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Malibu Planning Director Richard Mollica resigns after 20 years of service • The Malibu Times

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Mollica’s resignation will take effect on July 25 and the city will begin searching for a successor

By Barbara Burke

Exclusive to The Malibu Times

“It has been an honor to serve the residents of Malibu,” said Malibu Planning Director Richard Mollica when he submitted his resignation on June 28 after 20 years as a city employee. “I was fortunate to grow up working in my grandfather’s barbershop in Malibu, next door to my aunt’s beauty salon, and I enjoyed the weekly shrimp brunch at the Malibu Sea Lion.”

“Through my work for the city, I was able to give back to the community, just as my family members did as members of the LA County Lifeguards, Lion’s Club, Navy League and Kiwanis Club. As part of the first graduating class of Malibu High School, I experienced the 1993 fire firsthand,” Mollica wrote.

He continued, “I didn’t know I would play a key role in rebuilding Malibu after the 2007 fires and the Woolsey Fire. It was an honor to give back and reconnect with so many fire victims, including some of my teachers. I will always remember my time here and am grateful for the support I received from the residents and my staff.”

City Manager Steve McClary responded to Mollica’s resignation announcement by saying, “We are deeply grateful for Mr. Mollica’s contributions and his leadership in planning and development has had a lasting impact on our community.”

The city’s press release announcing Mollica’s departure said he joined the City of Malibu in 2004. The release said he “brought a wealth of experience and dedicated commitment to our community’s planning services. His vision and expertise, particularly in environmental and coastal management, have been instrumental in supporting our city’s vision and sustainability.”

Mollica is one of the city’s longest-tenured employees, working in the planning department for 15 years before being named deputy planning director in 2019 and acting planning director in 2020. His salary and benefits totaled $244,006.16 in 2022, according to Transparent California.

Mollica’s resignation surprised many. While his decision to leave office could simply be due to his twenty years of service with the city, a milestone in terms of public employee retirement benefits, it primarily follows several recent developments in the city’s planning department. First, there has been high turnover in the city’s planning department in recent years. Second, Mollica has resisted efforts to merge the planning and building safety departments back into a single administrative unit, as recommended by Baker Tilley, an outside consulting firm hired by the city.

Finally, Assistant City Planner Adrian Fernandez recently sent a letter to the city describing the staffing shortage. Councilman Bruce Silverstein read the letter at the last City Council meeting on June 24.

Fernandez’s letter states, “I am bringing to light the abuse and dysfunctional experiences of the planning staff and the root cause of it. I hope this will bring about positive change.” Fernandez’s letter also alleges that he was personally harassed by two city council members and by members of the public during a council meeting regarding a proposal to build a property called The Malibu Inn in the middle of Malibu, directly across from the Malibu Pier. His letter does indeed state that he was subjected to death threats, public attacks, and private verbal abuse from many quarters.

Malibu City Interim Attorney Trevor Rusin declined to comment on Fernandez’s statements, citing the city’s policy of not commenting on personnel matters. Deputy City Manager Alexis Brown also cited such privacy policies when asked for comment on Mollica’s resignation.

The city’s next steps in the search for a new planning director

The city’s announcement of Mollica’s resignation said: “The city is committed to ensuring continuity of planning operations during this transition period. All services and counter hours will remain open, and we will keep the public updated on operational updates.”

For further questions about applying for the position created by Mollica’s departure, readers may contact the City’s Human Resources Department or the City Manager’s Office at 310-425-2489.

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