Whistleblower accuses SLO County management of unethical behavior

December 15, 2020


An anonymous San Luis Obispo County Planning Department employee filed a whistleblower complaint alleging that a department supervisor was assigned to a project that her husband’s employer was developing. The whistleblower also charged that upper management waived thousands of dollars in fees for that same development.

“I believe there are two serious issues of unethical behavior by upper management in the department of planning and building,” the whistleblower writes. “An unauthorized fee waiver in the amount of $14,000 and a conflict of interest by a planner working on a case involving her husband’s design firm.”

In 2019, CJ Rudolph — working with RRM Design Group — filed a site plan application to construct a 6.6 acre recreational vehicle and boat storage facility on Heritage Road near Nacimiento Lake dubbed Snug Harbor. SLO County assigned Lacey Minnick as the project manager. Minnick’s husband Jake Minnick works for RRM.

In September, one of Lacey Minnick’s staffers reported that Minnick had admitted to having a conflict of interest based on her husband’s employment.

“He also said that his current supervisor, Lacey Minnick, had told him that she was up to 2 in the morning working on a project getting ready for the commission, but that she was not supposed to work on the project because the agent for the project was from her husband’s firm,” according to the whistleblower complaint.

The whistleblower then pulled the Snug Harbor case file and discovered that conditional use permit fees had been waived by SLO Planning Department Assistant Director Rob Fitzroy and Environmental Coordinator Xzandrea Fowler.

Along with the complaint, the whistleblower provided an email Fowler sent telling the developer that she had decided not to charge him the approximately $21,000 cost for a Conditional Use Permit, because he had already paid $6,295 for a site plan application.

Site plan reviews are required for projects that involve consideration of more than Zoning Clearance, the SLO County department for building and development web page explains. “Site plan review considers the greater effects these uses may have upon their surroundings, and characteristics of adjacent uses that could have detrimental effects upon a proposed use.”

Conditional Use Permits allow “a city or county to consider special uses which may be essential or desirable to a particular community, but which are not allowed as a matter of right within a zoning district,” the governor’s office of Planning and Research states. Permit applications are approved under a set of conditions after consideration of a number of factors including the zoning of the property and the impact of the proposed project on surrounding areas.

In order to waive fees, the project must have a public benefit. In addition, a fee waiver over $5,000 requires the SLO County Board of Supervisors’ approval.

In the complaint, the whistleblower notes changes in case type, such as from a site plan application to a conditional use permit, are based on county time and include increased fees.

A little more than a month after the project was changed from a site plan application to a conditional use permit, the project was approved by the planning commission on Sept. 24. And even though the appeal period was supposed to run for 14 days following the approval, the appeal period concluded in five days on Sept. 29, according to the county website.

Eight requests for comment to staffers at the SLO County Planning Department and representatives of RRM Design Group were unanswered. A county official did confirm, however, the whistleblower’s complaint is under review.


SLO County fee screen for Snug Harbor


Whistleblower complaint details

“I believe there are two serious issues of unethical behavior by upper management in the department of planning and building,” the whistleblower writes. “An unauthorized fee waiver in the amount of $14,000 and a conflict of interest by a planner working on a case involving her husband’s design firm.

“I am currently physically working in the office while most of our staff are telecommuting. On September 24, 2020, one of our new employees who started in March, shared that he had successfully presented at the Planning Commission.

“He also shared that his current supervisor, Lacey Minnick, had told him that she was up to 2:00 in the morning working on a project getting ready for the commission, but that she was not supposed to work on the project because the agent for the project was from her husband’s firm. I found this extremely odd that this supervisor would share this type of information.

“I looked in the case file in Energov (DRC2020-00142) and found that the fees were not correct. There is a note in the fee screen that states, ‘Adj. to fee amt charged on DRC2019-00099. Do not charge CUP per Rob F.’

“I then looked through the virtual file folder and found the file for DRC2020-00142 imbedded in the case file DRC2019-00099 which is not the correct procedure. In this file I found an email from Xzandrea Fowler, see attached, which gave the applicant a reduced fee.

“Land use permit fees are based on the amount of time the case takes to process. This particular case is called a Conditional Use Permit which is the most complex and is reviewed by the County Planning Commission. It is not uncommon to need to make changes to case types after an initial intake or to add additional fees.

“The county fee schedule does allow fee waivers. There is a precise process that an applicant must go through. See attached fee waiver request form. Xzandrea Fowler is currently the staff member who reviews and approves fee waivers so she absolutely knows she does not have the authority to reduce an applicant’s fees.”


