Toro Shoots Down Charges That His Foundation Is A Conflict

Some Colton residents, David Toro’s potential political rivals in particular, are questioning whether the councilman became involved in a conflict of interest based upon his vote last year to transfer the city of Colton’s animal control contract to the County of Riverside, now that his foundation is partnering with the Riverside County Animal Control Division for the provision of animal spaying and neutering services.
Historically, Colton, which was one of San Bernardino County’s full service municipalities boasting its own police, fire, electrical utility, water, sewer and infrastructure divisions, provided its own animal control services. In the more recent past, it farmed its animal services out, contracting with the city of San Bernardino.
On September 16, 2014, the Colton City Council unanimously supported ending Colton’s contractual arrangement with the city of San Bernardino for housing animals picked up by animal control officers in Colton at the San Bernardino Department of Animal Control shelter. Instead, the council contracted to have stray animals placed into a shelter in Jurupa Valley operated by the Riverside County Department of Animal Services.
That move was championed by Toro, who has long advocated the compassionate treatment of animals. He convinced his council colleagues that the change was doubly beneficial in that Riverside County’s facility was new, modern and well-run compared to San Bernardino’s dilapidating outdoor facility, and would result in Colton saving $2,154.25 per month or $25,851 per year over what San Bernardino was then charging. Toro’s argument was strengthened by the consideration that San Bernardino was on the brink of increasing its animal housing prices.
Riverside County’s facility is located at 6851 Van Buren Blvd. and features an on-site veterinarian, a mobile spay and neuter program, a developed adoption network and a core of volunteers. Its only drawback is that it is located some 17 miles from Colton.
Based on their knowledge that Toro had his hand on the pulse of stray animal management issues, his council colleagues readily voted with him to transition to the contract with Riverside County.
At that time, the council also formed an ad-hoc committee, to which Toro and council members Deirdre Bennett and Isaac Suchil were named, the charter of which was to determine how the city would use the savings the city would realize from changeover.
An advocate of creating a no-kill shelter, Toro wanted the city to reinvest the money in programs that would achieve that end, including stepped up spaying and neutering of pets, providing them with identifying microchips and putting in place a more energetic pet licensing program.
This summer, Toro created the David Toro Foundation, a non-profit corporation that raises funds to provide free or low cost spay and neutering in the city of Colton at present, with the stated goal of expanding its programs into outlying areas. To meet the foundation’s goals, Toro entered into a partnership with the Loma Linda Animal Hospital and the Riverside County Department of Animal Services as a means of providing discount costs for the services. Simultaneously, the foundation is engaged in fundraising activities.
Some have seized upon the partnership between the foundation and the Riverside County Department of Animal Services in alleging that Toro has involved himself in a conflict of interest. His vote to have Colton dissolve its contract with San Bernardino and place its animal control contract with the County of Riverside takes on a new meaning given his foundation’s entwining itself with Riverside County, they say.
California Government Code Section 1090 prohibits an elected official from having a personal financial interest in any matter upon which he or she votes in his or her elected capacity.
Those trying to draw a nexus between his vote last year and his financial circumstance and interests are far off the mark, Toro told the Sentinel.
“First, I had no idea when we decided to go with Riverside County that I would create this foundation,” Toro said. “At that time I had not even thought of having a foundation. We changed over to Riverside County last year, in October 2014. My foundation was not established until August of this year.”
“Second, the only affiliation I have with the County of Riverside is to take care of animals in Colton. My foundation has volunteers who work with the City of Riverside. The foundation is not affiliated with the County of Riverside.”
Toro continued, “As far as my making money on this issue, I don’t know where that is coming from. The only money involved is a commitment to pay for spaying and neutering. I don’t receive that money directly. I just facilitate the vouchers for those services. It is correct to say I was involved politically when we were having issues with the San Bernardino Shelter. We had people who were interested in animal rescue and they felt that organization was not helping their cause. I told them, ‘I would like to help you.’ I told them I wanted to do a spay and neuter clinic. They funded me for one month with $1,000. But I just coordinated that. Then they decided to do three months. Then they came into a commitment for a large contribution from Ellen DeGeneris, enough to carry the program on for a full year. I create the vouchers. They take the vouchers to the pet owners who use them to pay the vet bills. That organization is there, as far as the money goes, to reimburse people for spaying and neutering. When the funding from the organization is used up, any relationship we have will be over. I do not believe we will carry funds over to the next year.”
He hasn’t gotten any money out of his foundation activities and he has no prospect for getting money from it, Toro said. “I don’t understand why anyone is concerned that I’m doing this work or how they can believe this is even a consideration to worry about,” he said. “The only time I go to Riverside County is to volunteer to help with the animal programs. I don’t get any financial benefit. If we rescue an animal, there is no money in it for us. There is no money going anywhere. The only money is from a party who has lost a dog or cat paying a fee to the shelter. No money comes to me. I am a helper. I am a coordinator. That’s it.”

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