They are the crème de crème of San Diego business and political society, giving hundreds of thousands of dollars to both Democrats and Republicans, and in turn receiving development permits for hundreds of upscale apartment units from a pliant city council.
The family patriarch, Zygi Wilf, runs the Minnesota Vikings, and engineered a controversial taxpayer-funded covered stadium for the team in Minneapolis.
They have been accused of fraud in an infamous down-and-dirty legal battle with ex-partners in New Jersey, and the FBI continues the search for alleged eco-terrorists who burned their University City units to the ground in August 2003.
Now, an associate by marriage of the super-rich Wilf clan of Short Hills, New Jersey is dead, accused of a mass shooting at the family-built La Jolla Crossroads apartment complex on Judicial Drive near the University Town Center mall.
It had been rebuilt after 2003's torching and expanded in the face of fierce resistance from neighborhood critics.
Police say they shot to death 49-year-old Peter Selis following his killing spree during a Sunday evening, April 30 birthday party being held around the swimming pool at the posh complex that left a woman dead and seven others wounded, some critically.
Armed with a semi-automatic pistol, Selis, reportedly a resident of the development, lounged in a chair, drinking beer as he fired multiple rounds at the party-goers.
"This is truly a horrific act of violence that took place here today," San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer said at a hastily called news conference. "Our entire city, all of our thoughts and prayers, all San Diegans' thoughts and prayers, are with the victims and their families tonight."
Whether the mayor knew it or not, the tragedy touches some of his and city hall’s most prolific political givers, including the alleged killer himself, who, identified by records as an employee of Drew Ford, gave $250 to the city attorney campaign of Republican then-city councilman, currently state Assemblyman Brian Maienschein, on April 16, 2008.
Michelle Selis, listed as a property manager with CB Richard Ellis, and Eve Selis Gulotta, a singer at All About Eve, kicked in $250 the same day. Five Wilf family members, including two from New Jersey, contributed a total of $1530 to Maienschein’s campaign over the same period.
That year, Garden Communities was seeking development permits for thousands of units at Casa Mira View in the councilman’s district.
San Diego’s Superior Court index show Michelle Selis filed for a legal separation from Peter Selis in August 2008, and published accounts say they were subsequently divorced.
According to her LinkedIn profile, Michelle Selis is currently Real Estate Sales and Marketing Director at the Wilf family-run Garden Communities in La Jolla, which owns the La Jolla Crossroads development.
Peter Selis was one of eight children of Mission Valley dentist Robert Selis, according to the elder Selis's May 10, 2009 paid obituary in the San Diego Union-Tribune. Among Peter's sisters, the obit says, are Eve Selis-Gulotta and Lee Posnock identified in other accounts as wife of Garden Communities CEO and Wilf family intimate Stuart Posnock, who with other Posnock family members has given a total of $134,090 to San Diego city political campaigns since 2007, per city records.
Stuart Posnock gave a total of $106,220, including $55,000 to the GOP Lincoln Club, and $14,000 for Republican mayor Faulconer. Andrea Lee Posnock is listed second with $19,160; Frieda Posnock of Monroe Township, New Jersey, gave $4230.
During the 2001 mayoral campaign of Republican Dick Murphy, multiple Wilf family members residing in New Jersey were listed on Murphy's campaign disclosure reports as "retired," obscuring their affiliation with the big developer.
They included Joseph Wilf of Hillside, New Jersey; Leonard Wilf of Short Hills, New Jersey; Zygmunt Wilf of Springfield, New Jersey; Scott Loventhal of Livingston, New Jersey; Mario Dudzinski of Pinebrook, New Jersey; and Joseph Korn of Basking Ridge, New Jersey.
Garden Communities representatives did not return phone calls inquiring about whether the donors had given their own money and not been reimbursed. Reached by phone at his New Jersey residence, a man who identified himself as Joseph Wilf was asked why he had contributed to the San Diego mayor's race.
"My interest? Actually, I am not used to giving interviews on the telephone," Wilf said. ‘It's kind of unusual. Our name is known in the San Diego area. Why should I respond on the phone? I have no information. My contribution was a few hundred dollars."
Asked whether he had attempted to influence the city council on behalf of Garden Communities, he said, "Of course not. I'm involved in different things, but again, I cannot respond on the phone if somebody calls me up. My contribution is mine. I don't think this is necessary. It's only a few hundred dollars. I don't want to hear any assumptions. I won't respond no matter how many times you ask me. I think the conversation went far enough. I'm going to finish the conversation right now. I don't want to speak to you anymore."
Mario Dudzinski, a Garden Cities employee from New Jersey, denied he had been reimbursed by the Wilfs for his contribution. "I'm very civic-minded, just leave it at that."
Political money-giving has long been a modus operandi for Garden Communities and the Wilf family. In October 2013, the New York Observer quoted John Marty, a Minnesota state senator critical of the public financing of the Wilf's proposed Vikings stadium, as saying, "during the 2006 election, the Wilf family gave $20,000 to the Minnesota DFL Party and $20,000 to the Republican Party. The Wilfs gave $10,000 to the DFL legislative caucuses and $12,000 to the Republican ones. They gave $5,000 to Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty and $5,000 to Mike Hatch, his DFL challenger.”