Muir may be facing his toughest voting decision yet

ENCINITAS — Mark Muir said he’s taken some unpopular stances during his time on the Encinitas City Council, and didn’t think twice about it. But he’s sweating a call he’ll have to make Wednesday night — for a whole different reason. Muir and the council will be voting on appointments to the Encinitas Youth Commission, an 11-member panel that, among other things, gives the council advice on youth and teen services and programs.

One of the 14 applicants is Scotland Muir, an seventh grader at Dieguito Middle School with an impressive resume of community service. He’s also Mark Muir’s son.

The plot thickens.

While voting for his son is technically not a statutory conflict of interest (youth commissioners are unpaid, so there is no financial conflict), voting for his son could be problematic for appearance’s sake, as the council will be turning away three other kids.

Not voting for his son might not go over well at the dinner table.

“I was just talking to my wife about this yesterday,” Muir said Tuesday. “Last year I voted for him because there were only 11 candidates and it was OK. But yeah, this is a tough decision.

“Part of me says, ‘It’s my kid, what kind of loser dad wouldn’t vote for his own kid,’” he said.  “But there is also that possibility of having a kid walk away saying, ‘what a jerk, he voted for his own kid.’”

An expert in municipal law said that Muir’s situation mirrors several other instances statewide in which a council member faced similar judgment calls. In West Hollywood, a councilman created a controversy when he voted to appoint his wife to the planning commission, which was deemed legal.

“I doubt that in this case there is a legal problem, because there is no financial conflict, so it becomes a question of appearances and political judgment,” said Michael Colantuono, the former city attorney in Calabasas and the state bar’s 2010 public attorney of the year. “In these cases, city attorneys usually allow the politicians to make their own political judgments.”

Muir said he’s been going back and forth about the decision, and is currently leading toward sitting out the vote, but he probably won’t make up his mind until Wednesday’s meeting.

“It’s kind of like when you’re a firefighter, they ask you would you treat the situation differently if your house is on fire,” the former city fire chief said. “You say of course not, but when it happens, of course you approach it differently.”

The Coast News left several messages Tuesday for City Attorney Glenn Sabine, who was not at work.


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