Paul Pearson, a resident of Santa Monica, has become interested in building electric cars that interest led to his home-based workshop becoming the target of an elaborate sting operation by the Santa Monica Police Department and other law enforcement officials in December of 2008.The sting operation resulted in Pearson receiving a misdemeanor citation for allegedly violating a California vehicle code which prohibits the remanufacture of cars without a state license. He also was cited for failing to obtain a business license from the City of Santa Monica.Deputy City Attorney Gary Rhoades told the Mirror that, “the sting was a joint effort between the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and (the City of Santa Monica’s) code enforcement department.” Plans for the sting began after a neighbor notified the City about Pearson’s manufacture of electric cars out of a garage he was renting in his neighborhood. The DMV found out Pearson had a website “to advertise his work.” They then set up a sting where an undercover agent offered Pearson money to convert a car that runs solely on gasoline to one that runs only on electric power.Rhoades explained that California requires people to obtain a license to remanufacture cars so the DMV can check on the facilities where the manufacture is done. They also check that the cars that are remanufactured are safe enough to be placed on the state’s roads.Pearson in a letter to Santa Monica’s City Council said, “ [he] acknowledges and takes full responsibility for inadvertently not complying with Santa Monica’s business licensing requirements, and stands ready to pay any applicable fines or taxes.” However, Pearson takes issue with the remanufacture misdemeanor citation which was based on the sting operation and his driving an “Electric Sprint Car” which he built and drives daily. He told the Mirror he had that car properly inspected by the California Highway Patrol and that they issued him a special serial number for the car so it can be licensed with the DMV. It was then licensed through the DMV under the section of the state vehicle code for specially constructed vehicles. He emphasized that he has no intention of selling it. Another thing Pearson is upset about is that Rhoades wants to place him on probation for one year and during that time prohibit him from working on any electric cars for profit. Rhoades told the Mirror his office is currently in negotiations with Pearson and his attorney about the allegations.In his letter to the Council Pearson points out that “the types of vehicles I help build and work on are precisely those that the City Council endorsed when it passed its Resolution in Support of Medium Speed Electric Vehicles in December 2008.” He therefore, wants them to harmonize the City’s policy objectives with its compliance efforts.In an e-mail to the Mirror, Council member Kevin McKeown states, “I’ve been trying to sort through the apparent conflict of policies and jurisdictions here. Much about cars and vehicle “manufacture” is regulated by the state Department of Motor Vehicles, but I’m interested in harmonizing our local Santa Monica laws as much as possible to encourage, rather than discourage, neighborhood electric vehicles.”“Because Paul’s case had already gone to enforcement, there’s little I can do retroactively as a Council member. The City Charter quite clearly limits us to policy matters, proscribing our involvement in enforcement.”
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