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VENTURA | West Ventura County Focus

Council Payment to Developer Criticized

February 28, 1996|TRACY WILSON

Ventura City Councilman Gary Tuttle has accused his fellow council members of dodging public scrutiny by voting in closed session to pay $140,000 to a developer that demanded a city payback.

In a scathing statement at Monday's council meeting, Tuttle said city leaders voted 5 to 2 recently to give the money to the developer of an east Ventura housing project. And he said they did so behind closed doors.

"It was done in closed session, it stayed in closed session," he said during the meeting. "I hope citizens were aware."

But City Atty. Pete Bulens said the decision to pay Cherry Construction Co. a disputed amount was made in closed session two weeks ago because of the potential threat of a lawsuit.

"Since it isn't finished, I can't really talk about it very much," Bulens said Tuesday. "It was done in closed session because of a threat of litigation. . . . It was all legitimate."

Tuttle says there was no settlement agreement and accused the council of sidestepping public scrutiny. But Mayor Jack Tingstrom said Tuttle "didn't tell the whole story."

"The developers felt they were overcharged," he said. "Gary just doesn't like developers. . . . He wants to make it a political thing."

In 1988, the City Council narrowly approved agreements with four developers to build 721 residences near Juanamaria Elementary School in east Ventura. In return, the developers agreed to pay the city at least $5.5 million in fees for highway improvements and a new interchange at California 126 and Kimball Road.

At the time, Cherry Construction Co. was given permission to build 124 houses over 10 years, Community Services Director Everett Millais said. The question before the council Monday was whether fees tied to that agreement were inflated, he said.

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