SACRAMENTO, Calif.–Attorney General Bill Lockyer has placed politics above the law by refusing to support a Humboldt County lawsuit against the politically powerful Pacific Lumber Company, according to the watchdog group California Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (California PEER). Humboldt District Attorney Paul Gallegos’ fraud case against the timber company alleges that Pacific Lumber submitted false data to obtain approval from state regulatory agencies to log on steep, unstable slopes. Lockyer has declined to support Gallegos’s suit, citing conflict of interest.
Lockyer claims that he cannot assist Gallegos because he represents the California Department of Forestry and Department of Fish and Game; both signed the $490 million Headwaters Deal. In that agreement, Pacific Lumber sold 7,500 acres of old growth redwood to the government, and state agencies approved permits for logging controls on the other 211,000 acres of Pacific Lumber lands. Those agencies have denied that their approvals of the Headwaters Forest deal were based upon fraudulent data. With the earlier refusal of the Humboldt County Board of Supervisor to hire outside council to assist Gallegos, a Humboldt County Assistant District Attorney is currently handling the entire case.
The California PEER letter describes how the Attorney General routinely represents conflicting interests of various state agencies, and is able to separate those interests to “maintain confidences and representation without conflict.” Moreover, the Attorney General has a Constitutional duty to assist any district attorney in the discharge of the duties of that office, particularly when required by the public interest. Lockyer’s reluctance to intervene, says California PEER Director Karen Schambach, is politically motivated and may result in “a travesty of justice.”
“The Attorney General’s office is perfectly capable of maintaining the separation and confidentiality necessary to avoid conflict,” stated Schambach. “We are calling on Mr. Lockyer to provide the public with a fair prosecution of this case.”
Gallegos’s case against Pacific Lumber was strengthened last week when a judge ruled that the company’s sustained yield plan was flawed.