Rialto Councilman Claims Vindication

Rialto Councilmember Andy Carrizales had no political, financial or criminal conflict of interest when he voted last month to allow a proposal to build a 470,000-square-foot warehouse at Pepper Avenue and the 210 Freeway in lieu of a commercial project, the California Fair Practices Commission has determined.
The project, which was proposed by Howard Industrial Partners LLC and called for a zone change/land use redesignation from what the city terms community commercial to light industrial use and a conditional use permit on 23.82 acres along with a certification of the architectural standards on the buildings entailed, was given go-ahead by a slim 3-to-2 margin on June 13, with Carrizales, Councilman Ed Scott and Rafael Trujillo prevailing and Mayor Deborah Robertson and Councilman Joe Baca dissenting.
Both Robertson and Baca seized on the consideration that Carrizales and his family live in a home that lies less than 500 feet of the boundary line of the 2017 Pepper Avenue Specific Plan, one of the city’s development planning districts in which the subject property is included. They further concluded based on Carrizales himself having obtained from City Hall permits to make improvements to the property, that he had an ownership interest in it. Reasoning that his June 13 vote thus had an impact on Carrizales’ financial circumstance, Councilman Baca publicly stated that Carrizales should not vote on the matter.
Carrizales insisted the regulations Baca and Robertson were citing were inapplicable to him and that though where he lived was somewhat proximate to the much larger specific plan area, the house in which he and his family lived was well beyond 500 feet from the warehouse site. Moreover, others were claiming the approval of the warehouse on the property in question would not increase residential values but lessen them. A week after Carrizales voted in favor of the project, the California Fair Political Practices Commission was contacted. Thereafter, both Baca and Robertson prevailed upon Lupe Camacho, a Rialto resident, to lodge a complaint over Carrizales’ June 13 vote with the commission.
It is unclear whether Camacho, Baca and Robertson understood that Andy Carrizales is, in fact, not the owner of the residential property referenced in the complaint.
The home in which the Carrizales family lives was purchased in 1994 by Carrizales’ mother-in-law. Both Baca and Robertson are relatively sophisticated operators and know the governmental ropes. Baca was a college board member, member of the California Assembly for six years, a member of the California Senate for a short period of time and then a member of the U.S. Congress for 13 years. Robertson, an employee with the California Department of Transportation, was first elected to the Rialto City Council in 2000 and has been mayor since 2012. It would thus appear unlikely that either would not have known that the San Bernardino County Assessor’s/County Recorder’s/County Clerk’s Office could verify the ownership of the property in question. For that reason, it appears, they induced the less-sophisticated Comacho to make the unsupported accusation against Carrizales.
Initially, the California Fair Political Practices Commission, based in Sacramento, took at face value Comacho’s assertion that Andy Carrizales owned the property referenced in the complaint. Upon further examination, however, Christopher Burton, the acting chief of the Fair Political Practices Commission’s enforcement division, learned that Andy Carrizales did not own the property.
At that point, Camacho, reinforced by Baca and Robertson, doubled down, insisting that Carizales had “pulled the permits with the city to make improvments to the property as the owner of the property” and that “because he has been making mortgage payments directly to the mortgage company, he has equitable interest/sweat interest, he is considered to be the owner of the property.”
By that point, Carrizales had retained Sarah Lang, an attorney with the Sacramento-based law firm of Bell, McAndrews & Hiltachk to represent him. Lang directly dialogued with Burton.
On July 10, Burton wrote a letter to Comacho in which he stated, “After review of the complaint and evidence provided, the Enforcement Division will not pursue an enforcement action in this matter. Under the Political Reform Act (the “Act”), a public official has a disqualifying conflict of interest in a governmental decision if it is foreseeable that the decision will have a financial impact on their personal finances or other financial interests. Financial interests include those of a public official ‘s immediate family members. The Act defines “immediate family member” as the spouse and dependent children of a public official. Since it does not appear that Andy Carrizales or his immediate family members have an ownership interest in the subject property, Council Member Carrizales does not have a disqualifying conflict of interest in decisions regarding the Pepper Avenue Specific Plan Amendment and Industrial Development Project.”
The same day, Burton wrote a letter to Lang, in which he stated, “The Enforcement Division of the Fair Political Practices Commission enforces the provisions of the Political Reform Act . As you are aware, the enforcement division received anonymous complaints alleging that your client, Andy Carrizales, violated the conflict of interest provisions of the Act. However, based on a review of the complaint, and your response, the enforcement division will not pursue an enforcement action in this matter.”

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