Copelands fined by FPPC
October 4, 2010
After four years of anonymity, Thomas and James Copeland have been identified as the principals of the LLC that committed 16 campaign violations in their fight against Ernie Dalidio’s proposed San Luis Obispo County development.
California campaign rules require the transparency of donors and contributors.
For his part in the running of the Responsible County Development LLC, the FPPC determined Dave Booker committed six campaign violations.
“Respondents violated the Political Reform Act’s provisions against making contributions in a name other than one’s legal name, failing to identify the true source of funds contributed, and failing to file major donor semi-annual and late contribution campaign statements,” according to the FPPC court complaint.
The current FPPC action is the latest chapter in an almost 20-year battle to prevent Dalidio from erecting a 131-acre mixed-use-development on his land off Highway 101 near Madonna Road in San Luis Obispo.
James and Thomas Copeland own numerous properties in San Luis Obispo and have battled behind the protection of the LLC to protect their business interests.
“This really exposes the intent of Copeland which starting back as far as 2004,” said Ernie Dalidio’s attorney James McKiernan. “It has cost the Dalidios hundreds of thousands of dollars to obtain this disclosure, which shows dirty pool likely counseled by some of the finest legal minds in the state if not the world.”
On Oct. 14, at a hearing in Sacramento, the FPPC is slated to level $80,000 in fines against the members of the LLC. Because the sanctions are in default, the state is asking for the maximum, $5,000 for each violation.
Aside from the Copelands, an unknown number of San Luis Obispo County residents donated to the LLC in their fight against Dalidio’s planned development, such as former San Luis Obispo City Councilwoman Christine Mulholland.
“I though the CPR was a registered non-profit,” Mulholland said. “I don’t even know what an LLC is.”
Though others involved in the fight against Dalidio were not charged with violations by the FPPC, McKiernan is not ruling out naming others in a possible lawsuit.
In 2008, McKiernan attempted to file a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) suit which claimed local developers illegally interfered with Dalidio’s proposed development costing him millions of dollars in lost revenue. Court declarations focused on the Copeland and Madonna family property developers.
At the time, attorneys for the LLC contended Dalidio’s lawsuit should be dismissed due to anti-SLAPP statutes allowing a judge to dismiss a suit at the onset. SLAPP or “Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation” refer to lawsuits often filed by developers and government officials against individuals and community groups for speaking out on civic or government issues.
“The playing field is finally leveled,” McKiernan added. “Here we had a developer using something intended for the protection of the little guy.”
Correction: Oct. 6, 2010 – Christine Mulholland said CPR for Citizens for Planning Responsibly when asked about donating to the No on J campaign. CPR is not part of the action taken by the FPPC.