It was a brisk autumn afternoon in Fort Bragg when police arrived to a call of shots fired.
One witness reported seeing a man, about 6 feet tall with shoulder-length shaggy blond hair, who had fired a shotgun at a Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) substation. Police recovered a Giant brand bicycle, a riding jacket, and six expended 12-guage shotgun shells, but the suspect had fled the area and escaped into the surrounding woods.
Three months later, federal officials indicted Brian Stacy on charges of destruction of an energy facility. A conviction could result in a fine and as many as 20 years in prison. Stacy was arrested in Fort Smith, Ark., on Jan. 31 and later extradited back to California.
He pleaded not guilty on Feb. 25. As of press time, Stacy had been committed for treatment after being found not competent to stand trial.
If Stacy’s name sounds familiar, that’s most likely due his previous role as the vice president of the Port San Luis Commercial Fishermen’s Association, during which he was the public face of the clash between local commercial fishermen and PG&E.
Stacy resigned as vice president in December 2012, telling New Times that he’d been pushing for a grand jury investigation of PG&E’s dealings with fishermen over the company’s low-energy seismic tests in the waters around the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant. Other members of the association, Stacy said back then, weren’t on board with him.
In January 2013, the association’s president at the time, David Kirk, told New Times, “I thought he was a real asset. He did a lot for both Morro Bay and Port San Luis fishermen. … He worked harder on this than I did all along.”
Speaking more recently, Kirk mostly shied away from questions about Stacy.
“I think he was doing real good there for a period of time, and then he … kind of spun out,” Kirk said.
Another member of the association and commissioner with the Port San Luis Harbor District, Drew Brandy, said Stacy had begun to accuse other association members of conspiring with PG&E.
“I had to break up a … fight with him and the president,” Brandy said.
At the heart of the issue was Stacy’s struggle to have PG&E financially compensate fishermen whose hauls had allegedly been adversely affected by low-energy seismic tests in the area. Stacy claimed that PG&E disregarded the fishermen’s claims that fish had been scared out of the area, and further accused the company of failing to abide by California environmental regulations.
In the end, the fishermen didn’t receive the compensation they were seeking. According to PG&E spokesman Blair Jones, “Department of Fish and Game catch reports did not show a decrease in fish catches during the low-energy seismic surveys. PG&E did, however, pay one claim involving fishing equipment that was damaged during the surveys.”
Brandy told New Times that the issue fizzled when members of the fishermen’s association realized that continuing the fight with PG&E would incur further costs to go to court.
“It’s just too big a battle, it really is,” he said. “Now that it’s over, everybody’s working, everybody’s catching fish, life is good.”
But for Stacy, the situation seemed to have a more severe impact.
“I hope I get my life back one day soon,” he wrote in a Dec. 27, 2012, opinion piece published on calcoastnews.com, following the New Times story “Fishing unfriendly waters.”
“I lost my health insurance,” Stacy wrote. “My health is poor, I lost 50 pounds. I missed my salmon season over this. My boat has been tied up since June, and I have worked only on this every day since I was aware what we would get if I stopped short.”
Before butting heads with PG&E over seismic tests, Stacy brought a lawsuit against K/S Aries Shipping, a Danish company and operator of the Eva Danielsen. Stacy filed the case in the United States Northern District of California in San Francisco, claiming “negligent infliction of emotional distress” after the Eva Danielsen nearly hit his boat while it was anchored off of Point Reyes. While Stacy was unharmed, the Eva Danielsen later collided with the Buona Madre, killing Paul Wade.
The case was dismissed Jan. 15, 2009.
And according to records with the San Luis Obispo County Superior Court, Stacy faced recent criminal charges. He pleaded not guilty on June 20, 2013, to charges of assault, vandalism less than $400, and offensive words made in a public place. However, Stacy missed an Oct. 17 court date, and a bench warrant was issued for his arrest on $2,000 bail Oct. 18, 2013, one day before the Fort Bragg substation was damaged.
PG&E spokesman Jones said the Fort Bragg substation sustained about $240,000 in damage.
“While vandalism is not common, there have been similar incidents from time to time. PG&E works with local law enforcement to investigate each case,” Jones said.
Yet in another case, Stacy was the victim of fraud after he paid approximately $24,000 to a San Luis Obispo-based process server. The process server was later convicted of three felony counts and one misdemeanor ranging from grand theft to writing bad checks.
Stacy’s case is scheduled for a status conference on Sept. 17. His attorney, Candis Mitchell, declined to comment.
Check New Times’ previous coverage featuring Brian Stacy in the articles “Charges dog a SLO process server,” Oct 14, 2010; “Fishing unfriendly waters,” Dec. 19, 2012; and “Fishermen rep steps down,” Jan. 3, 2013.
Senior Staff Writer Colin Rigley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.