Conflict of Interest on the County Planning Commission

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According to several sources one of the members of the County Planning Commission owns property adjacent to the Oeste Ranch, Binning Farms. He then circulated to his neighbors the 2100 unit Oeste Ranch Senior Housing development project as an answer to improve the value of his own property.

In an email that circulated to his neighbors, he writes:

One of the recommendations the board received from the Yolo Planning Commission is to support the addition of 2,100 housing units in the Northwest Quadrant, located west of 113 and North of Covell Blvd in Davis.

I am in support of the Planning Commission’s recommendation for two basic reasons: Sewers and Water…..

Our best opportunity for infrastructure improvement in the Binning Farms will come from a regional plan for our quadrant. The Binning Ranch Estates project (to our immediate South), if constructed, offers our community the possibility to connect to a regional sewer and water plan at considerably lower cost than if we had to provide our own assessment district.

This represents a clear conflict of interest in my view. He stands to potentially gain financially with improvements to the adjacent property by being able to connect to regional sewer and water services that do not appear to presently be available. While some may defend this process by suggesting that the county supervisors rather than this individual has the final say over the implementation of this policy and it appears that the county is not going to pursue this policy, nevertheless this appears very unseemly.

The city of Davis for example has a policy where a Councilmember must recuse themselves on any project or decision within 500 feet of their policy, it seems only reasonable that there should be the same level of scrutiny for this process as well. The planning commission has a large say over what projects get considered and what projects do not.

His email sells this project to his neighbors as their “best opportunity for infrastructure improvement in the Binning Farms.”

—Doug Paul Davis reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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36 thoughts on “Conflict of Interest on the County Planning Commission”

  1. Davisite

    This kind of conflict of interest can only survive when it is purposefully kept “under the radar” of the voters. People’s Vanguard of Davis again performs a valuable public service, both here and its focus on the make-up of our own Steering Committee.

  2. Davisite

    This kind of conflict of interest can only survive when it is purposefully kept “under the radar” of the voters. People’s Vanguard of Davis again performs a valuable public service, both here and its focus on the make-up of our own Steering Committee.

  3. Davisite

    This kind of conflict of interest can only survive when it is purposefully kept “under the radar” of the voters. People’s Vanguard of Davis again performs a valuable public service, both here and its focus on the make-up of our own Steering Committee.

  4. Davisite

    This kind of conflict of interest can only survive when it is purposefully kept “under the radar” of the voters. People’s Vanguard of Davis again performs a valuable public service, both here and its focus on the make-up of our own Steering Committee.

  5. Doug Paul Davis

    Rich:

    I have made the determination not to name names. You can find it out rather easily if you are interested.

    As far as I know he did not recuse himself and that he took part in voting for this proposal.

  6. Doug Paul Davis

    Rich:

    I have made the determination not to name names. You can find it out rather easily if you are interested.

    As far as I know he did not recuse himself and that he took part in voting for this proposal.

  7. Doug Paul Davis

    Rich:

    I have made the determination not to name names. You can find it out rather easily if you are interested.

    As far as I know he did not recuse himself and that he took part in voting for this proposal.

  8. Doug Paul Davis

    Rich:

    I have made the determination not to name names. You can find it out rather easily if you are interested.

    As far as I know he did not recuse himself and that he took part in voting for this proposal.

  9. Rich Rifkin

    David,

    If, as you say, he did not recuse himself, I wonder if that was a violation of the county’s conflict of interest rules (or laws). I assume that the county has some standards for recusal when there is a conflict of interest. In Davis, we have them on all of our commissions; and I think they are mandated by the state. Alas, we just lost a very good member of my commission, Richard Berteaux, in part (I was told) because he was frustrated by the very strict nature of the COI provisions that prohibitted him, as someone whose office is near downtown, from participating in the discussions and votes on a number of HRMC questions.

  10. Rich Rifkin

    David,

    If, as you say, he did not recuse himself, I wonder if that was a violation of the county’s conflict of interest rules (or laws). I assume that the county has some standards for recusal when there is a conflict of interest. In Davis, we have them on all of our commissions; and I think they are mandated by the state. Alas, we just lost a very good member of my commission, Richard Berteaux, in part (I was told) because he was frustrated by the very strict nature of the COI provisions that prohibitted him, as someone whose office is near downtown, from participating in the discussions and votes on a number of HRMC questions.

  11. Rich Rifkin

    David,

    If, as you say, he did not recuse himself, I wonder if that was a violation of the county’s conflict of interest rules (or laws). I assume that the county has some standards for recusal when there is a conflict of interest. In Davis, we have them on all of our commissions; and I think they are mandated by the state. Alas, we just lost a very good member of my commission, Richard Berteaux, in part (I was told) because he was frustrated by the very strict nature of the COI provisions that prohibitted him, as someone whose office is near downtown, from participating in the discussions and votes on a number of HRMC questions.

