David Pritchett, one half of Santa Barbara’s most prominent populist power couple, submitted his resignation from the City of Santa Barbara’s Transportation and Circulation Committee (TCC), stating his continued service “presents an appearance of awkwardness if not even silliness” for his wife, newly elected councilmember Cathy Murillo. Murillo was just appointed as council liaison to that same committee. Pritchett has served on the TCC, the advisory body now taking the lead on safety improvements for the Milpas corridor, since 2006, and he has been an outspoken advocate of traffic-calming measures like bulb-outs and a supporter of alternative transportation. Last week, Pritchett sought to attend a committee meeting electronically from a hotel room in Atlanta, but City Attorney Steve Wiley emphatically deep-sixed that plan, arguing it violated the state’s open-government law known as the Brown Act. To comply with the Brown Act, Wiley said, members of the public would need to be able to physically enter Pritchett’s hotel room; the fact that the hotel was in Atlanta precluded that from happening, he said.
Last year, Pritchett moved to Atlanta temporarily to work as a federal biological consultant for proposed development projects in Florida. Since taking that job, he’s missed more meetings than he’s attended, even though he sought to rearrange his schedule to be back in Santa Barbara in time for the TCC’s monthly meetings. Those regular meetings, he said, have themselves been rescheduled to make it all but impossible for him to attend. Before serving on the TCC, Pritchett served for five years on the Creeks Advisory Committee. And two years ago, he ran for city council. Although he lost, he did far better than many expected, for which his wife — who ran that campaign — received much of the credit. Historically, there’s no precedent for a councilmember to have a spouse serving on a city advisory committee, and legally, there’s no conflict of interest. Even so, all parties involved concede it looks and feels weird. It was only a matter of time, Pritchett said, before he stepped down. The scheduling conflict, he said, accelerated that decision.