FPPC rejects Nick Tompkins’ complaint
October 27, 2015
By KAREN VELIE
After the Arroyo Grande Planning Commission voted unanimously to reject developer Nick Tompkins mixed use project proposal, Tompkins filed a compliant with the Fair Political Practices Commission against a city planning commissioner who recommended changes to the project. A complaint the FPPC quickly deemed invalid.
Nevertheless, the complaint prompted several councilpersons to seek the removal of Commissioner John Mack from the Arroyo Grande Planning Commission. Each city councilperson appoints one planning commissioner with council approval. Mack, a licensed architect and contractor, is Mayor Jim Hill’s appointee.
On Aug. 18, the Arroyo Grande Planning Commission voted unanimously against recommending Tompkins’ proposed mixed-use project at the corner of Courtland Street and Grand Avenue.
Earlier that same day, Mack quick claimed a deed to a former girlfriend for a home more than 1,000 feet from the project in a neighborhood included in Tompkins’ proposed master plan amendment. The home had been jointly owned by Mack and his former girlfriend. As part of their breakup, the former girlfriend was slated to take full ownership of the property, Mack said.
During the planning commission meeting, Mack voiced concerns about a lack of parking for the project. In addition, Planning Commissioner Glenn Martin wanted Tompkins to lower the number of homes from 38 to 28 to help remedy several density concerns.
Tompkins asked the commissioners to deny the project after it became clear that they wanted to continue discussing parking and density issues. The commissioners then unanimously voted against recommending the project as proposed and Tompkins took his proposal to the City Council.
The AG City Council then voted 3-2 vote to approve Tompkins project. Councilpersons Barbara Harmon, Jim Guthrie and Kristen Barneich voted in favor of the project while Mayor Jim Hill and Councilman Tim Brown dissented.
On Oct. 12, Tompkins, who has several other project proposals slated to be heard by the planning commission, filed an FPPC complaint against Mack. In the packet to the FPPC, Tompkins claims Mack used his public position to impact his financial standing on violation of conflict of interest laws.
On Oct. 13, before the packet had reached the FPPC, Harmon made a motion to consider removing Mack from the planning commission because there had been an FPPC complaint filed against him. Harmon expressed concerns of a possible conflict of interest.
Then on a 3-2 vote, Harmon, Guthrie and Barneich placed Mack’s removal on the Nov. 10 agenda.
Tompkins then pulled one of his projects off the Oct. 20 Arroyo Grande Planning Commission agenda. The commission will not review the project until after the city council votes on whether or not to remove Mack from the commission.
“They are hoping to have me removed before Nick Tompkins has another project before the planning commission,” Mack said. “They are trying to conspire against me to help push Nick’s projects forward.”
Tompkins did not respond to request for comment.
At the time she made the motion to discuss Mack’s removal from the commission, Harmon said she had heard there was an FPPC complaint, but she had not read it and did not know who filed the complaint. Nevertheless, Harmon noted the importance of bringing the complaint in front of the city council to promote transparency.
“Because of the perception and people who talked to me, I needed to make it public,” Harmon said. “I take a very conservative look at any impropriety.”
Mayor Hill said that anyone serving as a public official or volunteer on an advisory body can have a complaint filed against them, but that does not make the complaint valid.
“People should not try to second guess the FPPC,” Hill said. “I know people who have been fined by the FPPC, does that make them unfit for office? It is unfortunate that we subject volunteers to this type of treatment.”
On Oct. 20, the FPPC informed Tompkins that because Mack had divested himself of any ownership in the property, he did not have a conflict of interest.
“The enforcement division will not open an investigation into this matter,” according to the FPPC letter to Tompkins.