Local District Accused of Defrauding Wildlife Foundation

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) accused the San Simeon Community Services District of knowingly applying for a grant it was not eligible for, according to an October 23 email rescinding the $125,000 grant.

The action triggered the Ocean Protection Council to rescind a matching $125,000 grant it had awarded to the district.

CalCoastNews.com reported that the actions were triggered by a local activist, Julie Tacker, who reported conflict-of-interest concerns to the providers of the grants.

“In addition to confirming the conflicts of interests, the NFWF discovered the district and its consultants knew they were ineligible for the grants, but decided to move ahead anyway,” CalCoastNews.com reported.

The grant was part of $29 million in funding the NFWF was providing for “restoring coastal and natural estuarine systems.” Initially, the district sought funding for “cleaning Padre San Juan Creek,” but later decided to request funding for restoring the current sanitation plant site, according to district emails received by the news site through a Public Records Act request.

The NFWF discovered district emails in which a consultant notified three district officials that the agency discovered it wasn’t eligible, and offered three options: continue without disclosing or questioning the ineligibility; inform the NFWF of the eligibility issues and let the foundation determine whether or not to approve the grant; withdraw the grant application because of ineligibility. Records show that the officials chose the first option, to continue without disclosing the problems.

After discovering the email chain, the NFWF rescinded the grant. The foundation’s general counsel also voiced concerns over conflicts of interests with two district leaders awarding contracts, without a bidding process, to entities in which they had financial interests. (Source: CalCoastNews.com, November 11.)


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