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.



Maybe Steve Hayward when he’s doing his research can look into all the Service Districts,& Advisory Councils set up within the SLO County and the Cities too.The Salaries and power

these groups have and they do or used to do the same thing we elect county supervisors to oversee, and what planning departments are supposed to do. I have never seen so many

agencies overlapping each other, and the misappropriation of taxpayers funds. We are so

over-regulated and we keep adding districts to tell us what to do on our own property, and

how to spend our money. Taxpayers don’t realize when they elect someone some get a nice salary, especially since most are retired from a previous job, and get stipends for meeting

with county supervisors to discuss issues pertaining to a personal opinion rather than what is on a general plan. Mr Hayward needs to look into every single special district, and listen to

the Board meetings and see the control the districts have and then ask yourself why is SLO and the various city councils overhead so high, when we have so many service districts, to

supposedly review building and growth, within the same area supervisors, and various

agencies oversee already that we pay for?Hummmmmmmm

Kevin Rice

An unlikely project. It would take months. It’s our job as citizens to retain oversight. We cannot rely on the press to discover all corruption. Especially not the Tribune.


Mr. Hayward will stay focused on the 500 lb. gorilla in the room, which are these independant regulatory agencies that are not accountable directly to the tax payers and whose livlihood depends on more regulation and bureaucracy.

Community Service Districts are elected bodies that are answerable to the voters in their communities. They are a very effective way for unincorporated communities to exercise local control over important issues, such as water, waste treatment and other enhanced services that the residents want. They complement county government and frankly are much more cost effective than creating an incorporated city government.

The advisory councils are bodies whose mission is to receive comment, conduct limited fact finding and offer advice to the county supervisor for their district. Some of these councils work quite well and a few have been intoxicated by an illusion of power. And their power is quite illusory. They have no regulatory authority, no taxing authority, no sources of income other than a small pittance doled out by the supervisors from their discretionary fund.

The focus of taxpayers must remain on agencies like the APCD and other county departments to ensure they operate efficiently if they serve a vital interest or are dismantled to save money, if they are not vital.


I asked this question possibly in another thread and didn’t see an answer to it, by what authority can the apcd levy fines and just how can they collect,if they are not a govt agency what muscle do they have to extort money from someone.

Kevin Rice

Answer was posted. Drill down.


I found my question in this thread,there have been several threads on this lately I didn’t know wher eit was posted.

But I looked at the section you quoted and didn’t find the title of what I’m looking for or anything close,I’m sure I over looked something.


Kevin Rice

What are you exactly looking for?


I’m looking to find out how a 2 bit agency that stands alone with out anything to do with the county can levi and collect fines and permit fees,do they have any authority to do so and how can they force collection,are they tied into the State Board of Equilazition.

Kevin Rice

They are created by the Legislature via the statutes I cited previously. It’s a state empowered local agency.



Mr. Holly

Kevin Rice has really done his homework on this one. I looked up who the APCD Board members are and for the most part it’s the same game players who are bleeding this county and incorporated cities dry, not by the lack of rain, but by the draining of tax payers money for their self indulgence. Everyone should start questioning these people regarding their actions to allow things like this to keep occurring. And least not forget them when election time comes around. If things like this keep going on we will not only be suffering from a water drought but on top of that we will also be in a financial drought. Tax payers need to start questioning the actions of their elected officials as it appears that Christmas come everyday to them and the rest of us get to celebrate only once a year and that is after Dec. 10th, April 10th and April 15th, (tax days)

Kevin Rice

Thanks. The seven Board members who ALWAYS vote in lock-step against the public are:

*Bruce Gibson

Adam Hill

*Caren Ray

*Jan Marx, SLO Mayor

*Joe Costello, A.G. Council

Noah Smukler, Morro Bay Council

Karen Bright, Grover Beach Council


Also, you should be opposing the re-election of Mayor Jamie Irons in Morro Bay and Mayor Tony Ferrara in A.G. who appointed Smukler/Costello to the APCD Board.

Side Note: I highly recommend Dan Dow for District Attorney! He is energetic “new” blood, and is endorsed by almost the entire D.A.’s office and law enforcement. The “old” blood candidate Tim Covello is endorsed by current D.A. Gerry Shea and supported by the Adam Hill crowd. Shea hasn’t been a horrible D.A., but he has NEVER actively looked into local government corruption. Shea has simply kept his profile low and collected a paycheck. Covello is the continuation of that. Please donate/endorse Dan Dow. (


To Kevin Rice,

Thanks for posting all this information and I’m so pleased to see the lawsuit for the BA etc violations. I hope you’re sending all these items that your currently posting to Steven Hayward. No doubt he’ll use some of it for his project.

