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.”

FPPC Exhibit

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.

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If memory serves me right, didn’t the city just work them a sweetheart deal on the parking lot, for the chinatown project??

These guys have exposed them true selfs. They went throgh the 90’s and 2000’s, doing projects in downtown, convincing the citizens of S.L.O. that they were doing them such a good favor for them, in places to shop. Well???

Makes me say how is this much different than Gearhart in Atascadero? The Copelands in my book are no better than Gearhart. I have no problem with development or profit (just read my posts here over time) but DON’T try and act like you are such great citizens (i.e. man of the year in Atascadero) doing us a favor, when you are padding your lifestyles and your HUGE egos. Hypocrites!! I hope this damages the Copeland a**holes, I mean brothers.

P.S. another part of this that sucks is all the projects Ernie lost. They are now building that big box store (Target) that everyone said wouldn’t work for S.L.O. RIGHT NEXT DOOR!!! Then lost Old Navy not much more than a stone’s throw from the south end of his property. Then Lowe’s went to Paso. Yes that is my understanding. Lowe’s got tired of the bull that S.L.O. was putting Ernie through and dragging out the project, so Paso still gives them presence in the county.

Three major projects, while in the same last eighteen years how many Copeland projects have been greenlighted downtown? MANY!!

Someone mentioned in a post what are the Copeland projects. Courtstreet center. The downtown center that that movie theaters are in. Yep all build in that same time frame that they were trying to keep competition out of the picture. These guys are ruthless in my book and shouldn’t be givin the status of fine individuals in S.L.O. like they have been in past.

I hope Ernie pursues this and wins millions from the Copelands, they certainly cost him millions. Lets not forget about Mullholand, she was in there all the way, working behind the scenes. She was also pulling the strings behind the contention with the Devaul ranch. I heard that somebody left a great big stinky dead cow on her property line, a well deserved gift in my opinion.


I hope they do the right thing and abandon the Disney-fication of Downtown SLO. It’s all about greed and their “Chinatown” project is going to take a heavy toll on our beloved city.

Can someone please post all the businesses owned by these pieces of crap. I will make sure I never spend another dime there. The Copelands need to be stoned in the Mission square for this act. What a bunch of cry babies that don’t want others to have a chance to live the life they have. There should be some kind of criminal charges here. I’d like to see these morons in prison.


From the no measure J web site: “The County Coalition for Local Control is a grassroots, volunteer coalition of individuals and local business people.”

Grassroots volunteers, eh? Buncha liars.

Isn’t it interesting all the GREENIE crowd that ENDORSED and got in bed with the big bad corporate Copelands?

James McKiernan??? I am surprised Ernie is using him as legal representation. He had his own legal issues not that long ago as I recall.

McKiernan is McKiernan. Nuff said. Good luck, Ernie. I hope you get the satisfaction you seek.

Now, let me get this straight, Danika … you go to bed thinking about Mckiernan with your last post about him at 9;00pm and then … you wake up thinking about Mckiernan at 5;41am with your next post.


What did u think about or, more likely, do with that Mckiernan fantasy in beteween?

Can u tell us XXX?

Do your research , more than 10 years ago and minor, minor offenses, that former employees caused without his knowledge. He did a bang up job here and deserves the credit.

“I don’t even know what an LLC is.” — Christine Mulholland.

She’s either lying through her teeth, or she’s slept through almost every major development decision meeting she’s been in on the City Council. Unbelievable.

,,, or Both.

What you do expect her to say. She is such a slime and can afford it, since her monthly income is from a nice family trust. No ethnic and a very self centered selfish person. My way or the highway because I only see it my way… Another dirtbag (where’s the street sweeper, the roads are loading with debri in SLO)

The FPPC action states the Copelands and Booker money “was over 80% of the all of the money contributed to the County Coalition for Local Control, No on Measure J-06 committee.”

WHO is behind the other 20%? Where are their names?

Uh, the other 20% was No on Measure J contributors. I’m certain with all your time and excellent research abilities you can find the names and then go to the folks home’s and harrass them. Although one of these days someone will probably lay you out flat on your ass.

I love violent threats from people claiming to be better than others. Thanks for the info on where to find the other contributors.

I didn’t threaten you. What I said is some day you’re going to show up at someone’s door to give them your opinion like you’ve done in the past and you’re going to end up on your ass. Oh, and I don’t know where you got the notion from my post that I or anyone else was claiming to be better than any other. I’m just giving you a little kind advice. So when you’re laying on your ass you can say to yourself, “hey that guy was right”.

I’m sorry Brett but it’s simply not your call (or that of the Copelands) to dictate what will (or will not) be developed on the Dalidio property. You need to come to grips with that reality.

Once the Copeland brothers settle the coming civil suit with Mr. Dalidio, Ernie will have plenty of seed money to get going with an ambitious development.

Measure J passed, Ernie can build away. Are you trying to say that a single individual shouldn’t be allowed to determine what can or cannot be built on private property?. I agree with that. That’s why we use a representative form of government or in the case of initiatives and referendums a democratic process.

Oh by the way, the only thing that Mr. Dalidio (the current property owner) has is Measure J. The project cannot be built in the County, or at least built in the County and succeed. The City is under no obligation to provide any infrastructure. How do you think 30,000 cars are going to access the development without any improvements- including a $50 million overpass. How is the project going to meet wastewater and runoff requirements. The property owner has a big ole handful of nothing.

