By Emerson Drake
Yes, Councilman Joe Muratore has yet again figured out a way to profit from his position on the Modesto City Council. Starting just after he was elected, Muratore sought out county politicians and started to prime the annex Salida pump. I guess we shouldn’t be surprised after his NSP2 debacle of pocketing $62,500 dollars from a commission his Benchmark Realty partner Ryan Swehla generated by using Swehla’s and Scott Monday’s Trinity Renovations .
But his Salida business adventure may just be his greediest chapter with an even more tangled web of deceit. Remember the Stanislaus Grand Jury said Muratore was deceitful and dissembling in not fully disclosing relevant business affiliations and associates.
Stephen Endsley and his wife Ann have land holding in the Salida area according to documents supplied by a public information request which can be found on this site. Joe Muratore has several prior business relationships with Endsley. From a failed solar venture between himself, Swehla, Hawn, and Endsley, to an investment with Stephen Endsley valued between $20,000 and $100,000 dollars according to forms filed with the state. Muratore has been meeting behind the scenes encouraging the County to sweeten the pot which would enable Modesto to annex Salida, potentially at relatively little cost.
On August 7th during a City Council meeting Muratore voted for consent item #27 which has Modesto footing half the cost ($30,000) of a feasibility study to discover definitively what the financial situation would be if and when Modesto were to annex Salida. I suppose it isn’t surprising to see a politician fattening their wallet while feeding at the public trough. Now all Muratore has to do is recuse himself from all discussion and voting, but Joe doesn’t seem concerned about right and wrong, just about money, so he keeps on voting.
After all, between Muratore the Modesto Councilman, Swehla his business partner in several ventures and who sits on Modesto’s Board of Zoning Adjustment, and Endsley again his business partner and sometimes investor who has land in Salida waiting to be developed under a friendly administration, what could be a better arrangement?
Could Muratore be planning on some short-term cash flow or is he stocking up for the future? Here is a picture of Muratore’s Benchmark Realty sign offering land for sale in Salida. The sign can be found on a vacant lot in front of the Vizcaya Housing Tract along Pirrone Road in Salida just before Hammett, East of Highway 99. I wonder if his client is aware of how many pies Joe has his fingers in?
Muratore’s business ventures just might benefit from a hurried up annexation with a friendly Zoning Board and a Councilman to shepard the whole process through. Kind of reminiscent of their participation in the NSP2 program? Hmm…