John Hamon accused of conflict of interest
January 28, 2016
By JOSH FRIEDMAN
Paso Robles Councilman John Hamon, who sits on the San Luis Obispo County Air Pollution Control District (APCD) board, appears to be financially benefiting from votes he has made in favor of the Oceano Dunes dust rule. At an APCD board meeting on Wednesday, activist Kevin Rice accused Hamon of having a financial conflict of interest.
Hamon owns the Hamon Overhead Door Company, a business State Parks has approved to install doors at a planned storage facility for equipment needed to comply with the APCD’s dust rule demands. Hamon’s company will receive at least $18,699.99 for its part in construction of the maintenance facility.
In 2011, when the APCD board adopted the dust rule, Hamon voted against the regulation. However, around 2013, Hamon changed direction and started voting in favor of requiring the state to implement dust reduction measures. Hamon has also been voting in favor of defending the controversial regulation in court.
The APCD dust rule requires State Parks to reduce the amount of particulate matter blowing from the Oceano Dunes to the Nipomo Mesa or face fines of up to $1,000 a day. Opponents of the rule claim it was based on flawed science in an effort to raise money to pay bloated APCD staff salaries.
To comply with the APCD’s demands, State Parks purchased heavy equipment and needed to build a maintenance facility to house the equipment.
In 2014, State Parks placed the construction of the maintenance facility project out to bid. Hamon’s business was included as a subcontractor in a bid that won the contract.
According to California law, a financial conflict of interest arises when a member of a government body makes a decision that creates a significant or material conflict of interest. Nevertheless, Hamon has continued voting on and discussing matters relating to the dust rule since his company was selected as a subcontractor on the State Parks project.
Rice raised the issue during public comment at the APCD board meeting on Wednesday. Rice requested that Hamon refrain from voting or discussing matters pertaining to the dust rule, as well as the employment of APCD chief Larry Allen.
“You cannot vote for regulations and then make money on the back end for what you’re voting on,” Rice said.
Hamon responded by saying his door company is doing work for a contractor constructing a building for State Parks. Hamon then said he would take advice from APCD legal counsel Ray Biering on whether he needs to recuse himself.
Biering said Hamon could participate in votes on the dust rule and that it is a stretch to even claim there is a conflict of interest. Biering noted that there would be a conflict of interest if Hamon was involved with State Parks and voting to approve the project.
However, Biering prefaced his conclusion by stating APCD board members are bound by California Government Code 1090, which prohibits officials from involving themselves in a contract that benefits them directly.
In 2015, a state appellate court invalidated part of the Oceano Dunes dust rule. Nevertheless, the APCD staff has been battling to keep the regulation in place.
Hamon did not respond to an email request for comment.
Hamon is currently campaigning to replace San Luis Obispo County District 1 Supervisor Frank Mecham, who announced plans to retire earlier this year. He faces two challengers — small business owner John Peschong and Paso Robles Mayor Steve Martin.
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