NewsLocal News


Review finds 2 cannabis-related decisions by SLO County Board of Supervisors could be tied to bribery case

hill dayspring.jpg
Posted at 2:50 PM, Aug 31, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-01 00:14:52-04

San Luis Obispo County officials say a review of cannabis legislation and land use permits found two questionable decisions that could be linked to a bribery case involving late Supervisor Adam Hill and Helios Dayspring.

In July, Dayspring, a cannabis grower and founder of the Natural Healing Center retail store, was charged in federal court with bribery and failing to report millions of dollars in income to the IRS.

As part of a plea agreement, he admitted to paying Hill $32,000 in exchange for votes that would benefit his cannabis businesses.

County officials say, once they heard of the charges, administrators put a hold on all of Dayspring's cannabis permits and began to review all cannabis-related actions by the Board of Supervisors as well as each of Dayspring's projects.

The county says it found two decisions that may have been affected by Dayspring's bribes to Hill. Both decisions passed by a 3-2 vote with Hill voting yes.

The first occurred on Dec. 17, 2019. The Board voted to place an item on the Jan. 14, 2020 agenda.

The second was the vote on that Jan. 14 item. County officials say that item extended a temporary hold on enforcement of cannabis regulations for certain operators who registered with the county.

Officials say that allowed some of the 141 original cannabis operators who registered with the county to continue operating while they worked their way through the land use permit process. Two of Dayspring's applications reportedly benefited from that decision.

The extension expired in June 2020.

County officials say other votes that could be considered beneficial to Dayspring either did not pass or passed by 4-0 or 5-0 votes with either Supervisor Lynn Compton absent or Hill deceased for the decision.

Additionally, county officials say the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office has denied all business licenses which include Dayspring as an identified owner, and any new owners of those projects must submit new applications and go through a background check.

Dayspring was arraigned in federal court on Wednesday, Aug. 25, 2021, and released on $50,000 bond. A date for Dayspring to formally enter his guilty plea has not yet been set.

Officials with the Department of Justice say he faces a maximum sentence of 13 years in federal prison and will have to pay $3.4 million in restitution to the IRS.

His case is reportedly part of an ongoing public corruption investigation in San Luis Obispo County.

In March 2020, the FBI served a search warrant at the San Luis Obispo County Government Center.

When asked about the investigation at the time, Supervisor Hill said he could not comment except to say "we are cooperating fully with their inquiries."

Hill took his own life in August 2020.

The County of San Luis Obispo says it has "cooperated fully with the FBI and will continue to do so."

Dayspring stepped down as CEO of the Natural Healing Center in August 2020 "to devote his energy and attention to other personal avenues of opportunity," according to a business representative.

Another business operated by Dayspring, 805 Agricultural Holdings, was recently hit with $40,000 in fines for allegedly polluting and making illegal changes to a stream at a cannabis grow in Santa Barbara County.