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Citizens' coalition seeks city correspondence on Costco issue

'Our trust in city hall is shaken,' former Councilman Sullivan states in records request

A coalition called Pleasanton Citizens for Responsible Growth has requested records for correspondence between city officials and representatives of efforts to build a Costco membership store on Johnson Drive.

Former City Councilman Matt Sullivan, a spokesman for the organization, said the group has sent a California Public Information Act request to Pleasanton City Attorney Daniel Sodergren requesting records for correspondence between city officials and Costco representatives "regarding the development of a massive new retail center on Johnson Drive, a Costco-anchored project."

"On July 19, Mayor Jerry Thorne embarrassed the city and himself by disclosing that he owned a significant number of Costco stock shares," Sullivan stated in a press release. "For at least two years, Thorne has championed this project in Pleasanton while owning Costco stock."

The Public Information Act request further states:

“As residents and business owners of the city of Pleasanton, we are deeply disturbed by the lack of transparency and failed commitment to open public participation by Pleasanton Mayor Jerry Thorne recently regarding his ownership of Costco stock while the city considers a massive development that would insert a new Costco store on Johnson Drive.

"We wish to make this point clear:

"It appears that Mayor Thorne decided to recuse himself only after he learned that members of the public were about to reveal his conflict of interest at the July 19 council hearing on the related ballot initiative.

"Mayor Thorne has owned Costco stock for at least two years and could have recused himself at any time before now. Had citizens not been poised to expose this conflict of interest Mayor Thorne would almost certainly be managing this process still today."

“Our trust in city hall is shaken. For at least two years Jerry Thorne misled residents about his motivations.

"This raises a number of questions: How much influence does Costco have on this process? What was Jerry Thorne's role in rallying other council members to Costco's cause? Have other members of the council been misled or gulled into supporting Costco by Thorne? How has this influenced the ongoing secret negotiations between the city and Costco for taxpayer funded incentives, loans, tax breaks or other subsidies?

"Jerry Thorne opened up a can of worms with two years of his dishonesty. These questions require answers to restore a transparent and functioning democracy in Pleasanton."

Sullivan said the Pleasanton Citizens for Responsible Growth "is in no way affiliated with Citizens for Planned Growth, Bill Wheeler, or Black Tie Transportation."

This request is invoked under the California Public Records Act, which compels a local government to provide copies of requested correspondence to the public upon request.

"The California State Legislature has determined that best practices for this type of public information for this request should be completed within 10 calendar days," the press releases states.

“It is clear that Pleasanton officials deserve greater scrutiny on this issue," Sullivan said. "What is not clear is if this incident signals that city hall is just asleep at the switch or if our process has been altogether willfully compromised."

"Either way," he added, "city hall has breached trust with its constituencies. That needs to be rectified."

Sullivan said that Pleasanton Citizens for Responsible Growth is a group of residents and businesses concerned with the impact of a big-box store on Johnson Drive and is dedicated to a transparent and functioning democracy.

The organization can be reached by email at ResponsibleGrowthPleasanton@gmail.com/ or by mail at P.O. Box 1323, Pleasanton, CA 94566.

Comments

32 people like this
Posted by big tobacco, big oil, Wall Street nightmare
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 22, 2016 at 11:38 am

I find that Jerry Thorne's investments in Big Tobacco, Big Oil, nefarious Wall Street brokerage forms fined for fraud during the Global Recession/Meltdown, and Nuclear Reactors (Babcock and Wilcox) plus both Costco and Costco Wholesale extremely disturbing.

His portfolio including his investment involving the cigarette industry are all available on the State website called Fair Political Practices Commission. Look under the Form 700 search.

He should resign before he brings anymore damage to this city. I think this type of insider wheeling and dealing is in a word disgusting.


11 people like this
Posted by Jeff
a resident of Valley View Elementary School
on Aug 22, 2016 at 12:51 pm

This reads like a press release from your typical Bernie-Bot, which is exactly what it is.


59 people like this
Posted by Vinelander
a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Aug 22, 2016 at 1:19 pm

Let's not over react people. All those that are voicing their disapproval over this Costco affair are directly affected. Bill Wheeler because he owns Black Tie next door, the Shell station on Hopyard because they want to continue selling over priced gasoline, Matt Sullivan because he lives nearby. For once, let's think about the benefits to the entire City of Pleasanton. Using the naysayers logic we would have no car dealerships in the city. Car dealerships that generate huge sales taxes to city coffers.


24 people like this
Posted by What a mess
a resident of Del Prado
on Aug 22, 2016 at 2:05 pm

Arne Olsen's form 700 has a lump sum of stock holdings called simply Personal Investments and he fails to disclose to the state and people any of the business entities in which he holds a financial interest.

Jerry Thorne participated in govt decisions for a corporate entity for which he holds not one but two sets of financial interests. He must resign. Elected officials participating in govt decisions in which they hold a financial interest is illegal.


26 people like this
Posted by Bob A.
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 22, 2016 at 2:20 pm

Bob A. is a registered user.

This Coalition of Citizens has nothing to do with the Initiative Group or Bill Wheeler.

They are seeking TRANSPARENCY.

Since April of 2014, City Leaders including Mayor Thorne have been meeting regarding Costco. We deserve to know what has been promised and what influence special interests have played, including the Chamber of Commerce which is funded by major corporations and developers.


16 people like this
Posted by Pleasanton Parent
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Aug 22, 2016 at 3:01 pm

Pleasanton Parent is a registered user.

No, it's a witch hunt. Put the focus on what a fair/equitable deal is. Instead of an email review, formatting a coalition on structuring the deal that makes sense for Pleasanton to get costco.

Pulling for communication records gets this decision on the best Pleasanton solution nowhere.


26 people like this
Posted by Lisa S.
a resident of Stoneridge
on Aug 22, 2016 at 5:01 pm

Lisa S. is a registered user.

TRANSPARENCY??

1) City officials first meet with Nearon/ Costco April 2014
2) Less than 50 notices sent to homeowners and businesses of proposed JDEDZ, Iincluding "club retail"
3) Only 2 townhall meetings. First: October, 2015. Second: November 2015. Packed. All spoke against Costco.
4) Nearon says at a special Chamber of Commerce Meeting "Costco is Here"on January 13, 2016
5) City Council and City Manager repeatedly asked for transparency on negotiations with Costco since November 2015; nothing!
6) First Council Meeting April 12, 2016 - attended by 250 people. 90% of speakers against Costco. Council votes to move forward with Costco approval (42 emails and letters against Costco)
7) Mayor Thorne admits Costco stock ownership, recuses himself, July 19, 2016. Council votes to write the ballot arguments in favor of Costco. Council orders new study.
8) Campaign Manager for Mayor Thorne attempts a coverup, July 22 in a Pleasanton Weekly blog.
9) Council meeting regarding new study (which was funded by the developer), August 16, 2016. Initiative consultant analysis disregarded.
10) Ballot arguments in favor of Costco written and signed by 2 Council Members and Mayor Thorne's Campaign Manager, August 18

REQUEST OF RECORDS? YES.


20 people like this
Posted by res1
a resident of Birdland
on Aug 22, 2016 at 8:14 pm

res1 is a registered user.

While I am not defending Thorne, I think the press release exaggerates when it says that "owned a significant number of Costco stock shares." He has between $2,000 and $20,000 in Costco stock. That is not significant. Not saying it should be ignored but I do not like it when people greatly exaggerates things. It just makes you look bad.

The 700 form was quite sloppy in that there are at least two companies listed twice in he disclosure; Costco and Walt Disney. So not sure if it is repeated accidentally or multiple accounts and he could not figure out how to add the two numbers.

