For Immediate Release: Friday, June 13, 2014
Contact: Steve Hopcraft 916/457-5546; [email protected]; Twitter: @shopcraft; @MrSandHillCrane; Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla 209/479-2053 [email protected]; Twitter: Restore the Delta
Tunnel Opponents File FPPC Complaint Against BDCP Architect Jerry Meral for Illegal Lobbying
Sacramento, CA- Restore the Delta (RTD), opponents of Gov. Brown’s rush to build Peripheral Tunnels to drain the Delta and doom sustainable farms, salmon and other Pacific fisheries, today announced they filed a complaint with the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) charging former Brown Administration Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) point man, Jerry Meral, with illegal lobbying. Meral appears to be violating the law prohibiting former administration officials from lobbying within one year and one day of leaving office. Since January 2014, Meral has authored several versions of a Natural Heritage Institute-promoted (NHI) water bond for legislative consideration in 2014, and made direct contacts with staff in numerous legislators’ offices to influence legislation. “Our complaint charges Jerry Meral with illegal lobbying during the period when former administration officials are barred from doing so,” said Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director of RTD. “The revolving door between the Brown Administration, water exporters and groups that would benefit from the tunnels project and its habitat programs just keeps turning.”
Meral’s attempt to lobby and otherwise influence the state legislature and the agency, and the activities that he managed the day before leaving state employment, is illegal under the following statutes and regulations:
• Lobbying within one year of leaving a position in state service violates §87406, Regulations 18746.1 and 18746.2 of the Political Reform Act.
• Leaving state employment and being hired by NHI the following day begs the question of Influencing Prospective Employment (See Section 87407; Regulation 18747). The legal issue of if he had prior contact with this prospective employer regarding an interview or discussion of an offer of employment seems self-evident and otherwise inexplicable given the timing.
Meral has been observed visiting the Legislature to “promote” his versions of the bond and the BDCP. Meral’s bond includes specific funding for BDCP-related San Joaquin Delta conservation projects. Meral wants funding removed and restricted from levee projects, which constitutes lobbying to change the outcome of existing proposed legislation for the benefit of BDCP. It appears that Meral did not renew his lobbying certification, complete his ethics training, and has failed to timely file disclosures. Given that Meral is aware of these procedures from his previous two-year stint as a lobbyist, immediate corrective action and the maximum penalty should occur.
The potential financial incentive for NHI’s ability to successfully lobby or influence Resources, DWR and the Legislature is massive. Billions of dollars are at stake with the BDCP for NHI and other non-profit organizations as defined in the NHI proposed water bond. NHI proposed Sections 79740 and 79742 provide for direct and indirect funding for potential NHI-affiliated habitat projects of no more than $1.2 billion, directly to non-profits through grants and through pass through monies managed and distributed by Resources/DWR, and the Delta Conservancy; and, even more funding from DWR’s California Water Commission. Meral, in his February 23, 2014 letter from NHI, specifically directs that the Delta Protection Commission “follow the provisions described in this letter” regarding wildlife habitat and levee funding from a proposed new special district, which have historically received significant funding from DWR under the subventions program. Meral appears to be demanding a de facto “cut of the action” from the new district for his BDCP habitat projects. Meral also lobbies for the state water contractors (SWC) to be paid back from supposed overpayments under the Davis-Dohlwig Act, also in an effort to promote the ability of the SWC to pay for BDCP.
Jerry Meral served as Deputy Secretary of Natural Resources for the State of California from 2011 to December 31, 2013. He acted as Director of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) during this time. On January 1, 2014, Meral accepted a position as Director of the California Water Program for the Natural Heritage Institute (NHI). The NHI currently has direct ties to the BDCP, direct and indirect financial benefit from its completion, and continues to lobby for its funding and implementation, as evidenced by the documentation that can be found at https://www.restorethedelta.org/?p=5599. Upon his acceptance of the position, NHI issued a statement on their website announcing that Meral was representing NHI on California water issues, specifically including the BDCP.
This is not the first time that Mr. Meral has engaged in questionable practices. In 2002, Meral authored Prop. 51, that the Sacramento Bee called “California’s most corrupt initiative,” and called Meral’s group “a morally bankrupt environmental lobby.” (Editorial: No on Proposition 51: stop California’s most corrupt initiative, September 29, 2002).