The propery owners can sue alright., but what are the damages that the property owner is going to claim. Measure J passed- by an overwelming margin. Measure J was placed on the ballot by the property owner. The property didn’t have any development rights that were taken away-since they didn’t have any in the first place. The Copelands didn’t place the measure on the ballot. The ensuing litigation wasn’t illegal.

I hope that the name of everyone involved in this LLC has their name released and is made to pay for their involvement by the courts. The Dalidio family name was dragged through the mud and a fortune was spent defending their reputation. What’s fair is fair. It’s now time for all the people involved in this underhanded business. It looks like the good guy is going to win for a change.

“The Dalidio family name was dragged through the mud…” Really?. Would you like to site some examples?. The Measure J opponents put on the kid gloves when it came to Mr. Dalidio, there wasn’t a peep about Ernie being portrayed as a poor old farmer just trying to sell his property- which according to Mr. Dalidio wasn’t able to be farmed anymore. Strange don’t you think that the property is currently being farmed.


LOL!!! The gossip was full of comments about Ernie’s status! And– are people that are not poor allowed to sell and use their property? The implication they are not is flush with bigotry, hate, and plain envy.

NIce Kevin, so gossip is your standard. Mighty high. No one stopped Mr. Dalidio from selling his property and no one is stopping him from selling his property right now. In fact since Measure J passed and the Judge Picquet’s ruling overuled there is nothing stopping him from building a project.

About the use of one’s property. Now that is a completely different subject. For all of you “property rights” advocates the use of your property is regulated by the government, local, state, or national. That’s how it works, you may not agree and you probably don’t like it but those are the rules, which by the way are created by either our representatives or, as in the case of Measure J, directly by voters. Notwithstanding Takings issues.

You have the right to use your property as is codified in the local zoning regulations, Land Use regulations, and whatever other regulations are pertinent to your particular circumstance.

What always amazes me is those who claim to be “property rights” advocates would be the same folks who scream the loudest when someone wants to use their property in a manner that actually effects them. Ask some property rights advocate what they would think about someone opening up an Adult Book store next to their house, or how about a motocross track. Then you’ll see just how much of property rights advocate they are.

You’re neck deep in the gossip yourself. Nice try. You stated:

“there wasn’t a peep about Ernie being portrayed as a poor old farmer just trying to sell his property”

EXCUSE ME but the airwaves and letters to the editor were filled with attacks on Ernie for this very thing! Community gossip (here, on the radio, and elsewhere) drives public opinion and is public opinion.

Ernie has the right to use his property and his project met the “local zoning regulations, land use regulations, et al.” It was agreed upon by the city council as well.

You make absurd straw-man arguments about property rights. Yes, absurd–motocross track in a residential area, as compared to a shopping center in a business area? The Dalidio debacle was perpetrated by extremists (such as yourself) who conspired to achieve a taking of property that they do not own. They accomplished this via secret deals and money exchanges–and via gossip amongst themselves that we all heard and remember.

I love it—“The Dalidio debacle was perpetrated by extremists (such as yourself) who conspired to achieve a taking of property that they do not own.” Those damn extremist all conspiring in smoke filled back rooms exchanging money and gossiping about it all. You’re off the edge.

Kevin you know that there are issues with neighbors in unincorporated areas that have acreage and have built motocross tracks. It’s their property why can’t they have a motocross track for their kids to ride on?.

Oh, and do you think that 30,000 daily automobile trips would have a serious impact on surrounding neighborhoods?. There were quite a few Class I impacts- environmental impacts that could not be mitigated.

It’s likely not being farmed by Ernie brettmx…it’s probably being leased out. It reduces the fire hazard, keeps the property clean, and probably pays about 1/10 of the property taxes. Ernie’s is being a responsible property owner. Please, try using a bit of intelligence instead of just lashing out. He won, he deserved to win, most people are happy about that. Clearly, you are not happy about the outcome. However, I can’t think of anyone who doesn’t appreciate the fact that this is his property and that personal property rights need to be protected from the likes of people like the Copelands and Dave Booker.

It’s being farmed by Tally, at least according to the Tribune. It was leased prior to that as well when it was being farmed Where did you come up with the 1/10 figure. Do you even know what the property tax is on the property and what the least payments are. I don’t think one either deserves or doesn’t deserve to win. Mr. Dalidio ran the right campaign. He made it about him and not about the issues and the opponents didn’t counter.

I don’t think it’s right that a person or group can use an LLC to “hide” who’s funding a particular positon. I wouldn’t do it and the suspicion that the “loan” caused was used effectively by Measure J’s campaign.

You can’t take away something that someone doesn’t have in the first place. Mr. Dalidio didn’t have any development “Rights” prior to Measure J.

“Mr. Dalidio didn’t have any development “Rights””

Of course he did. It’s just you and your eco-thug buds that think all rights come only with your permission.

Sorry Kevin, but no he didn’t have any development rights. He had the right to submit an application which he did. And yes the City Council approved his application but the approval was subject to an initiative and subsequently that approval was rescinded.

I’m very glad that things are finally beginning to work out for Ernie…It’s long overdue!