YOLO SUN NEWS REPORT :
[Editor’s note: This investigative news report is a collaborative effort of Woodland Record and Yolo Sun.]
“Criminal malfeasance” is the stark description applied by a very knowledgeable and reliable source familiar with Woodland City Hall’s behavior involving the brazen, 2009 default of a quite curious sweetheart development deal arranged to benefit a widely known crony of Mayor Skip Davies.
More than interesting, is the fact that this situation has not become public knowledge until now: late in 2013.
Alas, this is Woodland, where information related to public interest often moves quite slowly.
Information related to this bizarre (but politically important) matter has leaked out of discovery material related to recent labor negotiations of the general services component of Woodland’s municipal employees (Woodland Employees Association) — which is plenty irked that more than $100,000 in city development impact fees has not been collected, regarding this very strange development caper originating in February of 2009.
$100,000 or so, represents more than one full-time position of a relevant employee of the city, represented by this union.
___ “A Significant Deviation” ___
In late 2008, (former) Woodland City Manager, Mark Deven, acting at the behest of Mayor Davies (according to a reliable and knowledgeable source), offered in a December letter to Bob Takhar (AKA: Takhar Bharpur): “a significant deviation from the standard practice of applying development impact fees,” as well as this “deviation” being: “approved by the City Council through a special agreement” (ending up on the consent calendar, passed without any city council discussion, whatsoever), for his project of an ARCO gas station and mini-mart at the West Street – I-5 freeway interchange — on land outside City limits.
“[I]n mid-2007,” according to the planning staff report related to this matter: “City staff initially declined to process the work,” regarding this project, because of its unusual nature (instead of the city, the county receives sales and property taxes until annexation, which may well be many years away).
Indeed, this December, 2008, letter by Deven to Takhar plainly states that: “[Takhar’s development conditions] suggest that the City should withhold utility service.”
City of Woodland quite reasonably has a (upon just cause activated) deferred payment plan for development impact fees. However, eligibility for this plan / program (reasonably) applies only to land inside City limits.
Yolo County is estimated to now annually collect about $30,000 in sales tax from Takhar’s ARCO gas station – mini-mart project.
Despite the fact that community planning rationale for such a deferred fee payment plan is fundamentally predicated on a development project being located within city limits, Deven followed Davies’ orders and offered to apply this plan to Takhar’s ARCO gas station – mini-mart project.
Also within this late 2008 letter by Deven, is notice that development fees will likely soon be reduced by 20%, implying that awaiting such later time to apply should be Takhar’s course.
In the end, $108,626.54 was what Takhar was charged for this hook-up to Woodland City utilities for his development project within Yolo County.
Presently, in the wake of more the four years of still accumulating default penalties and increased interest, Takhar is now estimated to owe at least $140,000 to the city.
___ A Surprise? ___
Oddly, Deven’s 2008 letter recounts that Takhar claimed he did not know that he would owe money for connections to municipal utilities.
“Apparently, the county failed to inform you of this requirement,” states Deven, and “[a]s a result, [this] came as a surprise[,] and after the arrangement of the financing for your project.”
Thus, Takhar was allegedly short of the development cost for his project, because Yolo County planning staff — “failed” (Deven) — to ensure that he understood for purposes of his project financing plan that he would owe City of Woodland for use of its water and sewer lines.
Does this seem at all plausible?
In any case — such was the municipally expressed (lame) excuse for Takhar’s urgent need (escorted by Davies, according to a reliable and knowledgeable source) to access the city’s deferred fee payment plan.
___ Terms Of Sweetheart Agreement ___
Five terms govern the agreement afforded Takhar (by tacit consent) at the February 17, 2009, meeting of Woodland City Council: (a) 20% down at the time of utility hook-up, (b) monthly payments of $4,000 for about two years, (c) interest at: “the City’s customary investment rate of approximately 3%,” (d) commitment to support annexation at the “appropriate time,” (e) security in the form of a lien (Deed of Title and Promissory Note) on the relevant property.