I was also taken aback from the posting above indicating that Thorne's campaign manager signed the ballot arguments for Costco after Thorne was not allowed to do so for a conflict of interest. That is still a conflict of interest and minimally shows bad judgement. He is using his position to push Costco. Having his campaign manager sign it shows that he does not get it. I just lost some respect for him. First asking the City Attorney if he could sell his Costco holdings that he had since 2012, or before, so he could vote and advocate for Costco, and then having his campaign manager sign the ballot arguments. What is he thinking? Nobody pushes things that hard unless there is something else going on that we do not know about.

And then politicians wonder why the public does not trust them. Looks like part of the brain dies after somebody serves a couple of terms in office.

As for the city document request, you should ask them for all 700 forms since Thorne was first on the Council. Wonder what else we might see?


15 people like this
Posted by Lisa
a resident of Alisal Elementary School
on Aug 22, 2016 at 10:16 pm

Lisa is a registered user.

Dont we ALL or most of us have stocks in our 401k or have personal investments??? And (the other) Lisa outlines some but not all of the public meetings and notices about the planning process. Except there was additional notifications and meetings about the EIR. Hardly a covert process. I think you can get involved and have input regarding your position without mis-aligning people over what sounds like trumped up accusations. And I meant that PUN as well.


26 people like this
Posted by Lisa S.
a resident of Stoneridge
on Aug 22, 2016 at 10:41 pm

Lisa S. is a registered user.

I love what res1 said about Mayor Thorne : " Nobody pushes things that hard unless there is something else going on that we do not know about."

AGREE!


13 people like this
Posted by hoops
a resident of Mohr Park
on Aug 23, 2016 at 11:09 am

hoops is a registered user.

Gosh....What can one say.So the mayor owns some Costco stock like millions of other people.To think that has anything to do with this reflects total ignorance of the stock market and how opening a new Costco in Pleasanton would effect his stock value.
This whole issue is simply one of self interest by people like black tie limo acting like their motive is what is good for Pleasanton instead of their selfish self interest. [Removed because it was off topic]


5 people like this
Posted by Rick1
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 23, 2016 at 12:05 pm

Rick1 is a registered user.

Suggesting the mayor resign for owning stock of companies you don't along with accusing him taking an action based on what I calculate to be around 50 shares of stock is over the top. while I don't always agree with the council's decision and have spoken in opposition to their decisions, I respect their willingness to serve. I wouldn't want to be in their shoes in what is becoming a decided unPleasanton like place. Any chance of toning down the personal attacks and focusing on the issues


19 people like this
Posted by JJ
a resident of Walnut Grove Elementary School
on Aug 23, 2016 at 12:13 pm

JJ is a registered user.

Hoops,
It is my understanding that this coalition is a separate group, and not tied to Black Tie.

Requesting public records on a 2- 21/2 year project, which in my opinion, has lacked transparency is not uncommon and good for the City. The City has been through this before. The City Manager and Mayor have both been repeatedly asked for details of negotiations with Costco ; they have been denied. This coalition's request will help determine if there are problems. It's not a bad thing.

Owning stock is not the issue for Mayor Thorne. Owning stock in Costco and continuing to participate in the outcome of the City's the decisions on the issue -- this is against FPPC rules and laws.

Let's hope for the best for our City.


77 people like this
Posted by Val
a resident of Val Vista
on Aug 23, 2016 at 1:06 pm

Val is a registered user.

I agree! Why all the whining? The request for documents may clear people; or, it may show improprieties. We don't know.
This new coalition has done us a favor.
Our leaders cannot operate effectively under suspicion. Lets clear them, or get rid of them!

We also need to make sure that deals are not influenced by special interests with secret committees. My personal opinion is that our elected officials answer more to the Chamber of Commerce than to us. Attending meetings, speaking, sending emails, writing letters does no good when the decision has already been made. The Chamber hosted a meeting in January. Nearon said "Costco is here!" This was 3 months before the first "public" Council meeting.


11 people like this
Posted by JJ
a resident of Walnut Grove Elementary School
on Aug 25, 2016 at 1:23 pm

JJ is a registered user.

Tim Hunt gives a blog on this subject. Interesting reading -- but, lacks investigative reporting.

Web Link


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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