Xzandrea Fowler email to CJ Rudolph

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Management’s unethical behavior is how things get done. An example is how the county engaged in an adverse possession litigation against private property owners in the north county and continue to use your tax dollars to undermine their private property rights. Yes, it is just that simple, you buy land with State Constitution Water Rights and the County will spend your tax dollars to prove that they have been stealing your water long enough to make a legal claim to take it from you. Ever wonder why roads don’t get maintained, wooden bridges remain as the escape route from high fire danger properties and a list of unmet needs are put on the back burner (incinerator)???? Yes, very simple they are blowing your taxes on their lawyers. Most people don’t give a crap when it’s not their property but just wait, unethical is contagious and can ripen into legal through the spending your money. Yes, Joe property owner can hire a lawyer to fight government who will spend your money to fight back, raise your taxes and spend even more. The Truth….

Anyone else not surprised the Company involved is RRM? They pay good money for “special treatment” and this one we found out about. This happens in other cities, especially AG, thanks to the mayor.

LOL “Snug Harbor” … classic. The developer sure had a “snug” relationship with the county!

SLO P&B is a disaster, followed closely by PW. Both heads are handpicked by CAO Wade Horton a former administrator at the City of SLO, heading the mismanagement and personnel morass in its Public Works before coming to the county. He handpicked his successor when he moved from county PW to CAO, a man who was only qualified to harass staff and who left in disgrace.

As the mafia says, “a fish rots from the head”. Look no further than the CAO and then trickle it to his enabler in County Counsel, Rita Neal and HR director Tami Douglas-Shatz. Sadly a see-no-evil board of supervisors won’t do anything and it will take brave whistleblowers like this person to let the light in.

Still waiting on the FBI investigation…

And how much are these people making? $150K?, $250K?

Lacey Minnick

Rob Fitzroy

Xzandrea Fowler.

With the kind of salaries and benes we are paying, money becomes the motivation not public service.

Lacey Minnick $64,977.37

Robert Fitzroy $182,897.28

Xzandrea Fowler $97,703.00

As per Transparent California!


$64,977.37 is with benefits included:

Lacey Minnick Supv Planner

San Luis Obispo County, 2019 Pre Tax take home pay: $48,321.68 Overtime: $712.69 Other Pay: $1,188.32 Gross take home Pay: $50,222.69 Benefits: $14,754.68 Gross Pay: $64,977.37

Recover the $14,000 in waved fees and any other cost from the salaries of Lacey Minnick and all other’s involved after the investigation. Lets see how the BOS and the County Department of Human Resources handles this. Suspension without pay, termination, or demotion of position’s seems very appropriate.

To evolve further and I probably shouldn’t but I will anyways

It’s like rules guidelines or laws or regulations shouldn’t in my opinion choke or constrict a business person business or their business mind.

They shouldn’t also in my opinion take away their freedom to the pursuit of happiness.

Anyways just shooting the breeze

It’s just like also what comes to mind

is that is that like all money comes from the Treasury Department. So every has that in common we all get u.s. currency that originated from the treasury department.

Is the government processes at any level constantly expected to explain motives? Intentions? Reasoning?

Is it the complex of is the government doing good? Bad?

How so?

Anyways this was just writing provoking for me.

These kinda of things are really really complex to me.

It’s like people develop business relationships and feel comfortable doing business with certain people.

I’m sure this can be daunting to new comers or the less established but it also makes me think like should all business or construction or development be done in an auction like manner?

Where everyone who cares to try is invited to the “auction house” and then the lowest bidder wins the job and the highest bidder is scoffed at?

How would that work? The community is then expected to rally around the lowest bidder and make the job feasible?

People get so strange around money and business like is it the question of can I do that?

Is it the question of would that work if I did that?

Is it the question of does that person get treated differently than I would?

Can anyone just exist and not get pestered in 2020?

Is this person now expected to hire an attorney?

Does anyone care that his business will take a loss win lose or draw?

Does he support a family? Does anyone care?

I’m sure he supports at the very least his life and lifestyle through his business?

If it is found that it is not a problem ethically does the whistle blower pay for the business persons time energy and effort?

Does anyone care?

I personally support all business big business and small business even corporate business

I like business its American I think and its like monoply I enjoyed playing as a child and still do to this day.

Why are people so what is the word “puzzled” “against” “critical” “scornful” “not appreciative” of business and business people in 2020?

Is it the complex of why can’t I do that?

It is so puzzling to me

Is every business person or company expected to justify their business practices? How often?

Every time someone calls them into question?

How so?

Are the business people expected to explain their motives and reasoning?

How so? Why?

Is their an extremely erroneous way of doing business?

Like is it okay to have a higher business ceiling than others?

To have a stronger business acumen?

Is it okay to make friends and do business with friends in 2020?

Would people prefer communism and every person get 1200 a year and all prices are accordingly lower like a soda cost 5 cents ?

What is wrong with capitalism?

Is it 2020 capitalism that is the problem?

I really really don’t like when businesses are called into question? It just bothers me in a way I can’t describe.

It’s like no slavery pay atleast the minimum wage and it seems like most business do that if not all.

Anyways just blowing some steam and shooting the breeze.

What the ……..? Nothing complex about favoritism and corruption in this story. Seems very straight forward and obvious from all the provided information including her own words. Complex? Not really.

I think you need to get some sleep