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Copelands face fine in SLO election dispute

By   /   Monday, October 4th, 2010  /   Comments Off on Copelands face fine in SLO election dispute

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San Luis Obispo businessmen James and Thomas Copeland and banker David Booker were the anonymous backers of “No on J,” the campaign to stop rancher Ernie Dalidio from developing 131 acres outside the city, according to a report from state campaign regulators. The three face fines of up to $80,000.

The California Fair Political Practices Commission said Oct. 4 that the Copelands contributed more than $240,000 toward the campaign. That violated state law because the corporation the Copelands formed to give the money hid the names of its members and failed to disclose the real purpose of the loan it made to the Measure J campaign, the regulatory agency said.

Booker, a director of San Luis Obispo-based American Perspective Bank, is also accused of committing six campaign finance violations, the agency said Oct. 4.

Dalidio started to develop his ranch outside the city of San Luis Obispo 18 years ago. Plans for the development included retail, a farmers market and workforce housing. He faced opposition, but countywide Measure J was passed overwhelmingly by voters in November 2006, clearing the way for Dalidio’s development.

Copeland is a well-known name in SLO County business circles. The family founded now-defunct Copeland Sports and still owns the San Luis Obispo’s Downtown Centre and the Court Street Development.

In 2007, Dalidio attorney Jim McKiernan filed a voter fraud complaint against the No on J Campaign and the corporation which funded the group. It wasn’t revealed until Oct. 4 that the Copelands and Booker were the names behind the campaign.

Campaign regulators will vote on whether to approve the fines against No on Measure J’s leaders at an Oct. 14 meeting in Sacramento.

* See the Oct. 8 print issue of the Business Times for an in-depth version of this story.

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