The Vanguard sat down with WDAAC developer David Taormino who spoke at length about the lawsuit that has now been dismissed as of January 18, as the Vanguard reported over the weekend.
He wants to know if the opponents of Measure L violated the law by conspiring to avoid disclosing that they had either a contribution in lieu of dollars or actually made a contribution to Attorney Mark Merin.
“Those are factual questions that should be investigated,” Mr. Taormino stated.
On September 24, Samuel Ignacio filed a civil rights suit challenging whether the West Davis Active Adult Community and their Davis-Based Buyers Program adhered to fair housing law. However, on December 4, the city as well as the real party in interest, filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that the lawsuit was premature.
Mr. Taormino pointed out that the plaintiffs “voluntarily dismissed their own lawsuit. They essentially agreed that it was not appropriately filed at this time.” He said, “They’re saying that our challenge to their litigation was correct.”
Mr. Taormino added, “The lawsuit had no basis at this time.”
The original attorney for the plaintiffs was Mark Merin, who removed himself from the case without explanation on December 6 and was replaced by John McIntyre.
David Taormino said that when his attorney asked Mr. Merin why he filed the case, he explained. “I was misinformed… about the status of the action by the city council.” Mr. Taormino said that he believes “had he not been misinformed, he may not have filed the lawsuit.
“Our gut feeling is that Mr. Merin did not actually prepare the lawsuit himself,” he further explained. “Nor did his staff. That it was prepared by third parties.”
Mr. Ignacio did not live in Davis. “Then how did he learn about the project?” Mr. Taormino asked.
“We keep meticulous records of who contacts us. We respond to every one of them,” he explained. “I personally read every one of the emails we get… He never contacted us.”
They get on the waiting list in order of contacts received and so he explained, “That’s why we were very meticulous in the recording keeping, because we felt that we would never have enough supply for people.”
“When you look at the complaint and analyze the statements in the complaint, there are verbatim quotes from Rik Keller,” he said. “It’s a bit odd. Would he have quoted those in his complaint without having a discussion?”
David Taormino noted that the timing of Mark Merin’s resignation comes a few days after they filed their response – which was the December 4 motion to dismiss. Mark Merin signed the transfer of attorney power on December 6 and the transfer to John McIntyre was finalized on December 12.
“He resigned with no explanation,” Mr. Taormino stated. “He refused to comment on why he quit.”
Mr. Taormino told the Vanguard that Mr. Merin told their attorney, Mr. Boutin, that he had received a $20,000 retainer from his client to represent this case.
The question that David Taormino has is where did that retainer come from? He explained, “Mr. Ignacio, we know from our research, doesn’t have the wherewithal to come up with $20,000.”
“Where does somebody get $20,000?” he asked. “That’s the question. Who gave him $20,000? Where did they get it? Were they part of the campaign? The opposition.”
“If so,” he believes, “that needed to be disclosed by federal and state laws – that the money was spent, the purpose of which was in support of their opposition to the ordinance.”
He told the Vanguard, “There is no disclosure in Measure L’s filings that any money or any contributions in lieu of money… Those are violations of the reporting laws. The reason they exist is that the voter deserves to know and judge the motivation of people involved in the campaign.
“We think the law was violated,” he said. “Dark money being hidden from the public for nefarious purposes.
“I think the public has the right to know,” he added.
For his part, Rik Keller, a member of the No on L campaign, generally declined to respond to questions from the Vanguard, but stated, “I have not seen the lawsuit other than the summary complaint posted on-line.”
Alan Pryor, listed as the treasurer for the campaign, did not respond to an email, nor did Michael Harrington.
—David M. Greenwald reporting