SLO County planning commissioner resigns after outcry over Facebook posts

Jan 3, 2020

A San Luis Obispo County planning commissioner has resigned after prompting controversy with posts to Facebook. South county supervisor Lynn Compton’s office announced Friday afternoon Compton had accepted a resignation letter from Jim Harrison, effective immediately.

Harrison, a Nipomo resident, has also declined the 2019 ‘Citizen of the Year’ award from the South County Chambers of Commerce.

Harrison has stepped down in the wake of community indignation over posts he made to his personal Facebook page over the past several months. The posts have since been deleted.

One post said “America needs to shut down all mosques and ban Islam.” Another depicts a portrait of U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi in a Nazi uniform, above the label ‘Minister of Propaganda.’ Others are reposts of far-right memes that equate Democrats with Nazis.

South County Chambers of Commerce president Jocelyn Brennan said at a meeting Thursday night to consider rescinding Harrison’s award, the Chamber’s board instead voted unanimously to accept a letter from Harrison declining the award. Brennan said there would be no recipient of the award in Nipomo.

“The final selections were made based on the information available at the time and upon the nomination of the communities,” Brennan wrote in an email. “Awardees were selected for Citizens of the Year for Arroyo Grande, Grover Beach, Nipomo, Oceano, and Pismo Beach.”

“Harrison’s vile and divisive posts [on Facebook] show the kind of far-right extremist,” honored by the Chamber’s award, said Rosemary Wren, chair of the SLO County Democratic Party, in a letter calling on the Chamber to rescind the award.

Before deleting his public page, Harrison wrote on Facebook: “There was a post on my Facebook that offended some people. I apologize if it was offensive to you. The post was deleted when this came to my attention,” as reported by the San Luis Obispo Tribune.

After the Tribune published an editorial on Dec. 30, pointing out the viewpoints expressed by Harrison on his Facebook page and calling for his resignation from the Planning Commission, several people penned letters to the editor agreeing, condemning Harrison’s posts and views.

“They are offensive, violate the expressed precepts of the County Planning Commission and reflect a point of view that promulgates racism and unequal treatment of all Americans,” wrote Nipomo resident Jack Moyer.

According to District 4 legislative assistant Caleb Mott, this week Harrison sent a resignation letter to Compton, who had appointed Harrison to the Planning Commission in 2015. Harrison was reappointed for another term in 2019.

Mott said Compton will begin the process of choosing a new planning commissioner.

Harrison and Compton did not respond to KCBX News’ requests for comment.