Erik Howell cleared of FPPC violation allegations



As former SLO City Mayor Jan Marx and one of her advisors face a new dispute over campaign donations, state investigators have closed the book on another political controversy that originated in nearby Pismo Beach.

State investigators with the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) recently cleared California Coastal Commissioner and Pismo Beach City Councilman Erik Howell of allegations that he improperly voted in favor of a proposed development project in Pismo Beach after receiving a campaign contribution from a party that may have had an interest in the outcome.

The complaint was filed after Howell, in his capacity as a coastal commissioner, voted to approve the Silver Shoals development project. The complaint charged that Howell, who originally voted against the project as a city councilman, was influenced by a $1,000 donation to his City Council re-election campaign from Antoinette DeVargas. DeVargas is the business and domestic partner of Susan McCabe, a lobbyist who was representing the developer on the Silver Shoals project.

A Dec. 19 letter from the FPPC stated that there was insufficient evidence to show any violation occurred.

“Ms. DeVargas made the contribution using her personal credit card, and the investigation did not reveal evidence that DeVargas was reimbursed for making the contribution,” the letter stated.

The allegations in the complaint followed Howell as he ran his campaign for re-election. Howell successfully retained his seat on the Pismo Beach City Council in November.

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