Thursday, January 22, 2009
A local attorney with questionable past ties to a southern California campaign contribution scandal has filed a lawsuit intended to stop Carmel Valley incorporation.
Franklin J. Lunding and Planning 2020 Inc., a group he founded, recently sued Monterey County, the supervisors, and Carmel Valley Forum over the “revenue neutrality agreement” between Monterey County and the proposed town of Carmel Valley. (This agreement would require the new town to share new income it generates with the county so that the incorporation is “revenue neutral.”) The lawsuit alleges the Board of Supervisors’ approval of the agreement was based on a flawed “comprehensive fiscal analysis”– a report showing a town of Carmel Valley would be financially viable.
“My major concern is that the city [of Carmel Valley] will be bankrupt before it even starts,” Lunding says. “We’re saying this is not a revenue-neutral agreement and they should not enter into it because the numbers weren’t there.”
In December the Local Agency Formation Commission approved the incorporation proposal. County Supervisors are expected to put the issue on the November ballot, at which point residents will decide whether they want to form a new town– unless legal action derails the vote.
“Lunding and anybody else that was opposed to incorporation has had eight and a half years to make a variety of arguments, including those about the revenue neutrality agreement, and yet he waits until the final hours to do it,” says CVF Secretary Mike McMillan, who started the group in 2001. “It sounds like someone who is trying to sabotage or undermine the process rather than someone who has a legitimate legal complaint with the incorporation effort.
Although he lives in Carmel Valley, Lunding has been active in Irvine politics for two decades. Larry Agran, an Irvine City Councilman and former mayor, appointed Lunding to the city’s transportation commission in the late 1980s. In 2006, Lunding started a nonprofit called Planning 2020 (later re-registered as Planning 2020 Inc.), which received tens of thousands of dollars from developers and contractors with projects pending approval from the Irvine City Council.
According to reports in the Irvine Tattler, Planning 2020 paid for campaign literature slamming Agran’s opponent in the Irvine 2006 election. Two years later, Lunding created a political slate mailer– presented to local residents as a community newspaper– funded by Agran, Planning 2020 contributions and his political slate, which the mailer promoted. (Read Tattler and Orange County Register articles about the issue online, www.montereycountyweekly/see/irvine.)
“Political puffery,” responds Lunding. “Although some of the people who were supportive of Planning 2020 were also supportive of political measures, and the political measure committee did provide funds to various mailings and certain candidates that the opposition didn’t like, Planning 2020 is just trying to keep land-use decisions well planned.”
The group has received money from Monterey County contributors, Lunding says, although he won’t name them: “I can’t reveal our supporters.”
Incorporation supporters worry Lunding and Planning 2020 will accept big checks from developers who don’t want to see Carmel Valley incorporate and use that money to influence the election– or simply stop it from happening.
“The people of Carmel Valley have earned the right to hold a free and fair election,” says Glenn Robinson, a member of the pro-town Carmel Valley Association. “Unfortunately, not everyone shares that view. It’s too bad that this group of developers favor greed and power instead of democracy. Dirty tricks and sleazy tactics should have no place in this election.”
“We don’t deny anybody the right to vote,” Lunding says. “The issue here, for us, is the financial viability of this proposed new city and that has nothing to do with the right to vote.”