Kevin Rice


On May 18, 2011, APCD executive Larry Allen went in front of the Board with a staff report advising, “Staff has begun the process to update the District’s logo to enhance our public identity.”

Allen’s staff report continues, “The current logo was designed over twenty-five years ago and has limited application when reproduced and applied to different publication formats (e.g., brochures, media advertisements, web sites, etc).”

The $5,950 paid to iii Design to create a new logo was just the tip of the iceberg. Business cards, letterhead, envelopes, burn permits, and three building signs all were replaced.

Do you see $20,000 in well spent improvements between the two photographs below?


Old logo:

New logo:

I don’t believe a government agency needs to spend thousands on marketing as if unveiling the newest flavor of Coca-Cola.

Kevin Rice


$253,769 pay package, 51 paid days off; luxury Lake Tahoe suite

June 2012

by Kevin P. Rice

By now, you’ve probably heard about the quarter-million dollar employment contract with the head of the Air Pollution Control District (APCD) negotiated by Supervisors Adam Hill, Bruce Gibson and two city council members (Karen Bright, Grover Beach and John Hamon, Paso Robles).

What has been less in the news is the 51 paid days off contained in the contract. That’s just over 2½ months per year, costing about $50,000, for not even showing up to work.

Almost completely unknown, however, is some of the conference travel accommodations enjoyed by the air district head, Larry Allen. On a regular basis, Allen travels to conferences to meet with his peers: the other thirty four California air pollution officers.

These conferences are sponsored by the California Air Pollution Control Officers Association (CAPCOA), a private non-profit which requires $4,000 in dues annually. The dues are paid by the public out of the APCD budget. The $4,000 amount is up from $2,600

charged just three years ago.

Apparently CAPCOA conferences are never held in Modesto or Victorville. The May 2009 and 2010 meetings were held at the Crystal/Emerald room at the Granlibakken Lodge in South Lake Tahoe. The September 2010 “retreat” was at the Half Moon Bay Lodge. An

August 2010 CAPCOA Climate Change Forum was hosted at the Marriott Marquis in San Francisco.

Along with luxury destinations comes luxury room accommodations.

Via public records request, a receipt for the 2010 South Lake Tahoe at the Granlibakken Lodge stay was obtained. The receipt indicates a three night stay in a “Townhouse Bedroom”.

Photos of luxury Granlibakken Townhouse Bedroom:

The room regularly lets for nearly $500 on weekdays—more on weekends—and features a full kitchen, loft, fireplace, and beautiful bedroom.

One might presume our air pollution control offi cer didn’t utilize the fireplace as that might produce particulate matter emissions… well, no matter, it’s probably a gas fireplace.

In any event, the trip also required air travel and a shuttle to the airport which surely costs more to Lake Tahoe than a more modest urban destination.

It seems that Mojave Desert Air Quality Management District is a bit more taxpayer conscious: budget records indicate their executive stayed down the street at the Forest Suites Resort for only $112.06 per night.

Sharp eyes may have already picked up that the $658.80 Granlibakken bill

covered three nights. The resort was asked about that. The answer: “it’s a conference rate.”

So our air pollution officer got a great rate. Why the fuss, then?

Because the conference rate is awarded when there is money being spent on a conference… the conference hosted by CAPCOA and paid for by taxpayers through the aforementioned skyrocketing CAPCOA dues.

Thus, the public paid, regardless of how the APCD hid the actual cash flow.

Bottom line: CAPCOA should still be charging $2,600 for dues (or less) and holding conferences at destinations that don’t offend taxpayers.


I think a nice election issue would be to discuss what to do with this department.

It seems reasonable to not contribute to the funding of this organization… until such a time … if ever… a need arises for their particular skill sets. ;)

Kevin Rice


Think Larry Allen is paid too much? He is about to receive a raise. Yes. Really.

His 2014 Employment Contract (just approved Wednesday) states in paragraph 5:

“[Larry Allen] shall receive any cost of living or other benefit increases granted to SLOAPCD exempt-status management employees during the term of this contract.”

Guess what’s presently on the table? A COLA increase for APCD employees. Wednesday’s closed session agenda included:

“a. Conference with APCO and District Counsel (the designated labor representatives) pursuant to Government Code section 54957.6 concerning APCD staff, compensation, and benefits.”


The closed session agenda description (above) says that Larry Allen is the designated labor representative for APCD staff!


When was the last time you represented your employer’s side of the table during your own contract negotiations?

Is the public getting screwed here, or what??!!? (Yes.)