The attorney for developer Ernie Dalidio is calling the state Fair Political Practices Commission’s outing of the three local men behind the campaign to thwart Dalidio’s efforts to develop his San Luis Obispo property a victory for fair and transparent politics.
The FPPC will consider levying up to $80,000 in fines later this month against Jim and Tom Copeland for concealing contributions of more than $220,000 to the campaign against Dalidio’s efforts to develop his farmland off Madonna Road.
Banker David Booker also faces a portion of the fines. He acted as the manager for Responsible County Development LLC, which was formed to funnel contributions to the committee opposing Measure J — a countywide ballot measure in 2006 seeking approval to develop the land.
Booker was named in six of 16 counts filed against the Copelands for violations of the Political Reform Act and will be held liable along with the Copelands for $30,000 of the $80,000 in proposed fines.
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Booker could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
The Copelands violated the Political Reform Act, the FPPC staff report says, because the limited liability corporation they created, Responsible County Development, hid the names of its members and failed to disclose the true purpose of the $220,944 “loan” it made to the “No on J” committee.
In its report Monday, the FPPC said that the Copelands used the LLC to conceal the true source of the funds and “circumvent” the Political Reform Act.
“This may appear as a victory for Ernie Dalidio and his project, but it is more of a victory for fair and transparent politics in San Luis Obispo,” said James McKiernan, Dalidio’s attorney. “The citizens of San Luis Obispo are the real winners because it reinforces what the standards are. ... Leaders in town will listen to this type of statement, and it will reverberate beyond Dalidio and be for the better of San Luis Obispo.”
Dalidio, who was out of town, could not be reached directly for comment.
The Copelands are longtime business owners in downtown San Luis Obispo.
Their properties include San Luis Obispo’s Downtown Centre, the Court Street development and the planned Chinatown project.
Until Monday, the Copelands had not been identified as contributors to Responsible County Development, which provided more than 80 percent of the financing for the anti- Measure J campaign.
“This is a reminder to people in office and people with money that it is time to adhere to the law,” Mc-Kiernan said.
Dalidio won the right to develop his 131 acres in 2009 when the 2nd District Court of Appeal ruled that his Marketplace proposal could move forward. The state Supreme Court refused to hear the case, making the ruling to allow Measure J final.
Dalidio recently leased a portion of the land to Talley Farms to grow organic vegetables.
Developing the site will not happen in the near future, McKiernan said.
“The project planned was going to be scenic and high class and would have drawn class A stores,” McKiernan said. “Now that is pilfered away — lost either to attrition, defeat or conspiracy. With the economic downturn, it is all going back to the drawing board.”
Reach AnnMarie Cornejo at 781-7939. Stay updated by following @a_cornejo on Twitter.