  12. Rich Rifkin

    David,

    If, as you say, he did not recuse himself, I wonder if that was a violation of the county’s conflict of interest rules (or laws). I assume that the county has some standards for recusal when there is a conflict of interest. In Davis, we have them on all of our commissions; and I think they are mandated by the state. Alas, we just lost a very good member of my commission, Richard Berteaux, in part (I was told) because he was frustrated by the very strict nature of the COI provisions that prohibitted him, as someone whose office is near downtown, from participating in the discussions and votes on a number of HRMC questions.

  13. Doug Paul Davis

    Rich: I have an email into county council on this question, I will call on Monday if I have not heard anything by then.

    It’s certainly a double-edged sword–I’m more sympathetic for your commission than in this case of course.

  14. Doug Paul Davis

    Rich: I have an email into county council on this question, I will call on Monday if I have not heard anything by then.

    It’s certainly a double-edged sword–I’m more sympathetic for your commission than in this case of course.

  15. Doug Paul Davis

    Rich: I have an email into county council on this question, I will call on Monday if I have not heard anything by then.

    It’s certainly a double-edged sword–I’m more sympathetic for your commission than in this case of course.

  16. Doug Paul Davis

    Rich: I have an email into county council on this question, I will call on Monday if I have not heard anything by then.

    It’s certainly a double-edged sword–I’m more sympathetic for your commission than in this case of course.

  17. Rich Rifkin

    Yeah, it’s unfortunate with Richard Berteaux. And I have heard that some people who know a lot about historic properties will not join the HRMC because of their personal Conflict of Interest issues. Nonetheless, I think such laws/rules are necessary and justified.

    On our commission, for example, we have lately been dealing with the Varsity Theater, one of the more important historic buildings in Davis. There is a proposal — which now may be dead — to build an addition (for a cafe) onto the west side of the theater building, where the historically important Hunt-Boyer tankhouse is located. In at least a few respects, the proposal has merits. First, the proposer is the guy (name escapes me) who owns Mishka’s and is operating the Varsity and the ice cream shop next to it. He’s a good person and someone who has improved downtown. Chances are, then, it would be a success. Second, the whole block from E to F on 2nd would gain if a popular cafe opened there. That would help the Varsity, the Avid Reader and the other retailers around there.

    However, there are more reasons (in my opinion) to oppose this project: first, it would damage the context of the historic Hunt-Boyer property, as it is (though modified) the last of the homes of its type in downtown Davis; it would destroy the H-B orange grove; it would ruin (and possibly lead to the demolition) of one of the few surviving tankhouses around Davis, which only makes sense if it is located on the H-B property; and it would seriously mar the architecture of the Varsity Theater itself.

    The reason I state all of that is this: I wouldn’t want someone — say a business owner on that block — to sit on a commission, who obviously has a conflict of interest, and help decide what is best for Davis. The parties with a stake in such outcomes should and will give testimony. But the deciders ought to be unconflicted.

    As a sidenote, I don’t think a council member ought to be able to vote on this kind of an issue if he or she took campaign contributions from someone who has a financial stake in this kind of project. We don’t, of course, have such laws. But, in my opinion, we ought to. (Of course, better than that, we should have publicly financed elections.)

  18. Rich Rifkin

    Yeah, it’s unfortunate with Richard Berteaux. And I have heard that some people who know a lot about historic properties will not join the HRMC because of their personal Conflict of Interest issues. Nonetheless, I think such laws/rules are necessary and justified.

    On our commission, for example, we have lately been dealing with the Varsity Theater, one of the more important historic buildings in Davis. There is a proposal — which now may be dead — to build an addition (for a cafe) onto the west side of the theater building, where the historically important Hunt-Boyer tankhouse is located. In at least a few respects, the proposal has merits. First, the proposer is the guy (name escapes me) who owns Mishka’s and is operating the Varsity and the ice cream shop next to it. He’s a good person and someone who has improved downtown. Chances are, then, it would be a success. Second, the whole block from E to F on 2nd would gain if a popular cafe opened there. That would help the Varsity, the Avid Reader and the other retailers around there.

    However, there are more reasons (in my opinion) to oppose this project: first, it would damage the context of the historic Hunt-Boyer property, as it is (though modified) the last of the homes of its type in downtown Davis; it would destroy the H-B orange grove; it would ruin (and possibly lead to the demolition) of one of the few surviving tankhouses around Davis, which only makes sense if it is located on the H-B property; and it would seriously mar the architecture of the Varsity Theater itself.

