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.