Two Bay Area Air Quality Management District employees Michael Bachmann who was a manager of records at the agency and Sarah Steele a contract employee who was also working on retention of documents charged at a press an Oakland press conference on February 22, 2017 that they had been bullied, retaliated against and fired for exposing the illegal destruction of agency documents that are required to be maintained for a record of the  violations of air pollution by corporations.  They said that they had tried to stop the destruction of the documents but  that the agencies top managers has been engaged in destroying compliance records and settlement agreements for air pollution control violations  by major companies like Chevron, Shell, Tosco, Pacific Steel Casting and many other companies.
According to their lawyers, BAAQMD destroyed regulatory documents, notices of violation, enforcement records and flare reports for refineries in the East Bay and microfilms in cabinets were dumped as well.
Bunger, Legal Counsel Bill Guy and Director of Enforcement Wayne Kino according to the the complaint  ordered Sarah Steele  to return the documents from the file cabinet to an unsecured room in the old headquarters, according to the claim. The documents then were disposed of even though they were critical to many continuing cases and history of these company's  violation of air quality laws.
Bachmann and Steele both said they were concerned with protecting the health of people in the bay area and the disposal of documents was not only a violation of the law and policies but put the health of the bay area in jeopardy.
Attorneys for Steele and Bachmann also released a set of records from 1990-91 involving Tosco refinery, which is now owned by Tesoro, that were saved by the pair. It shows a list of penalties against Tosco, including a $1,000 penalty reduced to $750 that involved an “excessive visible emission” at the acid plant. Major bay area polluters have been able to significantly reduce their fines if there is no record of previous violations and this organized destruction of documents was allowing these companies to limit their liability for violating air quality control standards over many decades.
Attorney J. Gary Gwilliam also said that these documents were required for court cases and settlement agreements and this made them protected documents that must not be destroyed. He also reported that an alleged "independent investigation" by the Agencies management done by San Francisco attorney Emily Prescott had been biased against the whistleblowers and was a continued cover-up of the destruction of documents.
The BAAQMD are still denying that they destroyed documents in a statement.
According to one of the whistleblower's attorneys Alison Carp, the board members of the BAAQMD are politicians from throughout the bay area and some were aware of these serious problems over the past two years. She also said they are in discussion with government agencies for possible investigation and prosecution for criminal destruction of legal government documents. The California Attorney General Becerra is responsible for investigating and prosecuting officials who violate the law at independent agencies such as the Bay Area Air Quality Management District.
Bachmann and Steele's lawyers announced that they were filing a complaint for illegal retaliation for being a whistleblower and also were filing other complaints against the agency.
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