    The reason I state all of that is this: I wouldn’t want someone — say a business owner on that block — to sit on a commission, who obviously has a conflict of interest, and help decide what is best for Davis. The parties with a stake in such outcomes should and will give testimony. But the deciders ought to be unconflicted.

    As a sidenote, I don’t think a council member ought to be able to vote on this kind of an issue if he or she took campaign contributions from someone who has a financial stake in this kind of project. We don’t, of course, have such laws. But, in my opinion, we ought to. (Of course, better than that, we should have publicly financed elections.)

  19. Rich Rifkin

    Yeah, it’s unfortunate with Richard Berteaux. And I have heard that some people who know a lot about historic properties will not join the HRMC because of their personal Conflict of Interest issues. Nonetheless, I think such laws/rules are necessary and justified.

    On our commission, for example, we have lately been dealing with the Varsity Theater, one of the more important historic buildings in Davis. There is a proposal — which now may be dead — to build an addition (for a cafe) onto the west side of the theater building, where the historically important Hunt-Boyer tankhouse is located. In at least a few respects, the proposal has merits. First, the proposer is the guy (name escapes me) who owns Mishka’s and is operating the Varsity and the ice cream shop next to it. He’s a good person and someone who has improved downtown. Chances are, then, it would be a success. Second, the whole block from E to F on 2nd would gain if a popular cafe opened there. That would help the Varsity, the Avid Reader and the other retailers around there.

    However, there are more reasons (in my opinion) to oppose this project: first, it would damage the context of the historic Hunt-Boyer property, as it is (though modified) the last of the homes of its type in downtown Davis; it would destroy the H-B orange grove; it would ruin (and possibly lead to the demolition) of one of the few surviving tankhouses around Davis, which only makes sense if it is located on the H-B property; and it would seriously mar the architecture of the Varsity Theater itself.

    The reason I state all of that is this: I wouldn’t want someone — say a business owner on that block — to sit on a commission, who obviously has a conflict of interest, and help decide what is best for Davis. The parties with a stake in such outcomes should and will give testimony. But the deciders ought to be unconflicted.

    As a sidenote, I don’t think a council member ought to be able to vote on this kind of an issue if he or she took campaign contributions from someone who has a financial stake in this kind of project. We don’t, of course, have such laws. But, in my opinion, we ought to. (Of course, better than that, we should have publicly financed elections.)

  20. Rich Rifkin

    Yeah, it’s unfortunate with Richard Berteaux. And I have heard that some people who know a lot about historic properties will not join the HRMC because of their personal Conflict of Interest issues. Nonetheless, I think such laws/rules are necessary and justified.

    On our commission, for example, we have lately been dealing with the Varsity Theater, one of the more important historic buildings in Davis. There is a proposal — which now may be dead — to build an addition (for a cafe) onto the west side of the theater building, where the historically important Hunt-Boyer tankhouse is located. In at least a few respects, the proposal has merits. First, the proposer is the guy (name escapes me) who owns Mishka’s and is operating the Varsity and the ice cream shop next to it. He’s a good person and someone who has improved downtown. Chances are, then, it would be a success. Second, the whole block from E to F on 2nd would gain if a popular cafe opened there. That would help the Varsity, the Avid Reader and the other retailers around there.

    However, there are more reasons (in my opinion) to oppose this project: first, it would damage the context of the historic Hunt-Boyer property, as it is (though modified) the last of the homes of its type in downtown Davis; it would destroy the H-B orange grove; it would ruin (and possibly lead to the demolition) of one of the few surviving tankhouses around Davis, which only makes sense if it is located on the H-B property; and it would seriously mar the architecture of the Varsity Theater itself.

    The reason I state all of that is this: I wouldn’t want someone — say a business owner on that block — to sit on a commission, who obviously has a conflict of interest, and help decide what is best for Davis. The parties with a stake in such outcomes should and will give testimony. But the deciders ought to be unconflicted.

    As a sidenote, I don’t think a council member ought to be able to vote on this kind of an issue if he or she took campaign contributions from someone who has a financial stake in this kind of project. We don’t, of course, have such laws. But, in my opinion, we ought to. (Of course, better than that, we should have publicly financed elections.)

  21. Anonymous

    The county planning commissioner who is the subject of this discussion is Don Winters who was appointed as Supervisor Helen Thomson’s representative on the commission. He lives in a development south of the city of Davis golf course and adjcent to the county commission’s recommended 2,100 unit housing development project. Mr. Winters wrote his neighbors a letter campaigning for this development which he voted for on the commission.

