Larry Allen enters battle against Forbes magazine columnist

January 23, 2014
Larry Allen

Larry Allen


San Luis Obispo County Air Pollution Control District Executive Director Larry Allen fired back at Forbes Magazine columnist Steven Hayward Wednesday claiming none of the information in his “attack piece” is true.

For example, Allen claims Hayward misstated his base salary by about $100,000. Hayward wrote Allen was paid close to $250,000.

Nevertheless, the APCD’s fiscal year 2011/2012 salary projection listed Allen as receiving $240,119 a year in salary, benefits and fringes. At that time, of the district’s 21 full-time employees, 19 received total compensation of over $100,000 a year.

In addition Allen contends that his department does not permit tractors and as such the comment about a $13,000 fee to Cal Poly for permitting a tractor is incorrect. According to APCD documents, the cost for his staff to inspect and approve tractors is listed as an inspection fee, not a permit fee.

In Oct. 2010, the air quality district charged Cal Poly $13,215 for the re-inspection of a Caterpillar tractor, according to the Cal Poly district file.

Allen’s response to Hayward:

“Mr. Hayward – you ought to check the accuracy and credibility of your information source(s) before you publish an article in a national magazine. Absolutely none of the information you’ve published here in this opinion/attack piece regarding me and the San Luis Obispo (SLO) County Air Pollution Control District is correct.

“Contrary to your claims, local air quality would not be nearly as good as it is today without the efforts of our agency and our many partnerships with local business to help achieve and preserve clean air.

“We do and have implemented many successful programs that have significantly reduced emissions from local sources that are not directly regulated by the state and federal EPA. The residential wood combustion rule you mention was adopted in 1993 to ensure clean burning woodstoves are installed in new homes to reduce exposure inside and outside the home to toxic air contaminants from inefficient woodburning units. It was just one of numerous other measures that were developed and implemented as part of a very effective clean air plan that achieved significant local emission reductions with broad input and support from the business and community interests. Our plan was used as a model by the California Air Resources Board for other air districts to follow, and implementing that plan resulted in SLO County attaining the state ozone standard. I am proud of that.

“Regarding your statements on our budget and salaries, I am paid a $153,096 annual salary, not $250,000 as you claim. Of 23.5 total staff, only 4 others, our Division Managers, earn a 6-figure salary – $105,310 per year to be precise. You might also be interested to know that our staff size has not increased since 1993, a claim very few other government agencies could make. Our agency is extremely lean and streamlined in its operations. Our long-term fiscal plan, adopted by our 12-member Board of elected city and county officials, anticipated the closure and loss of revenue from the power plant several years ago and implemented numerous cost cutting measures to build reserves to cover that loss when it occurs. All of this information is included on the Air District’s website, an information source you must have not considered in advance of submitting your attack piece.

“Contrary to your statements, only 50 percent of our budget comes from permit and inspection fees, which are set by our Board in a public hearing, not by staff; less than 1 percent of our budget comes from fines. The other 50 percent of our budget does come from state and federal appropriations, motor vehicle registration fees and local property taxes. Regarding the alleged $13,000 fee to the university to inspect and permit a tractor: I have no idea where you got such a notion. We do not require permits for tractors, but we do provide grants for farmers to repower or replace their tractors to help them comply with state regulations – I’m guessing that’s what you must be referring to, with the notable correction that we are giving them money, not charging them fees. We typically provide over $1 million per year in grant funds to local business and other organizations to help them comply with state air quality regulations.

“I would hope that a national magazine like Forbes would hold its writers to higher standards than you’ve clearly been held to, and I will be contacting the Forbes editors to ask for a formal retraction and apology to be published by them.


