By Steve Kubby, candidate for South Lake Tahoe City Council. Kubby was the 1998 Libertarian candidate for Governor of California, 2000 and 2008 runner up for the party’s Vice Presidential nomination, and sought its presidential nomination in 2008.
Dear South Lake Tahoe City Council,
Last week the Tahoe Daily Tribune published a compelling narrative about the bombing of Harvey’s Casino thirty years ago. Today the South Lake Tahoe City Council will be discussing an even more devastating event that destroyed 44 businesses, demolished 577 rooms, left a12 acre crater of decaying concrete, and has saddled the City with several serious lawsuits.
That enormous Crater, euphemistically called “The Hole,” has been here for three years and shows little hope of going away soon. Instead, it serves as an obscene reminder of what the 19 distinguished members of the El Dorado Grand Jury called a “dysfunctional” City Council.
For his role in blowing up Harvey’s, John Birges spent the rest of his life in prison. For their role in creating an even more devastating economic implosion that left us with a painfully ugly, 12 acre eyesore, the City Council has been allowed to stay in office and held harmless for their misdeeds. Yet the questions remain and we have yet to receive any answers:
–Why wasn’t a performance bond required that would have ensured that the City had funds to fix The Crater?
–Why was The Crater deal signed first by then Mayor Hal Cole, instead of complying with the contract and forcing the developer to sign first?
–What has been the economic consequence of demolishing 44 businesses and 577 rooms to create The Crater?
–What has been the environmental impact of transforming 12 acres of thriving businesses into a mountain of toxic urban rubble?
–Why, after all these years, are all the different properties that make up The Crater still unconsolidated?
–Why are the TOT funds, that were supposed to easily cover the cost of paying off the redevelopment bond, which totals a staggering $200 million in principal and interest, only covering 50% of that cost?
–Why is the Garage hemorrhaging $136,291 per year?
One thing is for sure. The real reason that this huge crater can’t be fixed, is because the City never required a performance bond. Yet on July 10. 2006 the public was told by then Mayor Hal Cole, who also served as the agency board chairman, “The developer is assuming all the risk.”
Given that the City ended up with an enormous crater and no funds to fix it, Mr. Cole’s comment was not only false and deceptive, it has created an unacceptable level of mistrust in our City Council. So it’s no wonder that the El Dorado Grand Jury report specifically states the public believes the council “operates at an inconsistent and barely functional level,” is “incapable of maintaining confidences,” “operates in an atmosphere of intimidation,” is “frequently distracted from important city business by personal feuds” and is “bush league.”
The Grand Jury was also quite clear about Councilman Bruce Grego. Here is what the Grand Jury had to say about Mr. Grego and the $935.50 that was paid to him:
“A member of the City Council requested reimbursement for legal fees paid to an outside law firm. The legal advice consisted of a legal opinion and preparation of a letter to the Fair Political Practices Commission. No contract had been signed and the City Council had not approved the expenditure in advance. The City Manager stated that he gave verbal approval for the expenditure. California State Law clearly states that government contracts for payment may not be backdated. All unusual expenditures should be approved in open session. The City’s Purchasing Policy and Procedure Manual calls for the presence of written contracts when professional services are sought, and makes no provision for payment and reimbursement absent the presence of a contract.”
Clearly, the Grand Jury has made a finding that Mr. Grego’s reimbursement was in violation of California State Law, yet Mr. Grego continues to insist he did nothing wrong and refuses to return the money.
In an Editorial dated July 28, 2010, the Tahoe Tribune said, “The City Council’s response to the critical and scathing El Dorado Grand Jury report is embarrassing and disheartening.”
The editorial then went on to point out that instead of accepting responsibility, the City Council adopted a response that was peppered with the phrases: “the city does not agree in part with the finding,” “the city agrees and does not agree in part,” and “the city does not completely agree with the statement,” among others.
That didn’t fly with the Tribune, which reminded the City Council and the citizens of South Lake Tahoe, “The first step to solving a problem is admitting to having one.”
Unfortunately, neither the City Council, nor Mr. Cole, nor Mr. Grego are willing to admit they have a problem and continue to insist that we should ignore the Grand Jury Report and trust them instead.
But the 19 distinguished members of the El Dorado Grand Jury, as well as the citizens of South Lake Tahoe have learned that they cannot trust the City Council, especially if Mr. Cole and Mr. Grego are allowed to remain on the Council. In fact, the Grand Jury concludes its report with a stern warning: “This Grand Jury is of the opinion that an accusation for malfeasance or nonfeasance by this City Council may be appropriate…The Grand Jury only touched the ‘tip of the iceberg’ in its investigation and recommends that the citizens of South Lake Tahoe get involved with their City government. It is up to the citizens to establish the kind of governance they desire, to exercise their democratic right to vote, and get a City government that works for the common good and in an efficient manner for its citizens”
Clearly, the time has come for Mr. Cole and Mr. Grego to do the right thing and resign immediately.
That’s right, resign now and help us make way for a new City Council that can begin the long journey towards restoring trust and credibility with the citizens of South Lake Tahoe.
Let freedom grow,