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L.A. County planning chief fired, claims retaliation

January 16, 2009 |  3:47 pm

Fujioka Bruce W. McClendon, Los Angeles County's chief land use planner, was called into the office of County Chief Executive Officer William T. Fujioka this morning and told he was fired.

Fujioka said that personnel rules barred him from publicly disclosing the reason behind the termination, effective immediately. McClendon was head of the Department of Regional Planning for two years and earned $191,028 annually. He will receive severance pay for the equivalent of six months of work, Fujioka said.

McClendon, reached by telephone at his downtown apartment, said that he believed the firing was likely in retaliation for becoming a whistle-blower against the Board of Supervisors.

He said he had provided information to Fujioka that supervisors' aides routinely sought to improperly influence hearing officers' decisions on whether to permit development plans. "It was illegal, and they can go to jail for doing it," McClendon, 62, said.

Fujioka denied that he received such information. Aides to Supervisors Michael Antonovich, Don Knabe, Gloria Molina and Zev Yaroslavsky declined to comment on the allegations. McClendon said that he also protected his staff from day-to-day interference from supervisors' aides, an occurrence that was supposed to be reduced by the implementation in 2007 of a new county structure.

Under the structure, Fujioka was meant to manage day-to-day affairs, and supervisors' offices were to turn their attention to broader policy issues. A report by a citizens watchdog group last year said that transition had not yet occurred and that the number of bosses intervening in department affairs had actually multiplied as a result of the new structure.

McClendon arrived two years ago from Orange County, Fla., and is a past president of the American Planning Association. 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 Los Angeles County. Services include long-range planning, land development counseling, project review, environmental review and zoning enforcement for each of the county's unincorporated communities.

--Garrett Therolf

Photo of Fujioka / Los Angeles Times file