Wal-Mart rally against Rottman Group – via robocalls

November 28, 2011

By KAREN VELIE

Robocalls disparaging the Rottman Group and asking the public to support Wal-Mart ignited a wide-range of responses from Atascadero residents and a denial of any involvement by the  mega retailer.

“Attention Wal-Mart supporters,” the calls said before slamming the Rottman Group for attacking Wal-Mart for backing out on its promises to pay for the cost of a freeway interchange. The robocalls went on to say that the financially unstable Santa Barbara based developer, the Rottman Group, should get out of the way so that Wal-Mart can be successful in building a new store in Atascadero.

Sounding much like the Rottman Group did a few years ago, the call ended by asking Atascadero residents to continue their support of Wal-Mart.

In 2006, a time the Rottman Group and Wal-Mart were working together to promote a large retail complex on the north side of Atascadero, the two companies submitted a joint application to build a retail complex at the corner of El Camino Real and Del Rio Road where Wal-Mart is slated to build a 125,000 square-foot store. The Rottman Group is planning to build a 116,000 square-foot retail center known as the Annex across the street from the proposed box store.

At that time, Wal-Mart officials said publicly they would cover traffic mitigation required by the Environmental Impact Report, an assurance that was never put in writing.

Since then, Wal-Mart is working to have the city and/or the Rottman Group pay about $2 million in costs for a freeway interchange slated to cost between $3 million and $4.5 million.

In an interesting twist, if the Rottman Group’s Annex project is not constructed, Wal-Mart could save millions in mitigation costs because the size of the project would be greatly reduced.

Currently, both the city and the Rottman Group are financially distressed. City officials have laid off employees, spent reserves and cut department budgets in an attempt to close a $2 million budget shortfall.

Last month, a Central Coast bank filed a lawsuit against the Rottman Group for defaulting on a $6.2 million debt related to the Atascadero Annex project.

In its lawsuit, Montecito Bank & Trust says the Rottman Group deceived them by using some of the same assets to secure loans for the Atascadero projects the group used as collateral for a $15.3 million loan from City National Bank, for a project called Oak Canyon Ranch in Calaveras County. City National Bank foreclosed on the property further diminishing the Rottman Group’s creditworthiness, the suit says.

The principals of the Rottman Group, Steven Rottman, Maury Froman and Keith Mathias, did not return calls requesting comment.

At last week’s Atascadero City Council meeting, City Manager Wade McKinney said Wal-Mart was not responsible for the calls that several residents took issue with during public comment.

Wal-Mart has also claimed it is not behind last week’s robocalls which originated from a land line that sets a few miles away from Wal-Mart’s corporate headquarters in Arkansas.

“We are not associated or affiliated with these calls,” said Lorenzo Lopez, Wal-Mart’s media relations director. “Any attempts by individuals or groups to link us to these calls would be misleading to the people of Atascadero.”

UPDATE: Lopez said that if a public relations company hired by Wal-Mart had made the calls, they had done it without first having Wal-Mart approve the recording. He also said the calls may have been routed to a number in Arkansas to make it appear Wal-Mart made the calls.


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darwin_is_rolling_over

If you really want some insight into these issues, go back and read the minutes of Wades reports to the City Council starting in 2004. He sure is well traveled on “City” business. His reports are also very interesting with regard to budgets and city priorities.


It is like connecting the dots to make a picture of the good ole boy club. All of the department chairs are honorary members, including the fire chief. I would support Walmart too if I thought my department would be the next one to face cuts.


Slowerfaster

Wal-Mart are corporate KILLERS . Gangsters and slavers. KILLERS : PURE and SIMPLE.


WAL-MART KILLS !


OsborneCox

Wouldn’t surprise me if this was funded by that “Better Downtown Atascadero” group, or whatever it’s called. You know… the one whose members have been writing all the pro-Walmart letters in local papers.


Mr. Holly

That would be the ABA-A Better Atascadero. Mostly made up of former city council members and/or mayors along with a majority of the current city council and its mayor.


Cindy

The ABA is backed by the same city council members that used to back Kelly Gearhart. It also has support of the local Fire Dept and Police Dept because those servants believe that WM will bring lots of “NEW” sales tax revenue and they (FD & PD) will be able to have a nice fat raise. They used to come to the CC meetings and publicly support WM while saying that they wanted a raise!


Mr. Holly

I don’t think I ever recall the PD coming before the city council and playing the political game. It has always been the FD which really should be classified as the Freinds of Wade McKinney who has donated generously to the FD with overtime and other perks.


Cindy

You’re right, the PD “publicly” stayed out it. It was only correct that they should have kept a low profile on the issue. They did support behind the scenes and I’m reminded of Becky Pacas who argued with me vehemently about how the PD needed more money and how WM was a means to provide them with it.


Yes, The FD are definitely the friends of Wade McKinney. The Fire Chief (Kurt Stone) has done plenty of Wade’s dirty work in the past including pressuring people to sell their land to the Rottman Group rather than allow them to develop it themselves after it was learned that WM was coming to town.


darwin_is_rolling_over

Just follow the money ….. who paid for the “Central Coast Tax Payers Association” and drug the tax assessors into the battle? Who paid for the “opinion” polls the last time we all got calls? Who fills our mailboxes with their propaganda trash every time there is an important council meeting or a vote? Hmmmmm…. I have had trash in my mailbox, phone calls and phony associations bugging me since Walmart their property … Hmmmmmm. Coincidence … I think not.


