By Emerson Drake
It was revealed at Tuesday’s MID board meeting that General Manager Allen Short and MID Board President Tom Van Groningen used a company named Martino Graphic Design to funnel money. This money went to a local political consultant named Mike Lynch, on MID’s bill paying ledger, under the guise of public affairs-2012 in the amount of $4582.97 for the month of March alone. Mr. Lynch has his own consulting firm called, no surprise, Lynch Consulting, so why the deception?
Lynch has been going around to local political wannabees and others like Ruben Villabos, Modesto School Board President and OFFERING his services to them when they run for election or re-election as necessary. One of Lynch’s most obvious Charlie McCarthy dolls (ventriloquist dummies) is Josh VanderVeen (LCR member), stepson to Modesto Councilman Dave Lopez. Both of these men and three others spoke for the water transfers. As a long time MID meeting attendee it needs to be said none of these people ever came to a MID meeting until Mike Lynch became involved.
But Lynch found his “mother lode” in the LCR or Latino Community Roundtable. This organization which consists of 195 members, many of whom are politicians ($10.00 to those over age fifty, and then you get to vote for yourself) who have stood in front of the LCR hoping for endorsements. LCR represents no constituency other than themselves and whom could only field 18 members at a recent political forum they held at, surprise, the Modesto School board office thanks to LCR member Villabos. While I’ll be one of the first to say LCR has many well-meaning members of the general public they also have those craving a seat at the local political table and Mike Lynch holds out his “free pass” to the promised land.
PART of your electric utility payments are being used to finance the posturing of political wannabees
Now campaign consultants have been making promises to candidates for quite some time, after all it’s how they make their money, but to my knowledge this is the first time a public organization like MID has PAID a consultant to potentially alter the political landscape using Public/RATEPAYER money.
Mike Lynch personally contacted each and every Modesto City Council member and asked for the Letter to MID not be written (it’s available on this website). Then Lynch sent Ruben Villabos, apparently his personal emissary, to a “private session” of the Council with foreknowledge of what was to be discussed.
Which Councilmember tipped of f Mike Lynch and Ruben Villabos about the secret topic?
That was the question at last night’s City Council meeting. Former Modesto Mayor Carmen Sabatino appeared in front of the Council last night to question the minutes of last weeks meeting which DID NOT mention Vallabos’ appearance. Sabatino questioned the validity of Villabos appearing and was reassured by City Attorney Susan Acala Wood his appearance was legal under the Brown Act. The Council said the minutes would be changed to reflect Villabos’ appearance.
But the over-riding question spoken by Councilwoman Stephanie Burnside was “who tipped Lynch/Villabos off?” Nobody was forthcoming regarding this. Looks went around the room but no one was willing to fess up. Needless to say Diogenes is still looking with his lamp.
So where does this leave us? Well, our electric payments are going to a political consultant without our consent who is bent on giving away our water, and our best hope, is the City Council sticking to their guns.