The Voice of OC is reporting that Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido voted for a $1.35-million no-bid city contract with a local auto parts firm just over a year after he and members of his family purchased a home from the store owner for $230,000 less than its fair market value.
As usual when the VOC attacks Pulido you have to dig a little deeper to figure out how contrived these attacks are. I spoke to Mayor Pulido and he was happy to explain what happened.
The lot that his dad traded to the local auto parts firm, NAPA Orange County Auto Parts, sits next to their location and they badly wanted it so they could expand their business. They were able to negotatiate a creative deal that involved the trade of a home in Wesminster for the lot. As Pulido explained, this was all done in a trust account.
The same auto parts company bid to sell auto parts to the City of Santa Ana. This was an idea that the Public Works director came up with in order to save the city money. The item was part of the City Council’s Consent Calendar and the entire City Council voted for this unanimously. In hindsight Pulido agrees that perhaps he should have abstained but because there was no debate on this and he was not involved in the lot swap deal, he did not do so.
The fact is that if you were to ask the City’s purchasing department they would be happy to confirm that Pulido did not talk to them about this agenda item. Nor do any of the Council Members recall that he pushed for this – that is because he didn’t!
Of course several of the Council Members, including Michele Martinez, Vince Sarmiento and David Benavides ripped Pulido in the VOC article.
But you know what all this reminds me of? Do you recall when Martinez, Benavides and Council Member Sal Tinajero got busted for accepting campaign contributions but voted on the Station District project anyway? Here is what happened, according to the O.C. Register:
Records show that the developers – Griffin Realty and Related California – gave Martinez $500 and Mayor Miguel Pulido $2,000 in the months before that vote. Pulido returned $1,000 and abstained from the vote on the Station District project.
Records also show that Tinajero received $2,500 a few weeks before the vote from agents of a real-estate company called Voit. As part of the vote on the Station District, the city agreed to pay Voit up to $22,350 in real-estate brokerage fees for its work on the project.
City law says council members cannot participate in any vote that would have a “material f.inancial effect” on a campaign contributor who gave $250 or more in the previous 12 months. That appears to disqualify Tinajero and Martinez from the Station District vote, although City Attorney Joseph Fletcher did not return phone calls and e-mails seeking comment.
After a vote, city law also prohibits council members for three months from taking $250 or more from anyone who had a financial stake in the outcome. Records show that Martinez received $2,000 from the development team, its agents and its architect within a month of the vote.
Councilman David Benavides also received $500 in the month after the vote from a company called Empire Building. Business records show it is affiliated with – and managed under – Voit.
Martinez and Tinajero had to give back those campaign contributions.
So what about Pulido? The City Attorney is looking into all of this and I expect that there will be a statement released on Monday, clearing Pulido of any wrongdoing.
The VOC writer, Adam Elmahrek, has done this to Pulido before – when he ripped him last year with a crazed article that no other paper picked up, that was essentially a hatchet job on Pulido’s kids. In that article Elmahrek admitted to stalking them on Facebook. Nice.
Why does the VOC have it in for Pulido? Simple. A few years ago a career politician named Tom Umberg ran for the First Supervisorial District, with the support of Nick Berardino, the head of the OCEA – the powerful Orange County Employee’s Association. Pulido ended up backing his colleague Carlos Bustamante (this was before Bustamante got arrested for hanky panky at his workplace, the County of Orange). I think Pulido was just trying to get Bustamante off the City Council.
Well Berardino didn’t like it and when Umberg and Busty lost to Janet Nguyen, of course Berardino blamed Pulido. But you might recall that Umberg got caught cheating on his wife during that campaign. He cost himself the victory. And in an ironic twist Berardino ended up siding with Nguyen in a crucial recount and this year it came out that he was secretly funding her campaigns via a mysterious Political Action Committee. She has since returned the money now that she is running for the 34th State Senate District and her party, the OC GOP, frowns on union money.
Berardino and his union by the way started the VOC with a huge contribution.
Beyond that there is one more grudge to tally up. Former State Senator Joe Dunn is on the VOC’s board of directors. He hates Pulido too. A few years ago, from what I recall, Dunn tried to move the O.C. Court of Appeals to Irvine. Pulido put a stop to that, rightly figuring that Santa Ana could not afford to lose all those jobs. So Dunn, who is now a lobbyist in Sacramento, hates Pulido too.
So you can expect these stupid attacks on Pulido to continue. What you should not expect is for the VOC to set the record straight or at all treat Pulido fairly. That is pretty sad for what is supposed to be a legitimate news organization.