SLO County agency awards Justin winery grant, conflict of interest alleged

October 5, 2022


San Luis Obispo County Air Pollution Control District is paying to put five electric vehicle charging stations at Justin Vineyards & Winery where Carla Willey, wife of agency head Gary Willey, has worked as chief financial officer or its acting controller since 2018.

APCD staff worked with employees of Justin Vineyards & Winery to fill out the grant application before recommending that the board approve the grant. But, Gary Willey said that the staff was not aware that his wife Carla worked for the winery and vineyards.

The grant will provide $28,222 for five charging stations to be used by visitors and staff at the tasting room and production facility on Chimney Rock Road.

SLO County was allocated enough money to put in 235 electric vehicle chargers as part of the California Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Project, CALeVIP. The funding is intended to support the rising number of electric vehicles in the state.

SLO County APCD Public Information Officer Meghan Field told local media, including KSBY, that the district was preparing for the arrival of electric vehicles.

“We have been promoting electric vehicle use and infrastructure for decades, trying to just gear up and get ready for the influx of vehicles that will be coming to California,” Field told KSBY in July. “People are worried they can’t get to LA from San Francisco, so we want to be able to provide charging stations across all those major corridors in California, to make sure people aren’t scared to get out and about.

APCD Officer Gary Willey

The APCD staff recommended that Justin Vineyards & Winery be approved on Sept. 23, a little more than two months after Field spoke of the need for charging stations on major transportation corridors in the state. The board approved the request.

It is not clear how much interstate traffic passes by Justin Vineyards & Winery, which is located in a rural area on a dead end road.

Gary Willey was given the authority in 2020, “to execute grant agreements” for electric vehicle infrastructure. In his request for funding, Gary Willey explained that his staff was unaware when approving the grant application that it involved his wife, according to the APCD.

“No officer, employee, or agent of APCD who exercises any function or responsibility for planning and carrying out the services provided under this agreement may have any direct or indirect personal financial interest in the agreement,” according to the APCD’s grant agreement with Justin Vineyards & Winery. The APCD “will comply with all federal and state conflict of interest laws, statutes, and regulations, which are applicable to all parties and beneficiaries under this agreement and any officer, agent, or employee of APCD.”

Also, the agreement does not allow the recipient of the grant to unlawfully discriminate or harass any employee at the winery during the term of the agreement.

In late August, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a lawsuit against Justin Vineyards & Winery and The Wonderful Company in Los Angeles over allegations of sexual harassment, unwanted sexual touching and retaliation, according to the lawsuit filed.

The lawsuit accuses management of “rubbing of genitals on female subordinate employees, unwanted hugging and kissing, forcible kissing on the mouth, grabbing on the hands, snapping of bra straps, nibbling on the ear, biting on the shoulder, exposure of male employees’ private body parts, texting inappropriate photos, and stroking employees’ hair.”

In 2010, Stewart and Lynda Resnick purchased Justin Winery through their wholly-owned The Wonderful Company, then began purchasing multiple acreages in the Paso Robles area. Since then, Resnick company holdings have grown to include thousands of acres in SLO County.

A decade ago, while their neighbors’ wells were going dry, the Resnicks’ employees were lobbying SLO County Supervisors to promote a proposed Paso Robles basin water district with promises of donating to their favorite causes or businesses, three supervisors told CalCoastNews. In the end, supervisors Bruce Gibson and Adam Hill championed the Resnicks’ plans.

However, in 2016, 77 percent of voters rejected the proposed district.

Later in 2016, Justin Vineyards & Winery violated a SLO County grading code when it removed thousands of oak trees from a property at 750 Sleepy Farm Road in rural Paso Robles. Workers removed the trees in preparation for planting a new vineyard that would be added to the mega-corporation’s collection.

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Thank you Karen.

Will this going anywhere? In other words, will this grant be revoked?

This is another example of the corrupt business practices of Justin Winery and the Resnicks.

How can we ever FORGET they raped the land of THOUSANDS of Oak Trees??

Do they make Wonder Bread? I got a grant to put five charging station in my backyard. I’m only 2 miles from the freeway. There is so much corruption in this county that there is no need to report on it. Just assume anyone in politics or remotely connected to someone who is is a crook,

“It is not clear how much interstate traffic passes by Justin Vineyards & Winery, which is located in a rural area on a dead end road.”

Karen I am telling you this is the funniest thing I have read in a long time. Besides being a great person and great reporter you have gift for understated comedy. Nice article.

If EVs are such a great idea, government shouldn’t be involved in this. Let private business absorb the cost and the risk of installing the stations and recoup the costs by charging for use.

The wineries make a ton of money if they want charging stations let them foot the bill. Also as husband and wife do they ever talk to each other as it seems odd he had no idea she worked there What a crock They are putting in vineyards on west side of freeway on ever piece of dirt they can and soon the water will be gone there also but there will plenty of wine to drink instead

Isn’t The Wonderful Company and the Resnick couple extremely wealthy? And Justine Winery is a very lucrative business with valuable land assets? How did they even qualify for grant money? That seems to be the mystery here…