Probation Department Lease – a Result of Insider Dealings
5/24/14 – About 3 months ago, the Banning Informer broke the story that the Riverside County Probation Department was set to become the anchor tenant in the much acclaimed – and heavily subsidized – “Village at Paseo San Gorgonio” development , located on the former San Gorgonio Inn site (see story).
This revelation was met with unprecedented public outrage, and subsequently led to the discovery that former City Manager Takata had secretly – and illegally – changed the City’s contract with developer Pearlman, therewith giving the go-ahead for the Probation Department lease (view subsequent story).
The public also began to realize that under AB-109, the Department would not just serve probationers, but also administer parole for dangerous convicted felons. This explains why the Department sought to quadruple the size of their operations in Banning.
COUNTY DIRECTOR AND DEVELOPER GO “WAY BACK”
In order to obtain the contract with Riverside County Probation, developers Pearlman and Frost partnered with Vanir Development, Inc. , forming Banning Office Ventures, LLC in late 2013.
Now it gets interesting : Responsible for the County’s negotiations of the Probation Department Lease for Banning is Riverside County’s Deputy Director of Real Estate, Vincent Yzaguirre.
His official bio reads : “Prior to the County of Riverside, Mr. Yzaguirre was the Vice-President of Development and Corporate Broker for Vanir Development Company, a west coast developer”- (source).
Wait a second ! – a former Vice President of Vanir awards a County contract to his former employer ? Just how close is the relationship between Yzaguirre and Vanir ?
As we will show, there is much more to this story than Yzaguirre’s official biography would suggest :
Yzaguirre grew up in Colton, CA. According to reliable sources, he has maintained a lifelong friendship with fellow Colton native Doreen Dominguez. Dominguez is the daughter of Vanir’s founder, H. Frank Dominguez. Since her father’s death in 2004, Doreen has taken over as Chairman of Vanir Development Company, Inc. .
Considering the lifelong friendship between Vincent Yzaguirre and Doreen Dominguez, it makes perfect sense that Yzaguirre was once employed as Vice President of Vanir, prior to becoming the Director for Real Estate for Riverside County.
TIED AT THE HIP : YZAGUIRRE AND VANIR
Between 2004 and 2012, Vincent Yzaguirre served as a two term Colton City Councilman. During his bids for Council, he received substantial financial support from Vanir. As for the latest example, during his 2012 bid for the Colton City Council (which he lost), Vanir donated $ 3,000 to Yzaguirre’s campaign.
Previous campaign donors also included Benjamin Dominguez, Senior Vice President of Vanir Development Company (view filing), as well as multiple donations from several 3rd party campaigns, all of which had previously been funded by Vanir.
According to the Secretary of State, Vanir Development is registered as a “Major Donor” in California. Public filings show Vanir’s campaign donations in the $ 100,000 range for a typical election cycle (view spread sheet for 2011/12).
But Vanir did not limit itself to financial support alone – it appears the company was directly involved in Yzaguirre’s campaign : in 2010, the FPPC investigated Yzaguirre for failing to report the use of an electronic sign, which advertised his campaign (view FPPC letter).
The sign in question was located at Colton’s “Dominguez Plaza” – a hotel/food complex. “Dominguez Plaza” is owned by no other than – you guessed it – Vanir ! – (source)
But Vanir’s involvement in Yzaguirre’s campaign appears to reach even deeper : Treasurer of Vincent Yzaguirre’s political campaign, “Friends of Vincent Yzaguirre”, was Eddie Martinez. The FPPC has since identified Martinez as an employee of Vanir (see FPPC letter).
With so many connections between Yzaguirre and Vanir, how is it possible to make a valid distinction between the two ? Where does Vanir stop and Yzaguirre begin ? It appears that both are tied at the hip.
There is every indication that Vanir is controlling the County’s Real Estate Division through their agent, Vincent Yzaguirre.
YZAGUIRRE WAIVES BID REQUIREMENTS TO ACCOMMODATE VANIR
Vincent Yzaguirre’s outright bias towards structuring a deal with Vanir, in exclusion of any other bidders, appears rather obvious: The County’s “Request for Proposal” (RFP) for the Banning Probation Department included a requirement of fenced parking for employee vehicles.
However, due to zoning issues in downtown Banning, Pearlman /Vanir were unable to get City approval for this requirement.
Nevertheless, the lack of fenced parking wasn’t a problem after all : while other bidders went out of their way to comply with this RFP requirement, Yzaguirre waived it for Vanir. This opened the door to awarding the contract to Vanir (see approved lease).
“SUPERVISOR” MARION ASHLEY FAILS TO SUPERVISE
Yzaguirre’s employment position and his subsequent actions favoring Vanir are visible in plain sight, not just to the public, but also to “Supervisor” Marion Ashley.
Ashley is currently running for re-election to his 3rd term as County Supervisor. He is already under severe political pressure for taking donations from developers of the controversial Gateway warehouse project (2 million square feet).
So far, Ashley appears to have failed to realize that there are obvious insider deals being pulled off by the County’s Real Estate Director. Does Ashley intentionally look the other way, because Vanir funded his campaign with $ 1,500 of “hush money” ?
If Ashley wants to have any credibility left with the voters, he might want to make sure that Mr. Yzaguirre is immediately placed on administrative leave, pending a full investigation. Anything short of this action must be considered a failure to supervise by this so-called County “Supervisor”.
ALL EYES ON COUNCIL MEMBER ED MILLER
The last bargaining chip which the citizens of Banning have in preventing the developer from bringing in an AB-109 Probation/Parole office, is withholding the vacation of two streets : Livingston and Alessandro. These streets are needed by Pearlman /Vanir to build the project.
By way of legal maneuvering and under threats of litigation, attorneys for Vanir have been able to successfully eliminate 2 out of 5 Banning Council members : Don Peterson has a statutory conflict of interest, because he owns property within 500 ft of the project. Jerry Westholder has publicly criticized the planned Probation lease and has since been asked to recuse himself, under threat of litigation by the developer.
Once again, Mayor Debbie Franklin and Art Welch are clearly determined to sell out the citizens of Banning by paving the way for the developer – no questions asked. But since there are now only 3 Council members left, a unanimous vote is required.
This leaves Ed Miller as the true decision maker in this saga. Hopefully Miller will see the writing on the wall and prevent this tragedy from going forward.
The lease agreement negotiated between County Director of Real Estate, Vincent Yzaguirre, and Pearlman/ Vanir does not appear to be an “arms length transaction” by any stretch of the imagination. Rather, it has the rotten odor of insider dealing and corruption.
We cannot allow for the City of Banning to be victimized by a manipulative, unethical developer, who appears to have installed his agent as Director of Real Estate at the County. “Bait and switch” developers like Pearlman/ Vanir ought to be told to take a hike. Banning has no need for any more con-artists. Enough is enough.
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