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Planner Hired Under “Cloud of Controversy”

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Eric Jay Toll was hired Monday as the new Calaveras County planning director.

Toll´s hiring comes under a cloud of controversy. Upon the discovery he didn´t have a planning degree, Toll resigned in March after only a month on the job as community development director for Los Alamos County, N.M.

“It´s been the most embarrassing five weeks of my life,” Toll said Monday.

Toll thought he had his bachelor´s degree in urban planning from Sonoma State University.

It turns out he doesn´t, but he will continue classes to earn his degree while working for Calaveras County.

The Calaveras County Board of Supervisors hired Toll on a 3-2 vote with Supervisors Merita Callaway and Victoria Erickson opposing.

Toll said he told the board “a mistake was made in applying credit for classes from a prior college.”

Toll has a broadcasting degree from Southern Illinois University.

“I think he´s competent and very qualified,” Board Chairman Tom Tryon said. “He made a mistake and he´s admitted to the mistake.”

Betsy Duncan of Copperopolis, who would not reveal where she received the information, contacted the Calaveras Enterprise last week about Toll´s past.

Ironically, Toll´s first job after college was as a planner with Calaveras County in 1980.

From then, up until March of this year Toll has been employed under the guise of having a degree. He worked for four other public agencies in the past 24 years.

The Los Alamos Monitor newspaper broke Toll´s story last month after an anonymous call from Mariposa County, where Toll was previously employed.

Toll was the planning director for Mariposa County from July 2000 to February 2004.

Toll left under a cloud there too.

” … his tenure was fraught with contention. … Toll´s largest task was the rewriting of the Mariposa County General Plan, which, as of his resignation and departure, still had no formal approval even though the County had dolled out over $1 million in consulting fees,” according to the Mariposa Gazette newspaper.

Toll maintains he left over a disagreement with the Board of Supervisors on the direction of the county´s General Plan.

Toll said the money spent for the General Plan is a non-issue.

The previous General Plan for Mariposa County was “totally insufficient,” Toll said. The board called it an update but it was essentially a 15-element rewrite,” he said

Upon Toll´s resignation from Los Alamos County, “Mariposa County Administrative Officer Rich Inman … confirmed that Toll´s application and resume presented to Mariposa County officials when applying for the planning director position indeed did list a degree in urban planning from Sonoma State,” the Mariposa Gazette reported.

Toll has been receiving severance pay from Mariposa County, but “considering there may have been false representations made on Toll´s original application, continuing his severance pay may be in question,” the Gazette reported.

Before working in Mariposa, Toll was community development director for the city of Logan, Utah from 1994 to May 2000.

The Herald Journal, a Logan newspaper, reported a controversy around the time of Toll´s resignation over the planning of a Community Abuse Prevention Services Agency (CAPSA) shelter.

” … the Community Development Office has been under fire recently due to the controversy surrounding the attempt by CAPSA to build a shelter in a northwest Logan neighborhood. Opponents claim that Toll and the planning staff railroaded the CAPSA project through official channels without investigating their concerns,” the Herald Journal reported.

Toll had been living in Nevada and consulting for Logan, when then-Mayor Darla Clark offered him the job. Upon Clark losing her re-election campaign to current Mayor Doug Thompson, Toll resigned.

“Thompson wanted to have his own management team in place,” Toll said.

Toll and Thompson both denied that Toll´s resignation had anything to do with the CAPSA issue, the Herald Journal reported.

While employed with Calaveras from 1980 to 1987, Toll wrote the 1982 Housing Element. He lived in Arnold. His daughter Erica, now 28, attended Hazel Fischer Elementary School and his son Michael, now 22, was born at Mark Twain St. Joseph´s Hospital.

While consulting out of Nevada, Toll continued to work for Calaveras on the Rock Creek Landfill and the 1989 Housing Element.

Toll moves May 1 into a rental house in Forest Meadows. His wife Christine and 10-year-old stepdaughter Taylor are still in their Mariposa home, which is up for sale.

He is scheduled to start the $77,084.80-a-year county job on May 3. In addition, to regular benefits offered by the county, he is receiving $3,500 in moving expenses.

“I´m ready to come to Calaveras,” Toll said. “I´m not going to have a learning curve of somebody who´s never worked here before.”

“I´ve got 24 years of planning experience … (and) a lot of new ideas the county hasn´t seen,” Toll said. “I have a lot of ties in the county, close friends and professional associates, … a pretty good understanding of the county, and a good understanding of how Board of Supervisors works.

Calaveras Enterprise story by Vanessa Turner. For more Calaveras news, click: