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Chula Vista Ethics Meeting Draws Mayor and Three Police

Chula Vista City Council members Pamela Bensoussan and Rudy Ramirez accepted campaign donations from developer Integral Communities.
Chula Vista City Council members Pamela Bensoussan and Rudy Ramirez accepted campaign donations from developer Integral Communities.

An unprecedented board of ethics meeting took place in Chula Vista on October 24. The audience — which came to the hearing regarding a complaint filed against council member Pamela Bensoussan — was so large that the meeting had to be moved to the council chambers. More unusual than that, mayor Cheryl Cox and three police officers showed up.

In early October, Crossroads II member Peter Watry filed a complaint against Bensoussan for voting “yes” on a controversial change to the city’s general plan; it allows the developer, Integral Communities, to build 284 condo/rental units in eastern Chula Vista. Crossroads II is a community group that organized to address land-use issues.

In the months leading up to the September vote, Bensoussan, who is up for reelection in November, accepted $1900 in donations from principals and family members of Integral Communities. (The most recent campaign contribution filing shows Bensoussan accepted an additional $1200 from Integral principals or family members six days after the disputed vote.)

Watry argued that it is common to see campaign contributions from developers such as McMillin or Baldwin — developers that have been active in Chula Vista for 20 years; their contributions can’t be tied to a single vote on a project. He pointed out that the Lake Pointe project is the only project Integral Communites has in the city at this time.

In an October 28 interview, Watry reiterated, “There is no other conceivable reason why this out-of-town developer would make these contributions.”

An October 25 U-T article about the ethics meeting said Watry interrupted and demanded the removal of deputy city attorney Simon Silva.

Watry countered the report by saying his “interruptions” were in accordance with Robert’s Rules of Order as he pointed out to the board that the residents of Chula Vista approved Proposition C last June. The proposition, which is in the process of becoming an ordinance, provides for an independent counsel at ethics meetings, not a potentially conflicted city attorney.

Watry said he was “stunned” to see three police officers at the meeting.

On the other side of the complaint, planning commissioner Mike Spethman argued that every council member has taken money from developers. In an October 28 email, he noted that council member Rudy Ramirez also took money from Integral Communities but was not included included in the complaint.

Ultimately, the board voted 5-1 to dismiss the complaint. Deputy city attorney Silva told the assembled group that the California Fair Political Practices Commission does not consider campaign donations a gift.

During the rancorous discussion, Todd Glanz, a board member, was repeatedly asked to step down because he is a Crossroads II member.

“I was shocked by the ad hominem attacks,” said Glanz. “At one point I was even called a 'misfit.'"

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Chula Vista City Council members Pamela Bensoussan and Rudy Ramirez accepted campaign donations from developer Integral Communities.
Chula Vista City Council members Pamela Bensoussan and Rudy Ramirez accepted campaign donations from developer Integral Communities.

An unprecedented board of ethics meeting took place in Chula Vista on October 24. The audience — which came to the hearing regarding a complaint filed against council member Pamela Bensoussan — was so large that the meeting had to be moved to the council chambers. More unusual than that, mayor Cheryl Cox and three police officers showed up.

In early October, Crossroads II member Peter Watry filed a complaint against Bensoussan for voting “yes” on a controversial change to the city’s general plan; it allows the developer, Integral Communities, to build 284 condo/rental units in eastern Chula Vista. Crossroads II is a community group that organized to address land-use issues.

In the months leading up to the September vote, Bensoussan, who is up for reelection in November, accepted $1900 in donations from principals and family members of Integral Communities. (The most recent campaign contribution filing shows Bensoussan accepted an additional $1200 from Integral principals or family members six days after the disputed vote.)

Watry argued that it is common to see campaign contributions from developers such as McMillin or Baldwin — developers that have been active in Chula Vista for 20 years; their contributions can’t be tied to a single vote on a project. He pointed out that the Lake Pointe project is the only project Integral Communites has in the city at this time.

In an October 28 interview, Watry reiterated, “There is no other conceivable reason why this out-of-town developer would make these contributions.”

An October 25 U-T article about the ethics meeting said Watry interrupted and demanded the removal of deputy city attorney Simon Silva.

Watry countered the report by saying his “interruptions” were in accordance with Robert’s Rules of Order as he pointed out to the board that the residents of Chula Vista approved Proposition C last June. The proposition, which is in the process of becoming an ordinance, provides for an independent counsel at ethics meetings, not a potentially conflicted city attorney.

Watry said he was “stunned” to see three police officers at the meeting.

On the other side of the complaint, planning commissioner Mike Spethman argued that every council member has taken money from developers. In an October 28 email, he noted that council member Rudy Ramirez also took money from Integral Communities but was not included included in the complaint.

Ultimately, the board voted 5-1 to dismiss the complaint. Deputy city attorney Silva told the assembled group that the California Fair Political Practices Commission does not consider campaign donations a gift.

During the rancorous discussion, Todd Glanz, a board member, was repeatedly asked to step down because he is a Crossroads II member.

“I was shocked by the ad hominem attacks,” said Glanz. “At one point I was even called a 'misfit.'"

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Comments
14

Pay To Play is obviously alive and well in Chula Vista. You would think that this would be illegal. Taking "campaign money" from an out of town investor just prior to and after a vote on a major project involving that same developer, I don't see how the correlation between the two can be ignored. What other reason for the "gift", I mean "contribution", can be given. Really, do you truthfully think people are that stupid?

Oct. 28, 2012

Everybody takes contributions from developers, soooo it must be okay....no ethical issues here. Wonder how Mr. Planning Commissioner voted on this project?

Oct. 29, 2012

Talk about entrenched patterns of corrupt behavior, which means that civic "leaders" can negotiate end around maneuvers and get whatever they want.

Why treat your citizens this way unless you have complete contempt for them. It looks like the Sweetwater majority board and Ed Brand all over again.

Nauseating.

Oct. 29, 2012

The motivation of these Lake Pointe developers is obvious. When is the last time they, or their family members got involved financially or otherwise in Chula Vista's politics? Give us a break! Hopefully they will see that we're not stupid at all when we cast our votes in November.

Oct. 29, 2012

Standing up for what you believe has never been easy in Chula Vista. I personally have been in awe of the Watry's and certain members of Crossroads II for years; don't always agree with them, but they have my respect. These folks are not paid bureaucrats nor professional politicians, rather they are old time Chula Vistans that have a right to have their voices heard without being intimidated by a Mayor who feels she needs armed officers present to influence her neighbors.

Recently, Mayor Cox berated Chula Vistans that disagreed with a City Hall decision to change an existing land use plan; called them names; now this.

I have one question for you that are reading this post, how many of you voted for Cheryl Cox?

Remember, people deserve what they vote for!

Oct. 29, 2012

sour grapes comes to mind Bob

Nov. 18, 2012

Let's take a look at another interesting 'arrangement' and subsequent voting by Pamela Bensoussan. After 'gifting' the Chula Vista Chamber of Commerce an annual handsome sum of TOT reveunue (transportation and hotel occupancy tax) money to 'market' the city to visitors, the stakeholders of the hotel/motel owners group voted to stop the funding after it was learned that nearly all of it went to subsidize, supplant, executive salaries at the Chamber. Pamela Bensoussan and Mayor Cox voted AGAINST removing the subsidy. Hmmmm....now take a look at the Chamber's website and you will see (such a surprise) that the Chamber endorsed Bensossan over her opponent in the upcoming City Council election in November. (They also endorsed two candidates for another seat, which means at least the Chamber Board evaluated their positions on business and found both of them worthy --- they did not take sides in that race.) IF the Chamber WERE an independent organization funded by member's dues and other non-public sources, that body arguably has the right to endorse whomever they please (with the caveat that members of the Chamber Board who are paid by public entities should abstain from discussing or voting on any endorsement because their memberships are paid with public $$$ and they should therefore be neutral.) But, we have seen that the Chamber has NOT BEEN an independent organization, taking city $$$ to supplant their operational costs. Now that the City has decided to stop the 'gift' of City monies to the Chamber for nebulous 'city marketing efforts' (it would be interesting to find out when the city/TOT money stops flowing), we should be vigilant to make sure that pipeline is not opened again in the future.

Oct. 29, 2012

Something very positive has come out of all this--the community is uniting.

Oct. 29, 2012

Very true! There are large swaths of the population on the western end of the city who are sick and tired of Pamela blatantly being a part of the bipartisan corruption as well. Remember to canvass and speak to people in areas outside of your precinct as well. It is going to be a close battle.

Oct. 29, 2012

Pamela Bensoussan must be run out of office. This factual and well-written editorial says it all.

http://laprensa-sandiego.org/editorial-and-commentary/editorial/breitfelder-is-a-better-fit-for-chula-vista-than-bensoussan/

Oct. 29, 2012

ElVikingo: with all due respect "Laprensa" is also calling for the taxpayers of the south bay to re elect quinones for the sweetwater board - REALLY???????? guess they failed to read the words typed by quinones' own hand - "i take care of/support those who take care of/support me" (paraphrase)

when are we going to start paying more attention to THE PERSON and less attention to THE PARTY?

Oct. 30, 2012

anniej: I never said that La Prensa was a perfect paper. This editorial though does indicate an awakening. The UT also has done plenty of zingers out of partisanship, and I think it says a lot when a paper like La Prensa withdraws its partisan endorsement of one candidate and writes an entire article listing the reasons.

Oct. 31, 2012

Greg and Cheryl Cox/Chula Vista Chamber of Commerce are playing Chula Vista for fools. Check out the contributions to the Chamber who paid for the letter endorsing Pamela Bensoussan and against Proposition "C" (district elections). SICKENING!

http://sdvote.net/CFD_Web_Images/2012/938/00293820121026F14.pdf

Oct. 29, 2012

:( It is amazing how the left and the right find a way to meet to agree on tyranny. Luckily, the rest of the council bucked Bensoussan and Cox and decided to end the theft of money from the hotel industry by the Chamber of Commerce. The funds were mainly being used to beef up the Chamber's staff with a very small part going toward marketing.

This should be a lesson learned by the hotel industry and individual hotel owners. Get together on your own to market. Don't trust the government to designate a tax and an advocate on your behalf.

This is the concept that voters who identify with two major parties should realize. Being backed by unions doesn't mean good for the common man, and being backed by the Chamber of Commerce doesn't mean good for business and job growth. Pam is backed by both, and she happens to be just terrible on both fronts.

Larry Breitfelder Navas 2012!

Oct. 30, 2012

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