SLO County Air Pollution Control District Executive Officer Larry Allen will remain in his position for another year, after a deeply divided APCD board voted to extend his contract at a Jan. 27 meeting.
While the 7-5 vote means Allen will keep his job, he will only receive a 2.5 percent cost of living increase to his salary instead of the 4.8 percent increase that was initially included in his proposed contract. The approval of the contract with a reduced cost of living adjustment passed after one failed vote for the full 4.8 percent increase, and a second failed vote for a contract with no cost of living increase at all.
The reduced cost of living means Allen will make $156,923 in salary and $88,383 in taxes and fringe benefits under the terms of the new contract.
In his time as the district’s executive officer, Allen has often been at the center of the APCD’s most divisive issue, a contentious dust mitigation rule for the Oceano Dunes. The rule sparked multiple lawsuits and hours of debate among the board and public, drawing criticism of Allen from anti-dust rule activists like Kevin P. Rice. Rice called Allen the “architect” of the dust rule, a rule he believes will eventually be struck down by the courts.
“I think we should replace [Allen],” Rice told the board members.
Those lawsuits worry board member and SLO County Supervisor Lynn Compton, who voted against all three incarnations of Allen’s contract.
“We’ve had millions of dollars in lawsuits,” Compton said. “That concerns me.”
Other’s came to Allen’s defense. Arlene Versaw, a Nipomo resident and member of the Mesa Community Alliance, urged the members to renew Allen’s contract.
“He is a long-term, successful employee at the agency and a gentleman to boot,” Versaw said.
APCD board member and SLO County Supervisor Adam Hill also went to bat for Allen, saying he had “no doubts” about Allen’s work ethic and dedication to the public good. Hill denounced personal attacks against Allen and lamented the use of the dust rule issue partisan issue.
“It’s completely a health matter and has been treated as a political football, and it’s disgraceful,” Hill said.
While Allen is around for at least another year, he indicated that his time as APCD executive director may be coming to an end.
“My thoughts had been that I’d retire at the end of 2017,” Allen said.
Board member and SLO Mayor Jan Marx worried that the board had a bad reputation for the way it treated staff and employees like Allen, and that it might dissuade candidates for applying.
“I think it’s an appalling situation that we’re in,” she said.