Have Money, Will Vote: How Carlos Bustamante Pays Back Donors

carlos_bustamante.jpg Part dos of 3...

Every day, we drive by City Place, the unfinished development across the street from MainPlace Mall with cool live/work lofts and horrid restaurants (seriously: McCormick & Schmidt's and Corner Bakery as the anchor tenants??? Can't wait 'til Mother's Market opens to save us from that crap). And every day, we're reminded that SanTana councilmembers stricken with conflict-of-influenza sometimes do learn.

Consider Claudia Alvarez. Activists were furious with Claudia in 2004 after declaring her intention to vote on the 37-story skyscraper One Broadway Plaza despite receiving thousands of dollars in donations from developer Mike Harrah for her failed State Assembly race. Alvarez and city attorney Joseph Fletcher said she wasn't in violation of SanTana's conflict-of-interest laws because they claimed it only applied to city elections even though the statute states no such explicit distinction: Section 425 of the SanTana Municipal Code identifies a conflict of interest as occurring if someone "has made campaign contributions totaling two hundred fifty dollars ($250.00) or more to the councilmember or to any (emphasis mine) campaign committee controlled by the councilmember in the twelve-month period immediately preceding the date of the decision."

The California attorney general eventually allowed Alvarez to vote, but only because she was "no longer subject to disqualification" by the time the SanTana City Council approved the project more than a year after Harrah's donation. But Claudia learned: on Feb. 22, 2005, when the SanTana City Council voted on the City Place project, she left just before the measure passed because people associated with the project contributed about $27,000 to her State Assembly campaign within the 12-month conflict-of-interest period.

Too bad Claudia didn't teach such ethical manners to fellow councilmember Carlos Bustamante.

Yesterday, Bustamante voted in favor of granting developers a $9 million loan to develop low-income housing. We noted how those developers ingeniously donated money to Bustamante's failed First Supervisorial District run last year without breaking SanTana's conflict-of-interest laws. But during 2007, Bustamante gladly voted on projects and contracts involving his Supervisorial donors within the twelve-month period outlined by SanTana's municipal charter as being in the conflict-of-interest zone:

*The Year of Giving started on Jan. 2, when Bustamante voted to reward SC Fuels a $325,000 contract. 18 days later, SC Fuels CEO Frank P. Greinke donated $1,000 to Bustamante.

*Angelique K. Tucker Stephens is a government relations manager for T-Mobile. On Dec. 18, 2006, Bustamante voted to approve a cell phone tower for T-Mobile. Stephens gave Bustamante $1,000 on Feb. 1, 2007. On Nov. 5, Bustamante voted to allow T-Mobile to build a cellular tower in SanTana. On July 2, he approved a wireless facility for the company, just as he would on Dec. 3. And how's that T-mobile cell antennae you okayed on June 4 buzzing, Carlos?

*Bustamante voted for the rezoning of land near the SanTana-Tustin border on April 2, along with plans for a high-rise on the lot. The developer for that property is NDC Development, a subsidiary of Capital Pacific Holdings, which also counts Makar Properties (owners of the St. Regis Resort) in its family. Makar CEO Paul Makarechian gave $1,500 on Dec. 22, 2006, the same day Capital Pacific Holdings also donated $1,500. Hell, even the poor St. Regis manager forked over $100.

*On June 18, LSA Associates won a contract to do studies for SanTana's Planning Department--and all it cost to earn Bustamante's vote was $250. That same day, Bustamante also voted to allow Waste Management to increase its garbage fees. They gave Carlos $1,500 on Feb. 14, 2007.

*Townsend Public Affairs does PR work for SanTana. On July 2, the City Council unanimously rewarded them with a $60,000 contract. Townsend Public Affairs also does work for Bustamante, SanTana councilmembers David Benavides and Michelle Martinez, and Mayor Miguel "El Caudillo" Pulido. But only Bustamante received a $1,500 donation from TPA president Christopher Townsend on Dec. 22, 2006.

*On August 20, Bustamante motioned a vote to grant Ingardia Brothers Produce a loan of at least $2.5 million; the motion passed. Those Ingardia Brothers are cheapskates--they only gave Bustamante $250 on Dec. 30, 2006.

*That same day, Bustamante motioned for a vote to vacate Sycamore Street between Washington Avenue and Tenth Street. That stretch passes through buildings owned by mega-developer Mike Harrah and is right next to an empty lot where Harrah wants to build his phallic One Broadway Plaza. His Caribou Industries donated $1,500 to Bustamante's campaign on Dec. 4, 2006.

*On Nov. 5, Bustamante helped pass a consent calendar that, amongst other projects, approved the inclusion of Kelly's Body Shop amongst various auto-repair businesses to fix vehicles for SanTana. Kelly's Body Shop CEO Benjamin Mendoza donated $1,000 to Bustamante's campaign on Jan. 7, 2007.

*On Dec. 3, Bustamante voted in favor of granting a two-year contract to Parking Concepts, Inc. to manage city parking lots. Parking Concepts donated $1,500 to Bustamante on Jan. 18, 2007.

*But by far, the most egregious cases of Bustamante pleasing his sugar papis involve R.J. Noble. On January 2, 2007, the SanTana City Council awarded R.J. Noble a $1.78 million contract to "rehabilitate" McFadden and Edinger avenues. Two more contracts came Noble's way on May 21 and July 2, 2007--$1.04 million and $2.7 million . Bustamante voted in those three votes but finally abstained on a Oct. 1, 2007 vote awarding R.J. Noble another nice contract--this one $1.48 million--because of "possible business conflict," although he didn't specify what it was. Regardless, R.J. Noble sure got a good return on its $1,500 Bustamante investment on Dec. 16, 2006, ¿qué no?

For those of you playing at home, that's $14,000 Bustamante accepted from donors on whose projects he voted on less than 12 months after the transaction. Anyone have a good number for the FPPC handy?

Part 3 of this series comes tomorrow morning--tune in! And por favor do leave comments below!

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