A group of Redondo Beach residents has launched a recall effort against first-term Councilmember John Gran, saying that he is “playing politics” with the city’s fire and medical emergency services.
A representative for the group, led by attorney Zein Obagi, Jr., served Gran legal papers Thursday morning, Sept. 12, notifying the councilmember of the organization’s intent to recall him.
The group must gather roughly 2,500 signatures — equal to 25% of registered voters in Gran’s north Redondo district — within 90 days to possibly qualify for a special March 2020 election. Gran was voted into office in March 2017 to a four-year term.
Obagi could not be reached for comment. But in a written statement, he cited as the reason for the recall Gran’s vote last month against funding a study that would have looked at the costs of merging the city’s fire department with Los Angeles County.
Gran supported the first half of a feasibility study last year, but then voted against funding the last phase, which would have cost $24,000. Councilmembers Christian Horvath and Laura Emdee voted against the study’s second phase as well.
Gran, for his part, defended himself Thursday, saying he did not “flip-flop.” Gran said that even when he voted to authorize $30,000 for the first phase of the study, in August 2018, he stated he was skeptical the move could save money.
“This is a fundamental question of our quality of life. Once it’s gone, it’s gone,” Gran said at the time. “We may save money in the short term, but that doesn’t mean we are going to save it in the long run.”
On Thursday, he reiterated that point.
“I am not playing politics,” Gran said in an interview. “I am looking at the numbers.
In February, the county’s preliminary report suggested the city could save $4 million to $7 million per year if it merged with L.A. County Fire Department. But then, Redondo Fire Chief Robert Metzger presented his own analysis, including new information about workers’ compensation claims and other expenses the city would likely still incur. That was all the information he needed, Gran said, to know that merging with L.A. County wasn’t going to pan out.
The savings would likely be minimal, if at all, according to the reassessment, Gran said.
“I believe I made the best decision for our city,” Gran said Thursday. “Maybe not (for) the firefighters because that’s what they wanted, but I stand by the decision because there’s just no money there.”
That decision did not sit well with Redondo Beach firefighters, the majority of whom support exploring a merger with L.A. County, according to Greg Allen, president of the Redondo Beach Firefighters Association.
The union largely supports a merger for several reasons, Allen said, including improved public safety and response times. Redondo Beach’s current difficulty recruiting and keeping firefighters is another reason.
The union has also been locked in employment negotiations for roughly 17 months — along with the police union — so firefighters see a merger as a chance to receive a pay increase, Allen acknowledged.
The Redondo Beach Firefighters Association is not behind the effort to recall Gran, Allen said. But, he added, the union supports the initiative and would consider putting money toward a recall campaign in the near future.
That came a surprise to Gran.
“I have a good relationship with the firefighters,” the councilmember said, “and I am a little bit shocked they would consider being a part of this.”