for the construction of the freeway leading up to the Golden Gate Bridge. Commission staff had recommended rejecting the proposal. But it was approved on a narrow 6-5 vote, with Zarian opposed.

Within hours, Schwarzenegger lauded the vote as a “shining example of how to improve the state’s highways through competition.” Then, less than 24 hours later, he quietly dumped Zarian from the commission in a one-sentence letter to the Senate Rules Committee.

Ghielmetti, whom state lawmakers reappointed to the board after he was removed by the governor last fall, said he had spoken with Zarian and “told him how sorry I was.” Ghielmetti questioned Schwarzenegger’s decision to pull the nomination: “You’re going to punish a guy because he votes his conscience? I guess so.”

-- Shane Goldmacher in Sacramento