Tulare City Councilman Greg Nunley committed repeated, systematic fraud in land development deals with the city he serves, according to sworn statements of several of Nunley’s former business associates.
‘Landscape of Political Corruption’
The five statements–each given under penalty of perjury–were gathered by Visalia attorney Michael Lampe and presented to Tulare City Attorney Mario Zamora today. The testimony, according to Lampe, “reveals a pattern of deception that crosses well into the landscape of political corruption.”
“In short,” says Lampe in a letter sent to Zamora, “they reveal that Councilman Nunley has used his official position to withhold payment of $474,987 in development fees owed to the city by him or entities owned by him.”
Lampe is currently suing Nunley on behalf of Tulare resident and retired Tulare police lieutenant David W. Frost. He also represents former Tulare City Chief of Police Wes Hensley in a suit that claims the former head of the TPD was wrongly terminated.
The Frost lawsuit, which was filed in Tulare County Superior Court on August 3, accuses Nunley of using his position on the council for personal gain when he took part in renegotiating developers’ fee agreements in 2017 and again in 2018 for projects in which he has an interest.
Holding the Bag
The new claim of fraud involves the accusation Nunley falsely claimed ownership of his associates’ property to avoid paying overdue fees to the city. Lampe also says Nunley committed the alleged fraud without the knowledge of his former partners and associates.
In their statements, Nunley’s one-time associates say the councilman falsely claimed ownership of their properties in order to put off payment of the $474,987 in property development impact fees still owed to the city. In each case, Nunley or his representative, Lucy Arruda, signed deferral agreements creating the false impression the city now held liens against properties Nunley and his companies did not own.
Nunley did so, the property owners say, without their knowledge or consent.
In one instance, according to Lampe, Nunley entered into an allegedly fraudulent fee deferment agreement on behalf of Driven Construction while knowing he was about to officially disassociate himself from the company.
Nunley transferred ownership of the company two days later without informing his former partner of the deferral. The new sole owner only learned of the alleged fraud when he was named as a defendant in Lampe’s suit against Nunley.
Tulare Deserves Better
Lampe says evidence of Nunley’s wrongdoing is contained in documents gained from city hall through records requests, along with documents filed by Nunley with the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC). In essence, Lampe says Nunley is using his position on the Tulare City Council to skip out on paying up.
“Our review of these documents, together with the sworn testimony contained in the attached declarations, lead us to conclude that Councilman Nunley is using his official position to avoid or delay paying development impact fees through the execution of unenforceable deferral agreements,” Lampe’s letter to the city reads.
Lampe also says Nunley was paid more than $3.4 million by his partners in the land development deals in question, giving him sufficient financial wherewithal to pay the fees in question. Nunley assured his partners, they said in their statements, that he or his companies would eventually pay the still unpaid fees on their behalf.
City staff only allowed the agreements to go forward, Lampe says, because of Nunley’s status as an elected official.
“It is difficult to believe that this level of deception would be tolerated if Nunley were not a member of the Tulare City Council,” Lampe said in his letter. “The public deserves better government than this.”
According to Lampe, the documents and sworn statements so far show seven different instances when Nunley or his representative signed deferral agreements with false claims of property ownership. Lampe said his office’s review of the Nunley-related documents is “only partially complete,” and additional instances may come to light.
The agreements between Nunley and the city were intended to create “statutory liens” against the property, allowing the city to seize them should Nunley fail to pay the required developers’ fees. Since Nunley does not own the property, the city has no legal claim, and it is left without assurance Nunley’s fees can be recouped.
At the time he entered into the agreements, Nunley did not own the properties in question and had no authorization from the real owners to enter into the agreements. All the agreements with the city list Nunley as owner.
Nunley also failed to file financial disclosure forms with the Fair Political Practices Committee for 2017 by the April deadline. Nunley has now filed the required forms; however, he appears to have filled them out for 2018. That disclosure is not due until April of 2019. He has still not complied with a FPPC demand for amended forms for 2016, when Nunley did not list several million dollars in income related to his real estate development business.