The Fair Political Practices Commission recently dismissed two complaints filed Oct. 18 against San Benito County Supervisor Anthony Botelho and San Juan Bautista Councilman Dan De Vries due to “insufficient evidence of a violation of the Political Reform Act,” according to an FPPC letter. The complaints alleged conflicts of interest concerning the rezoning of four commercial nodes—Betabel, SR129/Searle Road, Rocks Ranch and Livestock 101—along Highway 101.
The complaints were filed by Aromas resident and Preserve Our Rural Communities Vice President Gina Paolini and dismissed Oct. 31 and Nov. 1, respectively.
Andy Hsia-Coron, PORC president and spokesperson, previously said the complaints were not authorized by the group, but that the group was still concerned about any conflicts of interest related to the rezoning of the nodes. Paolini has since resigned from her role and has been replaced by Natasha Wist and Demetrio Pruneda.
In Paolini’s complaint, she claimed that Botelho had a conflict of interest because he owned property near the Betabel node that he did not disclose.
“The ethics of my person means more to me than anything,” Botelho told BenitoLink on Nov. 11. “I try to be as transparent and honest as I possibly can when conducting county business. It’s too bad that certain individuals that are on PORC try to intimidate people that don’t share their views.”
The complaint against De Vries alleged that he had a conflict related to the node rezoning because he “represented a property owner subject to an action that he participated in as a planning commissioner. He spearheaded the discussion and made the motion to benefit his client.” The complaint also said De Vries currently represents all four node property owners.
“It’s regrettable that the opposition would resort to those types of tactics,” De Vries told BenitoLink on Nov. 7.
Evidence presented against De Vries included emails between himself and county staff about the rezoning of four commercial nodes along Highway 101, as well as the minutes from a July 15, 2015 San Benito County Planning Commission meeting when the governing body approved the General Plan that was later adopted by the Board of Supervisors. De Vries was on the commission from 2004-16.
In his response to the FPPC complaint, De Vries said that he did not represent any of the property owners of the four nodes while he was on the San Benito County Planning Commission. His response states that it was nearly two years after he left the Planning Commission when he was approached by certain property owners in connection with rezoning.
De Vries’ response also included a letter from Jim Warren, owner of 101 Livestock Market. Warren’s letter states that although De Vries represented him years before the county’s General Plan was adopted in 2015, De Vries did not do so during that process. The letter also said Warren discussed with De Vries “the possibility of representing me” a year after De Vries left the Planning Commission.
De Vries’ response also offered the FPPC a possible reason as to why Paolini, who works for the city of Morgan Hill as an interim principal planner, filed the complaints against both officials.
“We have a strong suspicion that competing developments in or near Morgan Hill may be driving Ms. Paulini’s [sic] motivation with these attacks against Supervisor Botelho and myself,” the letter states.
Other related BenitoLink articles: