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State Agency Looks at $8,000 Fee Paid Montoya

March 09, 1989|MARK GLADSTONE | Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — The state Fair Political Practices Commission is "taking a close look" at an $8,000 consulting fee that Sen. Joseph B. Montoya (D-Whittier) received in 1987 from a City of Industry developer, according to Sandy Michioku, a spokeswoman for the political watchdog agency.

Michioku said this week that the agency's enforcement staff is reviewing a letter Montoya sent to the commission in December to amend his 1987 statement of economic interests. The fee should have been included on the financial statement Montoya filed a year ago.

In the letter, dated Dec. 5, Montoya described his failure to list the income as "inadvertent and certainly unintentional." Montoya said he realized the "oversight" only after reviewing his personal papers and documents in connection with another matter.

During a brief interview last week, Montoya said builder Tony Holguin paid him the $8,000 fee for helping "on a couple of projects," including Holguin's purchase of a 3.2-acre hillside parcel in La Puente from a partnership that included state Sen. John Seymour (R-Anaheim).

Montoya, a former La Puente city councilman, declined to elaborate on his role in the 1987 sale. "I'd rather let you come to your own conclusions," he said.

Holguin could not be reached for comment.

The property Holguin purchased in June, 1987, is in a residential area near the intersection of San Jose Avenue and Del Valle Avenue.

Seymour was among about 10 partners who purchased the parcel in the late 1970s. Over the next decade the partnership sought to build single-family houses on the land. Rick Hartmann, La Puente planning director, said a proposal to build 20 houses was given tentative approval, but when it was learned that extensive grading was needed, the project was scaled down to 10 homes.

In April, 1987, the City Council unanimously approved a tentative tract map for the smaller project. Last month, Holguin was granted a one-year extension to meet conditions of the approval.

Seymour said in an interview that he first mentioned the property to Montoya during a casual chat about the time the council approved the project in 1987. Seymour, a past president of the California Assn. of Realtors, said that it was not unusual for him to discuss property with other lawmakers and that he and Montoya talk about real estate "from time to time."

During one conversation in the spring of 1987, Seymour said, he told Montoya about the La Puente property, which had just fallen out of escrow. Seymour said he asked Montoya, who represents the La Puente area, if he knew anyone who would be interested in buying the property. Seymour said Montoya responded: " 'I know a couple of builders down there. I'll talk to them.' "

Seymour said Montoya called him back and told him he had found a buyer. Seymour said he does not recall talking to Holguin but thinks he gave Montoya the name of his broker, James Sauls.

Sauls, a partner in the property with Seymour, recalled that Holguin and his wife purchased the land for $200,000.

Montoya said only part of the $8,000 fee was connected to the Seymour transaction. But Sauls said Holguin's escrow instructions directed that Montoya be paid about $8,000, and he emphasized that Seymour had no role in paying the fee. Sauls said Holguin told him that the money was a finder's fee for locating the property. Sauls said such a fee is not uncommon in land deals.

Montoya is no stranger to controversy.

Last year, the state attorney general's office and the IRS launched separate inquiries into Montoya's role in financing and managing nearly $2 million in California rental properties.

The attorney general's office began its inquiry after The Times reported that Montoya's tenants said he has used his Capitol office and legislative staff to collect monthly rent checks, show properties and arrange maintenance repairs. Montoya has denied using his office or staff to manage his properties.

Montoya also was one of four legislators whose offices were searched by the FBI last August in connection with an ongoing investigation into political corruption.

Times Staff Writers Edmund Newton in Monrovia, Daniel M. Weintraub in Sacramento and Daryl Kelley in Los Angeles contributed to this story.

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