    His conduct is a financial conflict of interest. He at the very least should have recused himself from voting, but instead voted on this proposal which he sees as increasing his and his neighbor’s property values. Frankly, he should have recused himself from both the discussion and the vote on this item.

  22. Anonymous

    The county planning commissioner who is the subject of this discussion is Don Winters who was appointed as Supervisor Helen Thomson’s representative on the commission. He lives in a development south of the city of Davis golf course and adjcent to the county commission’s recommended 2,100 unit housing development project. Mr. Winters wrote his neighbors a letter campaigning for this development which he voted for on the commission.

    His conduct is a financial conflict of interest. He at the very least should have recused himself from voting, but instead voted on this proposal which he sees as increasing his and his neighbor’s property values. Frankly, he should have recused himself from both the discussion and the vote on this item.

  23. Anonymous

    The county planning commissioner who is the subject of this discussion is Don Winters who was appointed as Supervisor Helen Thomson’s representative on the commission. He lives in a development south of the city of Davis golf course and adjcent to the county commission’s recommended 2,100 unit housing development project. Mr. Winters wrote his neighbors a letter campaigning for this development which he voted for on the commission.

    His conduct is a financial conflict of interest. He at the very least should have recused himself from voting, but instead voted on this proposal which he sees as increasing his and his neighbor’s property values. Frankly, he should have recused himself from both the discussion and the vote on this item.

  24. Anonymous

    The county planning commissioner who is the subject of this discussion is Don Winters who was appointed as Supervisor Helen Thomson’s representative on the commission. He lives in a development south of the city of Davis golf course and adjcent to the county commission’s recommended 2,100 unit housing development project. Mr. Winters wrote his neighbors a letter campaigning for this development which he voted for on the commission.

    His conduct is a financial conflict of interest. He at the very least should have recused himself from voting, but instead voted on this proposal which he sees as increasing his and his neighbor’s property values. Frankly, he should have recused himself from both the discussion and the vote on this item.

  25. Rich Rifkin

    FWIW, when I was a 12-year-old kid (1976), Don Winters hired me and a couple of my friends to work out on that property, clearing weeds.

    And then, a couple of years later, he was my Holmes Jr. High basketball coach.

  26. Rich Rifkin

    FWIW, when I was a 12-year-old kid (1976), Don Winters hired me and a couple of my friends to work out on that property, clearing weeds.

    And then, a couple of years later, he was my Holmes Jr. High basketball coach.

  27. Rich Rifkin

    FWIW, when I was a 12-year-old kid (1976), Don Winters hired me and a couple of my friends to work out on that property, clearing weeds.

    And then, a couple of years later, he was my Holmes Jr. High basketball coach.

  28. Rich Rifkin

    FWIW, when I was a 12-year-old kid (1976), Don Winters hired me and a couple of my friends to work out on that property, clearing weeds.

    And then, a couple of years later, he was my Holmes Jr. High basketball coach.

  29. Anonymous

    “As a sidenote, I don’t think a council member ought to be able to vote on this kind of an issue if he or she took campaign contributions from someone who has a financial stake in this kind of project. We don’t, of course, have such laws. But, in my opinion, we ought to. (Of course, better than that, we should have publicly financed elections.)”

    This is by far the most reasonable thing I have ever known Mr. Rifkin to write. I would extend the notion to County Supervisors and state legislators, and not just to “this kind of project,” but to all projects that fall under the purview of those bodies. I don’t hold my breath for such a day to arrive, however.

    Remember the great hue and cry over Steve Gidaro’s push-polling for Harrington, Saylor and Forbes in the 2004 City Council election? Although Mr. Gidaro’s activities appear to have been legal and were allegedly done without the knowledge of the candidates, the front page of the Enterprise on the day before the election carried the image of the stern-faced politicians Puntillo, Thomson and others, protesting Mr. Gidaro’s activities. In the following term, the City Council did essentially nothing to prevent such future activities by developers or other special interests in Davis campaigns. A year later, neither Helen Thomson, Ted Puntillo, or any of the Council majority protested the questionable practices of the Covell developers in the Measure X campaign, or lamented the fact that the developers could afford to spend almost unlimited amounts of money on the campaign.

    Public disclosures of campaign contributions for recent City Council, Supervisor and Assembly elections reveal that developers, home builders and others who stand to profit from accelerated residential development plow a lot of money into these campaigns. This creates a real advantage for big-growth candidates. Keep this in mind when considering the words and actions of our local politicians at the city, county and state level.

