Community Insight: No winners in Scagliotti saga

Former Planning Director Rob Mendiola, left, and former San Benito County Supervisors Richard Scagliotti and Bob Cruz listen to Hollister Public Works Director Jim Perrine address the Regional Water Quality Control Board in 2002.

There were no winners in the 11-year civil saga between former Supervisor Richard Scagliotti and the self-titled “Los Valientes” group of petitioners who filed the lawsuit.
Scagliotti served four terms on the county board and did not run for reelection in 2004, months after the lawsuit’s filing.
Visiting Judge Robert O’Farrell made rulings on more than two dozen allegations while concluding insufficient evidence existed for many of them. The judge ruled against Scagliotti and concluded he failed to report properties on financial disclosure forms in five instances. For each violation, O’Farrell ordered Scagliotti to pay $2,500.
Most of the penalty amount—$160,000 of it—was linked to one count in the case. That count relates to an allegation that Scagliotti inappropriately voted against a development project as a member of the Local Agency Formation Commission. Scagliotti’s development firm was in competition with the 170-unit Estancia project on the west side for housing unit allocations. He voted against the application and also failed to properly report his conflict, owning a competitive development property.
As for winners and losers, Scagliotti clearly lost. Even though the $238,000 fine levied against him by a judge is a relatively small amount for the local developer, the judgment solidifies his guilt in the case and puts a stamp of closure on it.  While the petitioners and attorney can claim victory, it was a painfully long path for everyone involved that was hardly justified by the result. For local taxpayers, they will lose a six-figure dollar amount from the county’s deficit-ridden general fund and accept confirmation that a longtime, elected leader here, at times, put his financial interests before those of voters.
If there was a winner, it was the state disclosure system—specifically the Form 700s all levels of elected candidates fill out—requiring that they disclose any financial conflicts of interest. Scagliotti’s neglecting to disclose financial interests in decisions made as a supervisor led to the judgment against him. It was the right judgment and should help to validate the importance of laws established to promote transparency in government.

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