FPPC clears Erik Howell of alleged violation

December 30, 2016

erik-howellThe California Fair Political Practices Commission has cleared Pismo Beach Councilman Erik Howell of an alleged violation of state law pertaining to a vote he cast as a member of the California Coastal Commission.

A group of Pismo Beach residents accused Howell of breaking a section of the California Government Code that forbids officials from voting on a project within one year of receiving a contribution of more than $250 from the applicant or an agent of the developer. The FPPC complaint also accused Howell of violating another part of the code which requires officials to disclose a donation of more than $250 from a project applicant or agent.

On Sept. 10, 2015, Howell received a $1,000 campaign contribution from Antoinette De Vargas, the operations manager for the firm McCabe & Company. De Vargas is the domestic and business partner of McCabe & Company owner Susan McCabe, an influential lobbyist who represents developers with projects before the Coastal Commission.

At the time, McCabe and her firm were representing the developer of the Silver Shoals project in Pismo Beach.  A couple months after receiving the campaign contribution, Howell cast a vote in favor of the Pismo Beach development when it came before the Coastal Commission.

Earlier this month, the FPPC cleared Howell of wrongdoing.

In a Dec. 19 letter, Dave Bainbridge, the assistant chief of the Coastal Commission’s enforcement division, stated De Vargas made the donation to Howell using her personal credit card. There was insufficient evidence the contribution came from funds belonging to McCabe or her firm, Bainbridge stated.

The letter also states Coastal Commission investigators did not find any evidence De Vargas was reimbursed for the donation.

Despite being cleared of wrongdoing by the FPPC, Howell is still named in multiple lawsuits, one of which accuses him of 96 violations of disclosure laws. The allegations pertain to Howell meeting in private with representatives of developers and allegedly failing to properly disclose the ex parte meetings.

Howell has faced frequent criticism from environmentalists since, in February, he voted to fire the Coastal Commission’s executive director Charles Lester. Howell is widely viewed as being pro-development, while Lester was seen as an environmentalist.

However, members of the Coastal Commission have said Lester was terminated because of his failure to follow directions and not his views.



  1. TrumpChannelonDisqus says:

    It’s important to note the misinformation by Surfrider, which lost their weekly ex-parte calls with Charles Lester after last year’s January vote in Morro Bay, that Charles Lester has continued employment as Climate Change advisor. This he was NEVER FIRED. He was re-assigned, and months later we learned CCC required a taxpayer bailout to cover the bills. He was inept, and he should have been FIRED instead of being re-assigned to finish up CCC Rising Tide Climate Change policy. My information is direct from a conversation I had with Martha McClure last May. Commissioner McClure confirmed to me Lester was still under CCC employment.

    (2) 2 Total Votes - 2 up - 0 down
  2. TrumpChannelonDisqus says:

    Cory Briggs won’t let him off the California Coastal Commission ex-parte hook. Rest In Peace Ian Trowbridge! This one from Cory’s a game changer.

    * Ian http://www.salk.edu/news-release/remembering-ian-trowbridge/
    * Beginnings of what Erik Howell faces today http://inewsource.org/2016/04/25/north-embarcadero-visionary-plan-san-diego/

    We’re all just One Big FedUP family and this is another win for the gathering Project Momentum storm.

    (3) 3 Total Votes - 3 up - 0 down
  3. rukidding says:

    Just follow the money. Usually an E ticket to the guilty.

    (-1) 3 Total Votes - 1 up - 2 down
  4. Pelican1 says:

    Central Coast politics as usual…..

    (1) 7 Total Votes - 4 up - 3 down
    • TrumpChannelonDisqus says:

      Mr Howell is in Cory Brigg’s Coastal Commission crosshairs, so this one might not last full term… time for change

      (0) 2 Total Votes - 1 up - 1 down
  5. diamond says:

    Simply & well explained Templetukian. The underlying question is, of all the people who can understand these facts, why is it accepted?

    (3) 21 Total Votes - 12 up - 9 down
  6. Templetukian says:

    So, in a Community Property state a “domestic and business partner” of a lawyer representing a developer paid $1,000 to the Coastal Commission’s Erik Howell’s campaign?
    And, the payor is the Operations Manager of the law firm?
    And, a couple of months later Howell voted in favor of the Developer’s project?
    And, Howell failed to disclose, as is required by State law, a contribution that he received in excess of $250?
    And, Dave Bainbridge, the assistant chief of the Coastal Commission’s enforcement division was unable to find nexuses in this and violations of state law?

    Unbelievable. Something’s horribly fishy in all of this.

    (23) 41 Total Votes - 32 up - 9 down
    • r0y says:

      Did you not learn anything from the Clintons? If one is at least once-removed from the crime, there is no crime. Duh! This dude went that extra ½-step and made the bribe twice-removed, so he’s doubly-legit in his bribe.

      (1) 31 Total Votes - 16 up - 15 down
  7. diamond says:

    Government is systematically blurring laws and codes that are supposed to protect citizens from corruption. Money buys politicians, period. We have corrupt politicians and officials protecting each other with complete abuse of power that allows them to cover each other’s illegal activities, escaping prosecution and in fact promoting unethical practices. Until citizens realize they have the power to make change, it will continue to get worse. Money purchases some souls. Others no moral compass to begin with.

    (25) 45 Total Votes - 35 up - 10 down
    • TrumpChannelonDisqus says:

      We have some politicians who aren’t corrupt. They’ve sat in the sidelines long enough, and a series of wins is bringing them together up/down the state. Howell is in Cory Briggs’ crosshairs. Things are improving…

      (-1) 1 Total Votes - 0 up - 1 down
  8. jana says:

    Howell’s domestic “partner” steals campaign signs, McCabe’s domestic “partner” donates a $1000.00 to Howell’s re-election fund and Asst. Chief Bainbridge says no evidence of impropriety exists regarding any of this. I wonder who Bainbridge’s domestic “partner” is…

    (1) 13 Total Votes - 7 up - 6 down

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