Update: After the Los Angeles Times ran the story Monday evening on its website, Mayor Miguel Pulido made a quick retraction and said, “I now believe there’s no hope that I will receive any money for this transaction under any circumstances.”
The consortium that is in the lead to buy the buildings, California First LLC, said through a spokesman “”I have spoken to a number of principals, none of whom are aware of this mythical fee that he speaks of. I don’t know what he could have done to earn $10 much less half a million.”
Pulido had contended that he was acting as a “private citizen” in the transaction, and was “proud” of his involvement in the transaction. His attorney, Frank Barbaro, had told state Treasurer Bill Lockyer that Pulido was expecting the $500,000 fee, and Lockyer had disclosed it in a deposition.
The latest troubling news to surface in connection with the proposed sale of 24 state-owned buildings that the State of California is looking to sell is that the mayor of Santa Ana is expecting a $500,000 finder’s fee in connection with the transaction. According to Mayor Miguel Pulido, the prospective buyers came to him for help because, in his words, “I just know a lot of folks.”
It’s not clear who is paying the fee, but Pulido has confirmed its existence and said that he was entitled to it because he introduced some of the parties in the transaction to each other.
The sale of the properties has been controversial since it was announced earlier this year. The reason for selling off the state buildings, including the one that houses the California Supreme Court, is that the monies would help with the currents year’s budget deficit. Opponents of the plan call it shortsighted, in that over the long run, the state would be much better off owning the buildings. Critics also feel that the buildings are being sold for less than what they are really worth.
Only three days ago was the finder’s fee first publicly disclosed. A lawyer representing Pulido inadvertently told State Treasurer Bill Lockyer about its existence, and Lockyer revealed it in a deposition for a lawsuit seeking to halt the sale. Pulido’s lawyer confided in Lockyer that his client was worried that he might not receive the fee if the deal was derailed.
Information regarding the terms of the sale has been kept secret, and opponents filed the lawsuit in San Francisco Superior Court to compel the state to reveal the transaction details. The sale has been championed by outgoing governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. According the non-partisan state Legislative Analyst’s Office, the net loss to the state over 35 years would be about $1.4 billion.
Robert Stern, president of the Center for Governmental Studies, said the fee was an “inappropriate” payment for a public official. “He shouldn’t be paid for his connections as a public official,” Stern said. “That sounds like an extraordinary fee. For $500,000, he should have done more than introduce people.”