SLO County waste agency director explains resignation, misconceptions

SLO County Supervisor Bruce Gibson promoting the IWMA polystyrene ordinance


The executive director of San Luis Obispo County’s waste management agency is resigning after his attempts to overcome board divisions failed. But conflicting statements in local media and mistakes in the Tribune have created questions about the resignation.

IWMA Executive Director Brooks Stayer was two years away from his planned retirement, but decided to leave now to take a job closer to his five siblings who live in Georgia and Florida, he said.

“I have been frustrated the board is divided, and I could not fix that,” Stayer said, noting the county’s plan to leave the IWMA did not impact his decision. “There would still be an agency and there would still be a job.”

The board split over a vote on a countywide polystyrene ban. IWMA staff had recommended shelving an ordinance banning the material following a previous board vote to stop passing ordinances and instead only enforce state mandates.

Even though the majority of the board wanted to follow staff’s recommendation, several board members demanded a super majority vote of the board. The legislative ban was then approved even though other board members questioned the legality of the super majority vote rule.

The IWMA is required to operate under the rules of SLO County, which does not include a super majority vote rule, leading to further animosity between board members. The IWMA is a joint powers authority made up of one representative from each of the county’s seven cities, all five members of the SLO County Board of Supervisors, and one board member representing the county’s community services districts.

California Government Code 6509 permits joint power authorities, such as the IWMA, to exercise any power common to the contracting agencies. Even though community services districts do not have the legislative authority to pass ordinances, IWMA legal counsel Jeffrey Minnery pronounced the passage of several ordinances legal, which further divided the board.

Following the vote on the polystyrene ordinance, SLO County supervisors John Peschong, Debbie Arnold and Lynn Compton took steps to withdraw from the IWMA. They planned to have Stayer continue his work, but as a county employee.

In a May 19 editorial, the Tribune accused Peschong, Arnold and Compton of wanting to break up the IWMA “out of spite.”

On June 9, Stayer announced his plans to leave the IWMA for a new job in Augusta, Georgia. Stayer moved to California nine years ago. He had planned to work for a year or two longer before retiring to Florida, but elected to leave earlier because of divisions between board members.

Following Stayer’s announcement, the Tribune published an article incorrectly linking Stayer’s resignation to Peschong, Arnold and Compton’s efforts to “to break up his organization.” In the article, Supervisor Bruce Gibson claimed that other members of the IWMA board are “actively trying to undermine the mission of this organization.”

On June 24, KVEC radio host Dave Congalton and activist Jenine Rands discussed Stayer’s resignation and the Tribune article. Rands told KVEC listeners garbage haulers would continue to pick up the public’s trash – for now. The IWMA does not regulate garbage companies. Trash haulers contract with cities and counties, and not the IWMA.

Rands went on to suggest that Stayer applied for the new job in Georgia because he could not afford to live in SLO County if he lost his job at the IWMA. When Stayer and his wife moved to SLO County, they planned to stay for five to seven years and then retire to Florida.

His resignation has nothing to do with his ability to afford to live in SLO County, Stayer said.

Responding to the Tribune article and Rand’s comments, Congalton voiced concerns that two department heads had left the county because of issues with the three conservative members of the SLO County Board of Supervisors.

“Here is another guy who clearly does not have the support of Arnold, Peschong and Compton and he is going all the way across the country,” Congalton told his listeners. “The second county manager out the door in less than a month because of rocky relations with the county board of supervisors.”

However, it was Arnold, Compton and Peschong who voted in favor of Stayer’s suggestion to shelve the ordinance banning polystyrene. The Tribune article failed to note that.

Clarification: Brooks Stayer moved to California nine years ago, not SLO County.