Grover Beach mayor keeps seat on APCD board
August 6, 2013
The Grover Beach City Council voted Tuesday night to keep Mayor Debbie Peterson on the San Luis Obispo County Air Pollution Control District Board despite concerns from council members over her decision to circulate a petition calling for the repeal of a controversial regulation.
Last month, Peterson circulated a petition calling for a repeal of the APCD dust rule, which would fine the California Department of Parks and Recreation $1,000 a day if it does not reduce the amount of dust blowing onto the Nipomo Mesa. After Peterson asked her fellow council members to join her in opposition to the regulation, a majority of the council requested to reconsider Peterson’s position on the air district board.
But, the majority sided with Peterson Tuesday as the council voted 3-2 to keep her on the board. Councilwoman Karen Bright and Councilman Glenn Marshall joined Peterson in voting to maintain her appointment to the APCD board. Bright waivered throughout the evening, but eventually broke the 2-2 deadlock and cast a vote in Peterson’s favor.
“I’m putting my faith in her,” Bright said.
Councilman Bill Nichols, who initially requested that the council remove Peterson from the board, voted against the continuation of her appointment. So did Councilman Jeff Lee.
Nichols said Peterson “damaged her credibility” by using her status as mayor in her effort to repeal the dust rule.
“Mayor Peterson has taken on the task to creating and writing a petition,” Nichols said. “This is something she should have and could have done as an individual, not as the mayor of Grover Beach.”
The meeting Tuesday drew a crowd from all over the county. More than 30 members of the public spoke about Peterson, approximately 20 supporting her and 10 opposing her. Many speakers supporting Peterson came from North County, while the majority opposing her came from the Nipomo Mesa.
County supervisor and fellow APCD board member Debbie Arnold said Peterson belongs on the air district board.
“She does her homework,” Arnold told the council. “She comes prepared with the information she needs to be able to ask questions and vote in the best interest of your citizens.”
Peterson faced opposition, though, from Supervisors Bruce Gibson and Adam Hill, who are trying to regain the APCD board majority. Neither Gibson, nor Hill appeared at the meeting Tuesday night, but both supervisors emailed and called most of the council members in advance, asking that they remove Peterson from the APCD board.
On July 26, Hill sent an email to the city of Grover Beach that called Peterson “a disgrace to our community.” City staff forwarded the email to the entire council.
During public comment, Coalition of Labor, Agriculture and Business representative Mike Brown cited the email and requested that Lee and Marshall, who are both county employees, recuse themselves from the vote on Peterson’s APCD seat.
Lee said he did not have a conflict of interest and that he received clearance from county counsel and City Manager Robert Perrault.
Prior to the vote, Peterson asked Nichols and Lee to reveal the amount of email and phone communication they had with Gibson and Hill leading up to the meeting.
Lee said he received three or four emails from the supervisors and had a conversation with each of them. But, Lee said that by asking the question, Peterson solidified his decision to vote against her.
The APCD board next meets in September.