“Larry R. Allen”

Hayward’s Wednesday response to Allen:

“Mr. Allen is correct that I have misstated his base salary. He and other public servants like him might help their case, however, if they did not deliberately render their complete compensation in opaque terms that seem designed for obfuscation rather than transparency. The 2012 salary information for the APCD (p. 41 of the budget document) sets Mr. Allen’s direct salary at $153,202, but then adds two curious lines: “Fixed costs: $12,082; Variable costs: $70,919; Total: $236,021.” (The 2011 total figure was $240,119.) There is no explanation or breakdown of either of these categories: how much of these figures are standard benefits (health insurance, etc.), and how much are other items that deserve to be considered compensation, such as pension contributions or especially cashable accrued vacation and sick days or per diems (the favorite trick of the state legislature)? And why is this table omitted from the current year budget document entirely, with no total annual compensation figure listed anywhere? I think I know why. (The 2011 salary schedule puts Mr. Allen’s “variable costs” of salary at $82,000.) The public ought at least to know what the commensurate figure for “variable costs” of Mr. Allen’s salary is this year.

“This opacity contrasts starkly with the way total compensation is reported for senior executives at public corporations, where direct salary, annual bonuses, stock options, and contingent buyout obligations are clearly stated and explained. If Mr. Allen wishes to be more transparent, he should restore that omitted table to the current budget, and offer more details about those mystery numbers. (I was, incidentally, the public interest representative on the California Citizens Compensation Commission in the early 1990s, so I’ve seen this circus before.)

“But Mr. Allen’s salary is entirely ancillary to the main points, about which he disputes two. Mr. Allen says “Contrary to your claims, local air quality would not be nearly as good as it is today without the efforts of our agency and our many partnerships with local business to help achieve and preserve clean air.” Leaving aside how many businesses in the county truly regard the APCD as their “partners,” I categorically dispute Mr. Allen’s triumphalism about the role of his agency in the air trends in the country. A close consideration of the data will show an insignificant difference in air quality trends between San Luis Obispo and counties that do not have special purpose air districts like the APCD. I suspect that Mr. Allen and his staff are unaware of these data.

“Second, Mr. Allen contests my criticism of the APCD deriving its revenue from self-determined fees and fines: “Contrary to your statements, only 50 percent of our budget comes from permit and inspection fees, which are set by our Board in a public hearing, not by staff.” I wonder, then, why the budget page of the APCD website reads as follows: “Most of our funding comes from fees paid by businesses and industries that cause air pollution,” and goes on to say that other funding sources are “minor.” So Mr. Allen disagrees with his own website? Perhaps he will see to changing this soon. But again this misses the point: whether the amount of revenue from permit fees is 25 percent or 75 percent, the correct amount should be: zero. Or at the very least the revenue should flow to the county’s general fund, where its use would be balanced alongside the full range of public interests.

“This gets precisely the heart of the problem. Mr. Allen repairs behind a convenient fiction that the board, not directly accountable to the people, is something more than a rubber stamp for these semi-autonomous, staff-run single purpose agencies, which have, please note, greater autonomy than the federal EPA. (Incidentally, proposals over the years in the state legislature to have local air boards directly elected have been stoutly opposed by air districts. Curious, that.) There is extensive academic literature, again likely unknown to Mr. Allen and his staff, about how single-purpose agencies like the APCD become increasingly zealous over time, and indifferent to wider balancing of public interests. This is why I conclude that the APCD as a standalone agency should be abolished, and its legitimate enforcement functions (enforcing conformity for equipment like diesel generators, for example) transferred to the county’s general planning department, where both decisions and oversight are by their nature required to balance competing interests in a way that the APCD does not. This is just a sound principle of public administration, which has been endlessly trampled by modern trends in administrative governance.

“At the back of all of this is the fact that our air quality statutes, both state and federal, are antiquated and badly in need of reform. We’re not living in the 1970s anymore. To be sure, it isn’t Mr. Allen’s fault that his single-purpose agency is an obsolete model, prone to the usual mission-creep incentives of bureaucracies everywhere to metastasize. But neither does he have any incentive to be a reformer. Quite the opposite. (It’s a separate issue for another time, but the infamous AB32 should be called the “Keep CARB and Local Air Districts in Business Forever Act.”)

