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May 20, 2014
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Tahoe residents allege political violations with Olympic Valley effort

OLYMPIC VALLEY, Calif. — The clash over Squaw Valley’s future is heating up amid allegations Incorporate Olympic Valley violated the state’s Political Reform Act during recent fundraising endeavors for the purpose of creating a new town.

Olympic Valley resident Lawrence Tomlinson filed a complaint in early May with the Fair Political Practices Commission, listing failures by IOV to file a statement of organization, file monthly campaign statements for at least five months and include disclaimers on campaign advertisements to the commission.

“There is no intention to hide where our money is coming from and how it’s being spent,” said Michael Colantuono, attorney for the group, when asked to respond to the claim.

According to IOV, $87,000 has been raised, not including a crowdfunding campaign that raised $10,728 from 93 donors by a May 3 deadline. Of the $10,728, IOV should net about $8,000, said Fred Ilfeld, chairman of IOV.

These funds are going to the group’s effort to incorporate Olympic Valley into a California town, via Placer County’s Local Agency Formation Commission’s fees and expenses, attorney fees and costs for a fiscal analysis, he said.

“The Political Reform Act clearly requires the proponent of a LAFCO proposal to form a committee and report contributions and expenditures if it raises or spends $1,000 or more ‘for the purpose of influencing or attempting to influence the actions of voters or a local agency formation commission for or against the qualification, adoption or passage of a LAFCO proposal,’” according to the complaint.

“… IOV, however, has not filed a Statement of Organization ... or any Recipient Committee Campaign Statement .... despite the fact that it is clearly spending money to engage in political advocacy.”

Colantuono said IOV wasn’t aware of those requirements until the FPPC complaint was filed, since it’s a group of resident volunteers undergoing an uncommon LAFCO process. But now that it is, it will comply “as soon as possible,” he said.

‘DOESN’T MEAN IT’S FACT’

Others listed in the complaint as “potential witnesses” to violations are Olympic Valley residents Walter Nelson, and Dean and Sandra B. Hall.

When contacted this week, both parties said they do not have any affiliations with Squaw Valley ski resort.

“Whatever we’re doing — on both sides ­— it should be very open,” Dean Hall said.

Attempts to reach Tomlinson for further comment on this story were unsuccessful.

As for the claim of IOV failing to include disclaimers on campaign advertisements, Colantuono said he is not aware of any such ads. Further, Ilfeld said IOV hasn’t spent money it’s raised on ads.

The complaint, however, views a video posted on IOV’s crowdfunding site, its website and Facebook page — along with monthly community meetings — as forms of “political advertisements and solicitations.”

With the crowdfunding video, for example, the complaint states: “(Olympic Valley resident Robb) Gaffney encourages viewers to help IOV raise additional money to not only cover the cost of a fiscal analysis but to ‘educate the local citizens about the benefits of incorporation.’

“The majority of the almost three minute video, which includes neither written nor spoken disclaimer, is spent advocating for the IOV measure by listing the benefits of incorporation. The content is no different than a political campaign in any other context.”

The FPPC received the complaint the week of May 5, and it’s under review, FPPC communications director Jay Wierenga said Friday.

“Just because there is a complaint filed, doesn’t mean it’s fact,” he said.

Information regarding potential violations comes from resident complaints, governmental agency referrals, media reports or audit findings, according to the FPPC.

As such, the commission reviews a claim to see if there is merit and whether it falls under the domain of the Political Reform Act.

If a claim appears to have merit, an investigation is opened, Wierenga said. If a violation is found, consequences range from a warning letter to up to a $5,000 fine per infraction.

ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERNS

This complaint comes at a time when LAFCO is taking bids by neutral parties until May 21 to conduct a fiscal analysis for the proposed town, with the intention of awarding the contract on June 11.

Besides looking at the town’s fiscal viability, environmental factors will also be examined, which has drawn debate.

In a April 4 letter to Placer County LAFCO Executive Officer Kristina Berry, Whitman Manley, a senior partner with Sacramento-based Remy Moose Manley — on behalf of resort owner Squaw Valley Ski Holdings — states being in favor of such a review.

“Public statements made by the IOV proponents make clear that incorporation would inevitably lead to changes in land use policy and land use itself by providing for significantly different development than might otherwise occur under existing county land use policies,” the letter states. “LAFCO must therefore consider the potentially significant adverse effects of incorporation even if that analysis is programmatic in nature.”

Other potential impacts mentioned in Manley’s letter include a change in response time to wildland fires, which could expose people and structures to risk of loss, injury or death; and a decrease in TART service levels due to a reduction in Transient Occupancy Tax funds.

In a May 1 response, Colantuono states that he disagrees that an environmental impact report is needed.

“The proposed incorporation will not cause any direct or indirect physical impacts on the environment because the incorporation is solely a change in the community’s administration and political leadership,” the letter states. “The intent in creating a new town is to enable local control over revenues, expenditures, services and land use regulation. The proposed incorporation does not require or authorize any new construction, expand services or extend them to new territory.”

As for changes in land use policies, Colantuono said that’s speculative because that would fall under the purview of a yet-to-be-elected town council.

In addition, fire protection service levels would remain the same since no provider change is proposed if incorporation is successful; it would still be provided by Squaw Valley Public Service District and CalFire, he said.

If LAFCO’s commissioned fiscal analysis indicates Olympic Valley could succeed as a town, and it approves incorporation, an election among Olympic Valley registered voters would follow, in which a simple majority — more than 50 percent — must vote in favor for it to become a town.

According to previous reports, incorporation was triggered in part by Squaw Valley’s village expansion project. Despite a scaled-back proposal unveiling in December 2013 based on public feedback, the effort continued.


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Tahoe Daily Tribune Updated May 26, 2014 12:27PM Published May 20, 2014 04:12PM Copyright 2014 Tahoe Daily Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.