DA's Office won't act on Mesa couple's conflict-of-interest claim

bcuddy@thetribunenews.comFebruary 15, 2013 

A Nipomo Mesa couple’s insistence that the city of Grover Beach cannot vote on matters affecting the California State Parks Department’s Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation Division because they are business partners will not get any action from the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office.

In a letter to Larry and Arlene Versaw, Assistant District Attorney Tim Covello wrote that his office handles criminal matters, and their complaint is a civil matter.

The Versaws have argued that the Grover Beach representative to the Air Pollution Control District should not vote on matters affecting the Oceano Dunes because the city and the state have a joint powers agreement regarding a new hotel/convention center that will be built at the end of Grand Avenue.

That gives them a shared financial interest, the Versaws assert, and means that a vote by the Grover Beach APCD board member about the Oceano Dunes could benefit its business partner, which is a conflict of interest.

Grover Beach, like the county’s six other incorporated cities, has a seat on the 12-member APCD. All five county supervisors also sit on the board.

The APCD has been embroiled in a dispute with the state over particulate pollution from the Dunes that blows up to the Nipomo Mesa, where the Versaws live.

The Air Pollution Control District adopted a dust-control rule that requires the OHV park to reduce excessive dust emissions from the Dunes, and the off-roader lobbying group Friends of the Oceano Dunes sued. The state joined with the Friends of the Oceano Dunes.

The Versaws said they are “exploring our next steps” in making their case legally.

However, they added in an email to The Tribune, “Legalities aside, we continue to feel that the public deserves to have their elected officials conduct themselves in a manner that precludes any real or perceived conflict. This situation obviously reflects a conflict at some level.

“Ideally, the representative involved would take steps to avoid even the perception as others have done in the past.”

The larger context is the battle over sand at the Dunes and its effect on the health of people on the Mesa. While there is widespread acknowledgment that sand travels from the Dunes to the Mesa, residents there and others say the off-road vehicles exacerbate the problem.

Off-roaders reject that argument.

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