“All of the forgoing propositions require considerable evidence and debate to substantiate, which is why I’m working on a book about the subject. But perhaps Mr. Allen will agree to a formal public debate with me about all of these issues after I return to the county later this summer? A public servant ought to be willing to offer a vigorous defense for matters of protracted controversy like this. I’m sure Cal Poly or some other civic organization would be willing to host such a public forum. Let me know.



I would be happy to host that debate in my livingroom if no public forum steps up. It would likely be a first round knockout.


I’d like to clarify that I’m not saying anything against the CDF people with my comment. I did not mind paying the fee since they would be the entity to put out a potential fire and not APCD.

Kevin Rice

The fee does not go to CAL FIRE (CDF). It goes to APCD. That’s why CAL FIRE doesn’t want to sell permits at its fire stations. CAL FIRE doesn’t want you to think they are getting the money.


Well now, cdf is extorting 135 $ a year from those that live in a rural area.

Kevin Rice


In 2011, APCD doubled the price of backyard burn permits from $25 to $50. This increase was necessitated by skyrocketing labor costs (salaries) at APCD.

CAL FIRE strongly opposed the fee increase. Here are the correspondences:

Cal-Fire letters opposing burn permit fee increase

CAL FIRE stopped selling burn permits at their fire stations as they didn’t want the public to perceive CAL FIRE as responsible for the increase. Larry Allen rejected the pleas of CAL FIRE Chief Rob Lewin. The public now has to drive to SLO to get a permit.


If your burn permit is denied, you must FILL OUT AN IRS FORM GIVING APCD YOUR SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER to get a refund!

APCD requires IRS W-9 form to get permit refund


We need CalFire in Oceano-Grover Beach-Arroyo Grande.

Let the Voters decide; CalFire vs 5cities Fire Tax.

Why are the Unions and Fire Agency opposed to letting the Voters decide this important issue?

Kevin Rice

Gotta love the inclusion of Mozart’s “Dies iræ! Dies illa!” (Requiem KV626). LOL!

Dies iræ! Dies illa! (Day of wrath, day of anger)

Solvet sæclum in favilla: (will dissolve the world in ashes)

Teste David cum Sibylla! (as foretold by David and the Sibyl.)

And Adam Hill thinks we “fear world music“.

Kevin Rice


Rice v San Luis Obispo County APCD (2013).

Count 1: The “serial communications” prohibition of the Brown Act was

violated on July 16, 2013 when district board member Adam Hill transmitted

electronic mail to the entire district board pertaining to an item of business within

the subject matter jurisdiction of the board, thereby constituting improper

discussion, deliberation, and/or taking action.

Count 2: The “serial communications” prohibition of the Brown Act was

violated on May 28, 2013 when District Air Pollution Control Officer Larry R.

Allen acted as an intermediary in transmitting electronic mail to the entire board

that included the comments, concerns, positions and questions of district board

member Debbie Peterson.

Count 3: The Brown Act’s prohibition of “serial communications” via

employees or officials of a local agency was violated on May 28, 2013 when

District Air Pollution Control Officer Larry R. Allen transmitted an electronic mail

message to the entire board communicating the comments and positions of district

board member Debbie Peterson.

Count 4: The defendants violated the California Public Records Act and the

Brown Act by impermissibly delaying disclosure of the Air Pollution Control

Officer performance evaluation form to Plaintiff Rice, pursuant to his CPRA request, upon distribution of the same document Rice requested to all of the members of the district board.

Count 5: The defendants violated the California Public Records Act with respect to Rice’s July i5, 2013 CPRA request by: (i) Failing to supply Rice with a determination as to the whether it possessed disclosable records responsive to his request within the 24 days allotted by the CPRA, and; (ii) Denying disclosure of the locations of sites where air pollution monitors were located for the South County Community Monitoring Project study, and; (iii) Impermissibly delaying and obstructing access to public records.

