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County supervisors drop the ax on Oceano Advisory Council

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After claiming to stay silent for years, 4th District Supervisor Lynn Compton opened the verbal floodgates at the Dec. 6 San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors meeting, washing away the Oceano Advisory Council in her wake.

During an hour-and-a-half-long commentary at the meeting, Compton wielded a "3-inch stack of documents and 15 videos" to bolster her argument that the advisory council stepped out of line in its responsibilities.

"I made a mistake," she declared to the room of 40 remaining spectators. "I should have handled this much earlier. As it played out over the past four years, I kept my mouth shut."

NEW PLAN Oceano Advisory Council Chair Charles Varni gave public comment on Dec. 6 recommending the SLO County Board of Supervisors dissolve both advisory groups in Oceano and set up a new one with elected members. - SCREENSHOT FROM SLO COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS MEETING
  • Screenshot From SLO County Board Of Supervisors Meeting
  • NEW PLAN Oceano Advisory Council Chair Charles Varni gave public comment on Dec. 6 recommending the SLO County Board of Supervisors dissolve both advisory groups in Oceano and set up a new one with elected members.

The advisory council—established by a resolution in 1991—was dissolved in a precedent-setting 3-1 vote, with 2nd District Bruce Gibson and 3rd District Dawn Ortiz-Legg dissenting and abstaining, respectively. The board withdrew the recognition past supervisors awarded to the advisory council in 1996. It's the first time in county history that the Board of Supervisors "unrecognized" an advisory council.

"They're the nastiest, most uncivil group I've met in my life," Compton said at the meeting.

Compton read out almost every Freedom of Information Act and Public Records Act request filed by members of the council regarding the controversial Oceano airport renovation. She added that the advisory council's chair, Charles Varni, co-founded the Oceano Economic Development Council, and that group met with some Cal Poly research students and a professor "behind the county's back" to discuss the airport's redevelopment.

"They've got the pictures on the website. Every one of the Oceano Advisory Council members is sitting at a table facilitating a meeting, including the new supervisor that's replacing me in January," Compton said.

She went on to accuse the council of colluding with local press like New Times and The Tribune to "blow up" its agenda while denying their motives beforehand. Compton also brandished a transcript of a Nov. 29 Dave Congalton Hometown Radio podcast episode about New Times' reporting on the advisory council, and said she found "36 lies" from council members in it.

In the lead-up to the Dec. 6 meeting, Compton didn't respond to New Times' multiple requests for comment after she made the motion to discuss decertifying the council in late November. She addressed her silence at the meeting when Gibson questioned the length of her commentary.

"I have purposely not played this out in the media, and this is the place to play it out," she replied.

Compton also criticized the advisory council presenting their opposition to off-roading at the Oceano Dunes to the California Coastal Commission. She then read out cantankerous comments made by council Vice Chair April Dury on her personal Facebook page, and played 15 clips from videos assembled from past council meetings, which are posted on YouTube. One of these digital excerpts showed councilmember Lucia Casalinuovo screaming "bullshit" repeatedly during an argument with Varni, and others showed members criticizing the county.

"I really had about 40 videos, but I didn't want to torture you," Compton said.

Community members opposing and favoring the advisory council gave public comment at the meeting.

Varni and former county Supervisor Richard Krejsa recommended dissolving both the Oceano Advisory Council and a second advisory group in the unincorporated area called the Vitality Advisory Council of Oceano. They want to replace them with a new council of elected members rather than the current system of self-appointed ones.

Gibson favored this option as a way forward.

"I do not in any shape or fashion condone the behavior or language that I saw in some of those clips," Gibson said. "I believe the natural evolution of every advisory council is to evolve on to an elected body."

He said that simply decertifying one advisory council is not an adequate solution, and that he doesn't fully agree with Compton's 10 findings that the advisory council overreached their duties.

Ortiz-Legg refused to vote altogether, saying that she wants to come up with "a better solution" for all advisory councils. Δ

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