Mitchell keeps Planning Commission seat
by David Mendez
The Marc Mitchell saga appeared to end Tuesday night, when, on a split vote, the Redondo Beach City Council elected to retain Mitchell, a City Planning Commissioner accused of threatening Mayor Bill Brand at a City function.
The split came along familiar lines: Council members Christian Horvath, Laura Emdee, and John Gran against removal, with Nils Nehrenheim and Todd Loewenstein in favor.
The issue was muddled by long-standing differences between Mitchell and Brand.
Mitchell is a Vice President of Cerrell Associates, a public relations firm that has represented developers CenterCal Properties and the Legado Companies. Both companies have attempted to build projects in Redondo Beach, but Mitchell has recused himself when Cerrell clients, such as Legado, have come before the Planning Commission.
When a councilman, Brand attempted to block confirmation of Mitchell’s appointment to Planning, and as Mayor, he attempted to move Mitchell from Planning to the City’s Historical Commission.
Mitchell approached Brand during a November Commissioner’s Reception, and according to Brand, said: “Where I come from, people like you get found in strange places.”
A witness, Christina Correa, corroborated Brand’s account in a letter to the Council and said she watched Michell follow Brand around the party.
An incident report filed by Redondo Beach Police stated that Mitchell later approached Brand and argued with him for attempting to move Mitchell from Planning without speaking to him first.
Stories accusing Mitchell of bullying were repeated during the meeting. Nehrenheim and Loewenstein shared stories of Mitchell approaching them and making them uncomfortable. A letter to the Council from former Congressional staffer Jim Kennedy indicated that Mitchell told Kennedy he wanted to “punch Brand in the face.” Members of the Torrance Refinery Action Alliance also accused Mitchell of intimidating them.
Though Council members Horvath, Emdee, and Gran expressed sympathy to their colleagues and aggrieved members of the public, they were unswayed.
“The issue with removing someone mid-term is that it encourages them to not want to speak their mind,” Emdee said.
Emdee reminded Brand that he indicated a litmus test for commissioners, favoring those who voted against the CenterCal project. “I’m not going to support removing him. I will not support reappointing him, by far,” she added.
Gran and Horvath saw the incident as a personal matter, citing Brand’s past interest in removing Mitchell for political reasons as a cause for this attempt.
“It seems like you’re having a family argument, and you’re trying to remove someone from a job over a family argument,” said resident Betsy Rummery. “This seems political, to someone who isn’t political.”
“For me, this is not political,” Loewenstein said. “I haven’t mentioned anything about his stance on development. This is about behavior.”
“I assure you, if someone made a comment to any other council member up here, I’d be voting to remove him,” Brand said. “That’s totally unacceptable.”
After the motion to remove Mitchell failed, a member of TRAA who disguised herself for fear of retaliation by Mitchell, shouted to the council.
“I’m going to hold you accountable if something happens,” she said, walking away.