  30. Anonymous

    “As a sidenote, I don’t think a council member ought to be able to vote on this kind of an issue if he or she took campaign contributions from someone who has a financial stake in this kind of project. We don’t, of course, have such laws. But, in my opinion, we ought to. (Of course, better than that, we should have publicly financed elections.)”

    This is by far the most reasonable thing I have ever known Mr. Rifkin to write. I would extend the notion to County Supervisors and state legislators, and not just to “this kind of project,” but to all projects that fall under the purview of those bodies. I don’t hold my breath for such a day to arrive, however.

    Remember the great hue and cry over Steve Gidaro’s push-polling for Harrington, Saylor and Forbes in the 2004 City Council election? Although Mr. Gidaro’s activities appear to have been legal and were allegedly done without the knowledge of the candidates, the front page of the Enterprise on the day before the election carried the image of the stern-faced politicians Puntillo, Thomson and others, protesting Mr. Gidaro’s activities. In the following term, the City Council did essentially nothing to prevent such future activities by developers or other special interests in Davis campaigns. A year later, neither Helen Thomson, Ted Puntillo, or any of the Council majority protested the questionable practices of the Covell developers in the Measure X campaign, or lamented the fact that the developers could afford to spend almost unlimited amounts of money on the campaign.

    Public disclosures of campaign contributions for recent City Council, Supervisor and Assembly elections reveal that developers, home builders and others who stand to profit from accelerated residential development plow a lot of money into these campaigns. This creates a real advantage for big-growth candidates. Keep this in mind when considering the words and actions of our local politicians at the city, county and state level.

  31. Anonymous

    “As a sidenote, I don’t think a council member ought to be able to vote on this kind of an issue if he or she took campaign contributions from someone who has a financial stake in this kind of project. We don’t, of course, have such laws. But, in my opinion, we ought to. (Of course, better than that, we should have publicly financed elections.)”

    This is by far the most reasonable thing I have ever known Mr. Rifkin to write. I would extend the notion to County Supervisors and state legislators, and not just to “this kind of project,” but to all projects that fall under the purview of those bodies. I don’t hold my breath for such a day to arrive, however.

    Remember the great hue and cry over Steve Gidaro’s push-polling for Harrington, Saylor and Forbes in the 2004 City Council election? Although Mr. Gidaro’s activities appear to have been legal and were allegedly done without the knowledge of the candidates, the front page of the Enterprise on the day before the election carried the image of the stern-faced politicians Puntillo, Thomson and others, protesting Mr. Gidaro’s activities. In the following term, the City Council did essentially nothing to prevent such future activities by developers or other special interests in Davis campaigns. A year later, neither Helen Thomson, Ted Puntillo, or any of the Council majority protested the questionable practices of the Covell developers in the Measure X campaign, or lamented the fact that the developers could afford to spend almost unlimited amounts of money on the campaign.

    Public disclosures of campaign contributions for recent City Council, Supervisor and Assembly elections reveal that developers, home builders and others who stand to profit from accelerated residential development plow a lot of money into these campaigns. This creates a real advantage for big-growth candidates. Keep this in mind when considering the words and actions of our local politicians at the city, county and state level.

  32. Anonymous

    “As a sidenote, I don’t think a council member ought to be able to vote on this kind of an issue if he or she took campaign contributions from someone who has a financial stake in this kind of project. We don’t, of course, have such laws. But, in my opinion, we ought to. (Of course, better than that, we should have publicly financed elections.)”

    This is by far the most reasonable thing I have ever known Mr. Rifkin to write. I would extend the notion to County Supervisors and state legislators, and not just to “this kind of project,” but to all projects that fall under the purview of those bodies. I don’t hold my breath for such a day to arrive, however.

    Remember the great hue and cry over Steve Gidaro’s push-polling for Harrington, Saylor and Forbes in the 2004 City Council election? Although Mr. Gidaro’s activities appear to have been legal and were allegedly done without the knowledge of the candidates, the front page of the Enterprise on the day before the election carried the image of the stern-faced politicians Puntillo, Thomson and others, protesting Mr. Gidaro’s activities. In the following term, the City Council did essentially nothing to prevent such future activities by developers or other special interests in Davis campaigns. A year later, neither Helen Thomson, Ted Puntillo, or any of the Council majority protested the questionable practices of the Covell developers in the Measure X campaign, or lamented the fact that the developers could afford to spend almost unlimited amounts of money on the campaign.

    Public disclosures of campaign contributions for recent City Council, Supervisor and Assembly elections reveal that developers, home builders and others who stand to profit from accelerated residential development plow a lot of money into these campaigns. This creates a real advantage for big-growth candidates. Keep this in mind when considering the words and actions of our local politicians at the city, county and state level.

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