I was ok with Walmarts PR stunts until they started playing dirty. Now they are no better than the grocery unions, former one term council members and the oppose groups. Both sides completely disgust me.


Give me a break Walmart. And give me a break Wade. Someone ought to look into Wade and Jims (Lewis) trips all over courting Wally. Where have they been and who paid for it? Vegas? San Diego? Getting business for the city? Where? Where is our new business?


Cindy

Here is a post from AMOS that he placed in the Trib last week. It is a copy of WalMarts power point Demo where they said at a public meeting that they would pay all the traffic mitigation. Follow the link to view the orignal slides:


Ah!, there they are, slides #46 & 48 of Walmart’s consultants presentation to the City Council on October 23, 2007. Not a contract with the city, but an assurance that Wal*Mart will pay for the EIR (slide 46) and that the ” Public improvements and Traffic upgrades will be paid by the applicant” (slide 48). You might want a copy of this when they assess your identified property in their EIR’s “mitigation measure”. You can get you own copy from the city’s website…


Read more: http://www.sanluisobispo.com/2011/11/14/1835462/viewpoint-wal-mart-holding-project.html#storylink=misearch#ixzz1f2dXH9tU


pasoparent5

Once again, Cindy–your research is really helpful. But watch your back. If a well-dressed corporate guy from WalMart knocks on your door & asks if he can speak to you privately…don’t do it! lol Seriously, thanks for looking up that link. It pretty much spells it out.


sloweb

To answer Cindy’s question of who or why anyone other than WalMart would spend the money (cheap to do, BTW) to make these calls, just look at the comments here and you have the why. Coming up with who would not be a long list.


JordanJ

Are you insinuating that the Rottman Group called everyone in Atascadero and trashed themselves including telling everyone that they defaulted on a 6.2 million dollar loan? I got the robo-call and it was a clear trashing of Rottman and a 3 cheers rah rah for Wal-Mart.


It was never mentioned that if WM could get the Rottman Group out of the way that construction could move forward without any traffic mitigation. It seems the EIR that WM contracted and paid for say’s that no traffic mitigation is necessary without the annex. So this would mean that WM would pay nothing if the Rottman Group is dropped from the project but it would end up costing a load of money to whomever tried to expand the retail center after WM is built. WM is dirty through and through. They are out to stick it to the A-town taxpayers and any future builders of the annex portion. I say pay up or get out to WM.


pasoparent5

Jerry? Wade? Roberta? Jim? Is that you?


pasoparent5

(I’m referring to sloweb’s silly comments)


sloweb

Sorry to disappoint you Paso, I am none of those people. I was just objectively pointing out that:

A) From a technical stand point, Robo calls are cheap to make and easy to to spoof their source.

B) Direct and indirect motivation for making the calls would serve a variety of people, including the group of people here who vilify and demonize WalMart.


It is easy to imagine that a WalMart opponent might (Calm down, I said might) have sponsored the calls. Just look at the outrage here, the fuel that has been thrown on the anti-WalMart fire. Who does that serve? Certainly not WalMart.


Honestly, I don’t have a dog in this fight – no real opinion (and certainly not a vehement opinion) about WalMart. I was just being objective and analytical about an event.

Yeah, I know, objectivity has no place in blog comments . . . . . . . . .


darwin_is_rolling_over

Cindy is probably right. I am sure Walmart didn’t pay for the calls. Meridian Pacific did. Then Walmart paid them. What a bunch of BS. I am sure Wade is getting his information from the City attorney who I am sure is in with Walmarts attorney.


Come to think of it, it seems like the attorneys are the only winners here. The city attorney gets to keep billing his time to the tax payers and Walmarts attorney makes more the longer they drag this out. Beautiful.


And who in the heck is Lorenzo Lopez? Another new Walmart PR director? What happened to their spokes hole Aaron? What about Amelia Whats-her-face? Cant they keep anyone in a single position? You can never believe anything anyone at Walmart ever says because they wont be the right person to talk to in 6 months.


I say … Walmart go away. Lets stop wasting time on this. I used to want this store but now I think I dont mind drive a few minutes to Target. Their stores are cleaner anyway.


Dirty stores, dirty tricks, dirty lies. Walmart – Lower Standards – Always.


Cindy

I got the robo call and am incredulous to hear that WM is denying any culpability. Who else would spend the money to call EVERYONE in Atascadero and trash the Rottman Group while stating WM’s side of the issue? The call said that the Rottman Group had been vilifying WM in the local press and that what they (Rottman) were saying wasn’t true. No doubt one of WM’s highly paid mega media agencies placed the calls like Meridian Pacific.


Wal-Mart, You’re a bunch of creepy spin Doctor’s.


Scarlet

Could someone please tell me how Wade McKenney would have knowledge of what WalMart did or did not do?