3% interest is unusually low for such an arrangement (7% or 10% is regular; while indeed, 10% is set for the plain costs of potential litigation within the Promissory Note), according to reliable sources — adding another “significant deviation” element of sweetheart-deal to this “special agreement.”
___ City Action To Satisfy Terms Of Agreement? ___
Astonishingly, even after providing Takhar with this truly sweetheart deal, for which the city gained absolutely nothing of value, the city entirely failed to enforce it.
From mid-2009 until July 5, 2013 – in the afternoon (3:52 PM) of the day the city received the filing of California Public Record Act Request(s) in the morning (10:16 AM) — which resulted in the eventual release of city records related to this news report — no payments at all were made by Takhar on his debt to the city.
Until there emerged a certainty that public (press) knowledge of this curious situation was soon arriving — not even a single cent was paid by Takhar.
Takhar didn’t even make the initial 20% down-payment he owed in early 2009.
On July 5, 2013, at 3:52 PM (after local press attention was a certainty) the city finally processed a payment from Takhar of about $13,500, which does not even cover the multi-year penalties and interest related to the default of his agreement with the city.
Just prior to when the city began to release its relevant records (July 17, 2013), Takhar made another payment of the same amount with a check dated July 5, 2013. Thus, since local press attention has been applied, Takhar has paid about $27,000.
Part Two of this Yolo Sun news report will include quite interesting and detailed information from within city hall related to these seemingly desperate payments by Takhar.
___ Hooked and Unhooked ___
Somehow, Takhar became fully unhooked from his lawful responsibilities — just as soon as he got hooked to municipal utilities.
How could ever this have happened?
Knowledgeable and reliable sources indicate Takhar has claimed that Woodland Mayor Davies told him that he did not need to make payments on his municipal debt or even to approach the city regarding his very long period of default, clearly asserting that Davies has advised him — for four years — that he simply did not need to perform in any manner upon his sweetheart-deal agreement issued by the City Council.
City records obtained by Woodland Record and Yolo Sun and other sources corroborate this context of relations between Takhar and Davies.
Knowledgeable and reliable sources indicate that the city finance department (aware of this curious problem since August of 2010) has for all of these years been (basically) ordered by Davies (and/or Deven, perhaps Navazio, at Davies’ direction) not to approach Takhar regarding his obvious and lengthy default.
No regular form or nature of invoices or bills related to this sweetheart agreement have ever been sent to Takhar by the city, evidenced by city records obtained for this news report.
The city finance department indicated an interest in sending Takhar an informal letter about his default, in August of 2010 (about the time he should have been finishing payments according to his agreement with the city). However, there is no evidence within city records that such a letter was ever sent.
Knowledgeable and reliable sources indicate that collection of this debt from his crony has been continuously, intentionally obstructed by Davies.
City records obtained for this news report serve to corroborate this claim.
Seemingly, it was intended that somehow Takhar’s debt would be consistently overlooked, ignored and eventually forgotten.
___ What Initially Disturbed This Deal ___
In early 2012, after Nick Ponticello became Woodland Community Development Director, relevant matters began to swiftly shift toward the public interest.
City records clearly reveal Ponticello strongly insisting in the public interest that this obtuse situation be soon resolved.
Between May and December of 2012, Woodland City Council met multiple times in closed session regarding Takhar’s default. According to the present City Manager, Paul Navazio, the City attorney claims that “no reportable action” was ever taken by the City Council in these closed sessions.
Despite this claim of “no reportable [city council] action” in these closed sessions, on November 6, 2012, a formal demand letter from the city attorney was suddenly (after three and a half years of default) sent to Takhar, advising him that he had “ten days” to cure his default in order to avoid litigation toward foreclosure.
No relevant litigation has yet ensued, almost a year later.
Although coincidentally, in early 2013, Ponticello suddenly left his post as city community development director and Ken Hiatt (a former associate of Navazio) took his place.
- The day after this Yolo Sun report was published, Takhar began making payments to the city, following years of default on this odd sweeetheart deal, instigated by Davies.