Kevin Rice


The APCD Board illegally hired and gave nearly $80,000 of pay raises to it’s top executive over the span of more than a decade in violation of California law.

California’s open meetings law, the Ralph M. Brown Act, guarantees the right of the public to attend and participate in government meetings. Significant portions of the Brown Act specify what meetings a legislative body like the APCD Board may conduct behind closed doors. Specifically prohibited, are approvals of employee compensation.

The hiring of Air Pollution Control Officer (APCO) Larry Allen in January 2002 began a pattern of illegal closed meetings of the APCD Board which have seen Larry Allen’s salary skyrocket from $85,320 a year to over $160,614—a 90 percent increase in only ten years!


Add these two individuals to the list of SLO County big pay list and not overseeing their contracted vendors and illegal immigrants

Janette D. Pell – general services agency director

Helen McCann – department administrator


Here’s a story for Cal Coast New to publish

I will add extra information about Mr. Larry Adams but also Barbara Adams (the Buyer – Central Services Division for SLO county) who suspiciously contracted in 2008 a real low priced janitorial company contract that employees illegal immigrants. Barbara took upon herself to employee anybody so low that they did no immigrations check at all on any of the janitorial vendors, none. They checked nothing! The cleaning they hired does just that, low waged workers, unlicensed drivers and non legal status in the United States contracted by SLO County.

Cleaning location: Air Pollution Control office on 3433 South Roberto Court, San Luis Obispo

Here’s the bid:$!26+Proposals/2008/993+Complete+Janitorial+Services.pdf

Considering Larry Adams is pulling $240,000.00 a year and his office is being cleaned by illegal immigrants, looks like Barbara Adams was trying to do just that, think of their big salaries and go super cheap on contracting low low vendors.

This part of the county schemes they do

Kevin Rice

Larry Allen EXTORTS penalties from Circle K:

$88,000 penalty letter

Letter increasing “erroneous” $88,000 penalty to $232,000!

Note in the first letter above, that Larry Allen asks for 10% of the $88,000 penalty amount as a settlement. In other words, plead guilty and we’ll let you off for only $8,800 dollars. The second letter “ups” the ante to $232,000. Don’t even think about fighting it. Just pay up.

Can you think of any instance where you received a traffic ticket which said the penalty is $5,000 unless you plead guilty, in which case you may pay $500? This is administrative extortion.

Inexplicably and capriciously, the second letter lowers the settlement amount to $7,800. There is no explanation or justification for the seemingly random settlement amounts!

$12,000 Fine Imposed on Mid-State Fair operator for failure to have a registration sticker:

Mid-State Fair Operator Fined $12,000

Note, that in both cases above, there was no actual pollution release. In both cases these were paperwork issues.

Kevin Rice
Kevin Rice


2011 Record of Violations

2012 Record of Violations

2013 Record of Violations

NOTE: APCD HIDES the “extortion” amount (the original proposed penalty) in these lists. Look at the 2011 Circle K violation and you will see the “proposed penalty” is listed as only $8,800 despite that Circle K was threatened with a $232,000 penalty.

APCD is non-transparent. The Board has no idea what Larry Allen is doing to the public here (and neither does the public)!

(admin edit:broken links fixed)

Kevin Rice

Thx, admin!


If Mr. Allen signed his name, or allowed the issuance, of a quarter MILLION fine demand for a paperwork violation of a convenience store, which incident involved no huge pollution release, the residents of SLO County should give him the BOOT, forthwith, and GUT OUT his agency until it proves that it deserves existence outside Russia. Nothing less than gutting his agency would be a proper, measured American public response.

WHERE do we start?

Kevin Rice

What do you mean, “If”? I gave you a copy bearing Allen’s signature!

You start by writing the twelve APCD Board members (if you want the complete list of e-mail addresses contact me) and showing up to APCD meetings.


absolutely amazing that we have allowed this type of brutal activity to go unchecked. We must get rid of Adam, Bruce and Caryn to bring sanity back to government!