Malibu City Council, MTC respond to Adrian Fernandez letter

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Photo by Samantha Bravo.

Assistant planning director still on leave from city after his claims of harrassment, death threats made public

By Barbara Burke

Special to The Malibu Times

The City of Malibu provided The Malibu Times with a rather perfunctory statement on July 3 responding to the Times’request for a comment concerning the allegations set forth by Assistant Planning Director Adrian Fernandez in his June 24 letter to the City Council in which he stated that he wanted to “finally raise the curtain on abuses and collusion that [he] has both witnessed and personally endured within the City of Malibu.”

Continuing, Fernandez stated that “the last few weeks have been a private hell for me and my family. I have experienced death threats, personal public attacks, and private abuse from many sides. I have now come to the alarming realization that officials at the highest level of city government, including the Mayor, have coordinated or at a minimumencouraged these attacks in concert with members of the Malibu Township Council.”

The city’s July 3 statement, titled “City Statement for request from Barbara Burke for Malibu Times re: Harassment Allegations,” stated: “Due to the confidentiality of personnel matters, the City of Malibu cannot discuss specific allegations or ongoing investigations. The City takes any allegations of abuse or harassment very seriously. 

“The City will thoroughly investigate any claims of inappropriate conduct or a hostile work environment. The investigation process ensures that all concerns are addressed promptly and fairly.

“The City values a positive and collaborative work environment and strives to always uphold this standard. We encourage any employees who feel they have experienced or witnessed a hostile work environment to report their concerns to Human Resources or through other appropriate channels.”

On June 29, the Malibu Township Council responded to Fernandez’s letter alleging the MTC contributed to the abuse he alleges he endured with regard to his being criticized within his workplace at the city as well as at a City Council meeting on May 13 concerning the MTC’s appeal of the Planning Commission’s approval of an application for a permit to build the Malibu Inn Hotel.

Addressed to the members of the City Council, the Township Council’s letter, signed by Jo Drummond, the organization’s president, on behalf of the board of directors, stated, “Malibu Township Council denies all claims in the June 24, 2024, letter by a city staff member in connection with our appeal to the Malibu Inn Hotel. Malibu Township Council appealed the Planning Commission’s majority approval of this project to the City Council since, as designed, it did not adhere to Malibu’s General Plan, Local Coastal Program and Municipal Code. Our presentation was professional and respectful.”

Noting that MTC’s appeal was granted on its merits by the City Council with only one dissenting vote, the letter stated, “We will continue to speak for and against development in the ongoing public interest based on each proposal’s merits and Malibu’s codes that were put in place to protect Malibu’s unique, fragile, natural environment and our small seaside community character.”

In closing, the letter stated, “Malibu Township Council has been a watchdog for Malibu advocating for responsible development to protect this most special place since 1947. We have over the past 77 years received the respect of the citizens of Malibu and ask for the City government’s respect. Over the decades, MTC has championed the preservation of Malibu and prevented a nuclear power plant, oil drilling, a freeway, a marina, a citywide sewer system, large 4 or more axle trucks on PCH and other attempts to exploit Malibu with inappropriate development.” 

Shortly before the City Council’s regular meeting on July 8, Councilmember Paul Grisanti stated to this reporter that the council’s executive session scheduled before the public meeting would not include any discussion of Fernandez’allegations as the matter was not on the agenda.

Further, Grisanti stated, to his understanding, Fernandez remained on leave from the city and that, “although he has most likely lawyered up, I am not aware of any complaint being filed against the city.”

Other than one attendee reading Fernandez’s letter in full on Zoom during public comment at the City Council meeting on July 8, there was no other discussion of the matter. 

On July 9, Kraig Hill, City of Malibu Planning Commissioner, vociferously objected to the phrasing in two different communications sent to the city seeking documentation concerning Fernandez’s allegations of harassment and the existence of a conspiracy to harm him. It is Hill’s understanding that Mark Boennighausen of Hopkins & Carley sent those communications on Fernandez’s behalf.

“I have nothing to do with the Malibu Township Council, and I never have,” Hill stated. “The communications lumping me in with any allegations against the MTC are inaccurate, and, moreover, I had absolutely nothing to do with the Malibu Inn Motel matter after the planning commission approved the application. To the extent there is any action by MTC, I am totally disengaged from that.  In my mind, the city planning commission is covered by the city’s mission statement and general plan and our jobs are to uphold the law.”

Although not expressing an opinion about any of Fernandez’s claims of wrongdoing by anyone at the city, Hill stated that if there is any conspiracy at all, he certainly was not involved in it.

To the extent Fernandez and his counsel are accusing Hill of any wrongdoing, Hill stated he would seek a retraction from them.   

Efforts by the The Malibu Times to reach Fernandez for comment have been unsuccessful as of press time.