By Emerson Drake
Why is it every time people start looking into backroom deals to line a few private pockets at the expense of the majority of us, the names Bill Lyons and Mike Lynch are usually at the top of the slime ball list? Tuesday night at the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors meeting was no exception. One of the first announcements was that Supervisor Terry Withrow was required to recuse himself from voting on Gerry Kamilos’ WestPark project.
Bill Lyons, who was the political opponent Terry Withrow soundly defeated, allegedly sent an email complaining about a potential conflict of interest since Withrow’s wife holds a one twelfth interest in some land across the street from the project. This wasn’t considered a problem during earlier discussions but when Lyons and Lynch became concerned about the possibility of Kamilos being told to hit the road, Lyons and Lynch pulled out all of the stops.
Gerry Kamilos gave a presentation to the Board that quite honestly defied belief for anyone who has followed this debacle from the beginning. He did acknowledge the WestPark footprint had changed yet again. Remember the original size was supposed to be approximately 1,400 acres but Kamilos insisted on 4,800 acres. The bloated size of the project caused him problems from the beginning. His most recent fantasy involves 2,900 acres which includes a scaled down solar farm (he can’t find a buyer for his electricity if built) and intermodal operation (truck and rail) and a business park.
Kamilos paraded a mixed group of consultants who allegedly supported his concept but each and every one of them can to the party empty-handed and represented only themselves and not their organizations. While Port Commissioner Victor Uno said “we think this project has great value to your community” he wasn’t bearing any “official” Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to do business with Kamilos. None of his business supporters were carrying MOU’s. We were treated to kind words regarding the Union Pacific Railroad but again no MOU, in other words nothing concrete.
When Kamilos came to a page in his presentation containing about twelve as he termed it “good questions” he provided a little smoke and a few mirrors but didn’t completely answer any of them. His consultant for water and sewer who has been with the project from its inception could provide no insight to how the sewer and water could be handled.
Kamilos’ Problem is he doesn’t have ANY Answers.
Kamilos doesn’t know or isn’t willing to admit he doesn’t have a clue where the money to upgrade the railroad tracks will come from. He overlooks the fact that an Intermodal operation in Modesto had to be down sized because of the lack of business. But Kamilos keeps using numbers that suggest he will get the lions share of the business in the valley when at least one of his competitors in Lathrop is better located and has had a successful operation for years.
When Kamilos was questioned by Supervisor DeMartini his responses fell flat. Kamilos used phrases like “value engineering” and “when the contingencies are factored” which have absolutely no meaning and DeMartini called him on it. When Kamilos claimed to have made “credible progress” the audience laughed and wondered aloud if Kamilos understood what that meant. I’ve heard a few complaints regarding Supervisor DeMartini’s questioning of Kamilos but I thought DeMartini’s response was on target. DeMartini said he didn’t find Kamilos’ answers credible and he didn’t have the track record of someone the Board should be doing business with.
DeMartini asked Kamilos for a list of successful business parks he developed. Kamilos named a few but DeMartini pointed out the parks he mentioned had never been completed or were mainly housing developments. DeMartini has been suggesting all along that Kamilos had originally used a map with five thousand home on it. Kamilos has been denying this but last night Supervisor Monteith slipped and said the original map contained the homes but the board had asked Kamilos to change it and he did.
Kamilos sued for Hundreds of Thousands of Dollars by his vendors
Kamilos has a track record which suggests his vendors have been required to take him into court to get paid. These weren’t challenges of withholding payment for shoddy work. Kamilos just doesn’t have the money to pay his creditors. One of his consultants last night appears to be continuing to support him in order to eventually get paid for past services rendered. DeMartini raised the concern a creditor would come after the $2 Million deposit the County is going to hold. That issue was never cleared up completely.
Supervisor Monteith says Kamilos is AMAZING
Actually Monteith said Kamilos was amazing three separate times. It sounded almost like Monteith had a bro-mance going on with Kamilos. Monteith didn’t mention if he purchased his rose-colored glasses or if they were loaned to him by Lyons and the Alliance but they definitely effected his view of reality in the opinion of many. Monteith has been a Kamilos supporter and sees nothing wrong with the five, going on six-year delay. But since Monteith stopped placing candles on his birthday cakes he might not be aware of just how many years have passed. It begs the question if six years in “Supervisory Years” are the same as they are for you and me.
Supervisor Chiesa a disappointment
Although Supervisor Chiesa sent plenty of warning signs out about his vote prior to the proceedings, a glimmer of hope had prevailed with the crowd, since Supervisor Chiesa had said fifteen months ago it was the last extension he would vote for. But alas, in our opinion it appears he had been persuaded to change his mind prior to last nights meeting. Chiesa is a smart businessman and I firmly believe nothing he heard last night could have possibly influenced him to vote for Kamilos and his project.
Kamilos held the Reports Hostage and dangled the $2.75 Million as a Saving Grace for the Supervisors
Yes the combination of the money and the lost reports were used as an excuse for the three Supervisors to vote for this option. Bill Bassitt of the Alliance basically said there was no downside to the deal. He told the Board early on If they got to keep the money it would be a fair deal. But Mr. Bassitt and his Alliance get paid more from the state if the economic conditions remain as they are. Yes, they want things to get better for the valley but would prefer it to be coordinated to ensure the best of possible deals for their boards members.
The Modesto Chamber of Commerce Trots out Paid help to Promote Kamilos’s Deal
Yes, as usual the Chamber was knee-deep in trying to divide the “spoils” they hope to receive. They supplied paid employees to speak in support of Kamilos. Someone compared them to a “Union” for businesses. Others prefer to think of them simply as paid lobbyists.
JOBS are the Most Important result for WestPark
Yes, jobs are the top concern but the question that was supposed to be asked and answered last night was ‘is Kamilos the right developer to answer Stanislaus County’s prayers? ‘
Most of the public seems to feel Kamilos brought the early difficulties with WestPark on himself with his arrogance. He believed he could run rough shod over everyone and everything, but he failed to size up the opportunities correctly. Now all he can do is try to buy time to find a deep pocketed suitor who won’t look too close at the details to provide the working capital he so desperately needs to continue his bumbling, stumbling, lurching attempt to cross the goal line.