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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Is this the car you can charge and when ready tell it to take you home? Great idea Foster Brooks.

By the way, the County employee’s wife got her job after the winery owner worked a deal with the county to get out of the criminal act of removing groves of california oaks and now a few years later he is gifting public funds to the winery owner. Does his wife even have a degree, is she an accountant, is she even qualified for the job. Sounds a lot like, you wash my back, I will wash your’s and no one will be the wiser. Dirty, dirty corrupt public employees.

No surprise, as one digs into the paperwork more dirt comes out under the leadership of Wade. If I recall right, Wade’s chief field inspector at the City of San Luis Obispo was outed for embezzling City assets (grand theft of a batwing mower). Then at the County, the IWMA lead staff was awarding contracts to his friend’s company where his daughter was the chief financial officer. Add to it the secretary at the IWMA was caught embezzling $500,000 plus during a ten year plan, yet the County had oversight and no one saw this? Then throw in the whole Adam Hill criminal element. All, I can say is that birds of a feather truly flock together. Remember folks do not steal, because government does not like the competition. Either Wade is incompetent or he is in on all these activities. It is time for Wade Horton to go – email your elected representatives to get Wade and his cronies out.

It is also time for the APCD to go.

Stinks of top-to-bottom, money-poltics corruption. I recall how Beverly Hills billionaires Stewart and Lynda Resnick who own Justin Winery and the Wonderful Company paid $1million to prevent the recall of Gov Newsom.

Will the charging stations help grow back all the clear cut trees eliminated against environmental rules and without petmits ? Does Justin receive a property tax break for having the free to them charging stations ? If it smells fishy , it’s probably not a bee

Referring to how the Resnicks bulldozed thousands of beautiful oaks from the site of Justin Vinyards and Winery?

““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.”

I’ve been to Justin, yet I doublechecked the map again. It’s the opposite of on a major corridor. It’s in the middle of nowhere. It’s nowhere near the 101 to help people “get to LA from San Francisco.”

The Wonderful Company is a big company and found a way (hmmm, wonder how…) to get favorable treatment.

I like that, “Wonder how”, hmmm = the Wonderful Company?

Politically speaking, there are a lot of in common wire and cannabis interests.

That’s total BS. Even if there wasn’t a “family “ connection, it’s wrong because of the amount of traffic. There are other wineries which much higher profiles or what about Firestone 805 ?

Just another avenue of corruption and favoritism with ties to the late Adam Hill, current supervisor Bruce Gibson and their willing political hack Tom Fulks. Hills deciet and play for pay continues through Gibson and Fulks. Those in District 2 remember this come November 8th.