Air board re-evaluating its evaluation process

District wants to change the way it assesses air pollution control officer’s performance

dsneed@thetribunenews.comSeptember 25, 2013 

The San Luis Obispo County Air Pollution Control District on Wednesday began the process of changing its rules to allow its entire board of directors to participate in evaluating the performance of Air Pollution Control Officer Larry Allen.

Currently, the evaluation is conducted by a board subcommittee and then the whole board approves it in a closed session meeting. District Counsel Ray Biering recommended scrapping the subcommittee approach and having each board member submit an evaluation, then consolidating all of them into one for final approval by the entire board.

The air district and Allen have been a lightning rod for controversy in recent years primarily due to a newly adopted rule intended to reduce dust blowing from Oceano Dunes onto the Nipomo Mesa.

The rule requires managers of Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area to reduce blowing sand from the park’s riding area. Planting vegetation and setting hay bales out in open sand areas have been proposed as ways to reduce the speed of the wind blowing across the dunes.

Allen’s efforts to reduce the number of unhealthy air days on the Nipomo Mesa have made him a hero to many Mesa residents. However, off-road vehicle enthusiasts have questioned the science behind the dust rule and fear that it could result in further riding restrictions in the park.

Given this, Biering said “it is important he (Allen) receive an evaluation and associated comments from all board members so that he has a better understanding of how each member views his performance and can receive board input and recommendations on any issues raised or areas of improvement suggested.”

Allen’s three-year contract expires in December. The district board is set to begin the process of renewing his contract, which includes a performance evaluation.

The board approved the procedural changes in a 9-2 vote with Debbie Peterson of Grover Beach and Ed Waage of Pismo Beach voting no. They objected to the last-minute timing of the change. They also noted that the board updated its bylaws, which govern such matters, only six months ago.

In its motion, the board directed the staff to draft changes to the bylaws to reflect the new policy. The board also approved a three-month extension of Allen’s contract in order to give the district time to finalize the changes.

The county Air Pollution Control District board of directors consists of all county supervisors as well as one representative from each of the county’s seven cities. It meets every other month.

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