POMONA — A businessman who is supporting the recall of Councilman C.L. (Clay) Bryant has not only been told by city officials that he has no hope of winning future contracts with the city, but is having trouble getting paid for work already done.
D. Rodney Tapp, owner of Land Design, a landscape architecture firm, said the city stopped making payments to his company seven months ago and owes him $26,365 for a variety of services and projects.
Tapp said he presumes the payments are being blocked by council members who have repeatedly denounced him and his firm at council meetings. Bryant has accused Tapp of benefiting from "sweetheart deals" granted by former city officials. In addition, Councilwoman Nell Soto has blasted Tapp's support of the recall and vowed to deny him any business with the city.
Bryant said Land Design's bills have never reached the City Council, so he does not know why payment has been delayed. However, he said, questions have been raised about the firm's work for the city, and he presumes the city staff is seeking documentation.
Ray Bragg, interim operations manager with the city redevelopment agency, acknowledged that bills submitted by Land Design are being handled differently from those of other contractors. Normally, Bragg said, firms that have contracts approved by the City Council are routinely paid when they perform services and submit bills. But in Land Design's case, the bills have been forwarded to the city administrator's office, and interim City Administrator Tom Fee said he plans to submit them to the City Council.
A city Finance Department employee said Wednesday that the department was instructed several months ago to withhold all payments to Land Design, but no reason was given for that action. City officials have not explained why Land Design's bills were being handled differently.
Tapp said his difficulties with Bryant began two years ago, when his firm designed an 85-foot-high steel tower to serve as a sign for the Pomona Auto Center. Bryant said he regards the sign, which sports an intricate pattern of green tubing, representations of palm trees and automobile logos, as a monstrosity.
"I don't know of anybody who says they like it," said Bryant. "They call it an erector set, a Tinker toy; they call it everything under the sun except a desirable sign. . . . It's gaudy and cheap."
Tapp said that he told Bryant at the grand opening of the auto center that he would submit the sign for awards and that Bryant told him if the sign won an award, he would eat it. After the sign won competitions sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts, the American Institute of Architects and the American Society of Landscape Architects, Tapp had a cake made with a decoration of the sign and presented it at a council meeting to Bryant as a joke. Bryant was not amused, Tapp said.
Then, when the council, led by Bryant, fired A. J. Wilson as city administrator in May, Tapp rose to Wilson's defense and even organized a dinner for him.
"Since then," Tapp said, "I haven't received a penny in payment" on his city contracts. Tapp, who in addition to running Land Design is a professor at Cal Poly Pomona, said Councilwoman Soto told him two months ago that he could retain his city contracts if he would come to a City Council meeting and denounce the recall.
Soto said she did not promise Tapp that he would get his contracts back, but told him, "You have a responsibility as a person who does business with the city," and he should stand up against the recall because it "is dividing the city and generating a lot of hate."
Bryant said there is no question that Tapp will be denied any city contracts as long as he supports the recall.
Bryant noted that Soto has said publicly that Tapp should not receive city contracts while he is engaged in the recall effort "and she's absolutely right. If he wants to get involved in city politics, he won't do business with the city."
Tapp said he has written a letter to the city declaring that he expects to be awarded a contract if he submits the low bid on a project, but he said he has no intention of bidding on work with the city. Tapp said his company, which is based in Pomona, formerly netted about $100,000 a year in fees from Pomona.
Most of the $26,365 owed to Land Design is for work on the improvement of Garey Avenue, Tapp said. He said he has hired an attorney who will take legal action unless the city pays the overdue bills.