Tuesday, February 28, 2023

State employee claims parks officials threatened new fines if they lose lawsuit

Ronnie Glick, a senior environmental scientist with California State Parks, testified that the San Luis Obispo County Air Pollution Control District (APCD) threatened to impose new fines on State Parks if Friends of Oceano Dunes, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving off-highway vehicle recreation, wins a lawsuit against APCD. 

The lawsuit alleges that APCD spent money earmarked for off-highway vehicle recreation. Glick testified that APCD’s executive director, Gary Willey, said he would use the APCD’s “enforcement authority under Rule 1001 to assess fines” against State Parks. 

Friends is seeking reimbursement from APCD for public money expended under an agreement that was invalidated by a court ruling in 2021.

  • Friends of Oceano Dunes filed a civil lawsuit against the APCD alleging that the air district illegally spent money earmarked for the support of off-highway vehicle recreation.
  • The APCD's dust rule that had required State Parks to reduce the particulate matter blowing from the Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area or face fines of $1,000 per day was invalidated in a 2021 court ruling that found the APCD's agreement violated public policy because the agency adopted the agreement out of view of the public and without public input.
  • Friends is seeking reimbursement from the APCD for public monies expended under the void agreement, which Friends says exceeds $1 million.
  • State Parks is mandated to support off-highway vehicle usage at the Oceano Dunes and oversee the Off-Highway Vehicle Fund, but its administration generally takes a passive stance at what has become a politically charged issue.
  • The deputy director of the Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation Division of State Parks, Sarah Miggins, is the manager of the fund, which is to be used for off-highway vehicle recreation facilities, but she refused to answer questions about Willey's alleged threat or her oversight of the fund.
  • During the past seven years, Friends has successfully sued the California Coastal Commission, the California Air Resources Board, and the APCD approximately 10 times over the agencies' regulatory actions related to the Oceano Dunes State Recreational Area.

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