Leaked Letter Creates Controversy for California Coastal Commissioner
• Author Declines to Comment on Incendiary Statements
BY BILL KOENEKER
A highly critical and expletive-filled letter written by Democratic Party Chair and former state Senator John Burton sent to Malibu resident and California Coastal Commission Chair Sara Wan has caused raised eyebrows in the coastal community.
"Yes, I got a letter from Burton," said Wan, who added, "I still have the utmost respect for him."
Burton, who has appointed Wan to the coastal panel on numerous occasions when he was a state senator, criticizes Wan for how she purportedly conducted herself when she was recently elected chair, accusing her of "screwing" fellow Commissioner Mary Shallenberger out of being elected to the position.
The chair of the commission is elected by the other members of the panel and assumes no extra power other than to conduct the Coastal Commission meetings.
Neither Burton nor Shallenberger returned phone calls to The Malibu Surfside News.
Wan said she had no idea how the media got hold of the letter and said the controversy was "quite contrary to the business of the commission."
Shallenberger is considered a close colleague of Wan's and often votes with Wan on many issues.
"I still consider Mary my friend," said Wan, who declined to answer any further questions on why the letter was sent or if she knew it to be true that Shallenberger viewed the election in the same way as characterized by Burton.
Since Shallenberger is no stranger to Sacramento or its politics, the letter, according to some capitol observers, could be viewed as equally if not more embarrassing to her by stating that a seasoned pro such as herself could be "screwed" out of a commission chair position.
Shallenberger began work for the California State Senate in 1987 and was the principal consultant of the Senate Natural Resources Committee. From 1994 until 2005, she was the special advisor to the Senate Pro Tem on policy and political issues related to natural resources and the environment, according to biographical information on the California Coastal Commission website, which states, "During her tenure in the Senate she was instrumental in nearly every major environmental bill that passed the Legislature."
Wan, who co-founded Vote the Coast, which is a political action committee dedicated to helping the election of coastal friendly candidates, conducted several fundraisers for Burton over the years when he was a senator.
From 1998 until 2004, he held the top spot on the Senate and was also elected to the state Assembly before his time on the Senate. He was subsequently forced out of office by term limits.
In 2009, Burton won election for chair of the California Democratic Party, which he still holds.