A woman from Pacific Grove and a man from Hollister have sued the Monterey Bay Resources District and its board chairman Richard Stedman, claiming the district has been paying administrative salaries about five times above what the law allows.
The lawsuit was filed Friday in Monterey Superior Court by Nadine Ceyer and John Sutton. The central claim to the complaint, it says, is that no more than 6.25 percent of the fees the district collects can be spent on administration of its AB2766 Program, but the district has spent more than 30 percent of the money.
MBRD collects $6 for every vehicle registered in Monterey, Santa Cruz and San Benito counties, with $4 deposited in the AB2766 Fund. The district has collected an average of about $3.75 million each year the past three years, with about $2.5 million going into the AB2766 Fund. Over the past three years, “at a minimum, Respondents have charged the AB2766 fund $1,457,470 more for administrative expenses than is authorized by statute.”
According to MBRD’s website, the air district was created by the Monterey County Board of Supervisors in 1965. Santa Cruz joined in 1968 and the following year the state created the North Central Coast Air Basin, made up of Monterey, San Benito and Santa Cruz counties. Since 1991, local governments have received AB 2766 funds to implement programs that reduce air pollution from motor vehicles. The money is often used to buy low-emissions vehicles for retrofit fleets of vehicles used for local governments.
Records show that in 2015, the air district employed 110 people. Stedman’s total pay and benefits were 224,747. Nineteen other staff members had total pay and benefits above $150,000 and 45 employees received more than $125,000. According to the lawsuit, the district has spent in excess $1.45 million more than what is allowed over the past three years.
“Stedman has recommended and the MBARD has charged excessive administrative costs of almost $500,000 annually to the AB 2766 Fund for the last three years,” the complaint states. “Documentation contained in Respondents’ official records indicate that Respondents have actually expended in excess of 30% of its AB 27 66 Program fees for administrative costs, which is 5 times the maximum amount authorized by law.”
The lawsuit seeks an order from the court declaring that the district must conform to the law, reimburse the fund of nearly $1.5 million, and to stop charging administrative costs until they can be clearly documented.
On the phone Friday, Stedman said he was not aware of the lawsuit and asked who the plaintiffs were and what the complaint was.
“This has been brought before by a former employee that has sued the district as well,” he said. “And I just stand behind that we are following the state law as required.”
The plaintiffs are represented by Richard Francis of Oxnard and Jean Getchell of Ventura. Neither could be reached for comment. Ceyer, when called, disconnected immediately twice. Sutton could not be reached.