Squaw Valley contributes six figures to challenge town effort
OLYMPIC VALLEY, Calif. — While the group aiming to create the town of Olympic Valley looks to comply with state political regulations, Squaw Valley Ski Holdings is contributing money and legal services to a group challenging the incorporation effort. Save Olympic Valley, a coalition of valley residents, business owners and property owners, has expended $183,053.59 between Jan. 1 and May 31, with major funding provided by Squaw Valley Ski Holdings, according to Fair Political Practices Commission forms filed with Placer County Elections. "Squaw Valley Ski Holdings has a vested interest as anyone in the future of Olympic Valley, and has made public that it does not support the efforts … to incorporate Olympic Valley into a new city," said SOV treasurer Sean Welch. "As such, it has contributed to Save Olympic Valley as a concerned party to oppose the creation of a new city." The company that owns Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows ski resorts has contributed $100,000 in monetary contributions and $30,256.58 in non-monetary contributions ranging from food and beverage to legal services and consulting to SOV. "While it may be a legal entity, Squaw Valley Ski Holdings considers itself not only to be a full-time resident, but one of the founders of what people today call Olympic Valley," said Welch, who's a partner with Nielsen Merksamer Parrinello Gross & Leoni LLP. "On top of that, it is the largest employer and the owner of over 40 percent of the land of the proposed new city of Olympic Valley." 'IGNORANCE IS NO EXCUSE' Olympic Valley residents filed a Fair Political Practices Commission complaint against IOV in May, listing the group's failures to file a statement of organization, disclose financial contributions for at least five months and include disclaimers on campaign advertisements. As of Wednesday, the complaint remains under "active investigation," said FPPC communications director Jay Wierenga. IOV was unaware of the filing requirements until the FPPC complaint was filed, according to previous reports. "Ignorance is no excuse," said Tom Day, IOV board member. "We put blame on no one but ourselves, and we're moving forward." In the months since the complaint was filed, IOV has been working with its attorney to come into compliance. At the end of May, IOV filed a statement of organization. As for finances, the group has raised just under $100,000 through fundraising and a crowdfunding campaign, said Day, adding that the situation with donation disclosures is being sussed out. Last December, IOV made a $25,000 deposit to Placer County's Local Agency Formation Commission to cover staff time and materials. At a June 11 LAFCO meeting, Folsom-based Citygate Associates was awarded a contract not to exceed $51,750 to prepare a comprehensive financial analysis on the proposed town to determine if it is fiscally viable. While Citygate Associates will work for LAFCO, its analysis will be funded by IOV. A request by IOV to pay the contract in installments was denied by LAFCO at a Wednesday hearing, said Kristina Berry, executive officer of Placer County LAFCO office. As a result, the grassroots group will have to fund the analysis up-front. FOLLOWING THE MONEY An initial fiscal study commissioned by IOV for $10,000 found the town would be financially viable, something that's been heavily scrutinized and debated by Squaw Valley Ski Holdings and Squaw Valley CEO Andy Wirth. According to IOV, it will cost roughly $105,000 to incorporate the town, a figure that includes its initial fiscal analysis, the LAFCO deposit, the comprehensive fiscal analysis, attorney fees and other expenses. However, one expense not factored into that total is the potential cost of an environmental analysis that IOV would have to fund. Berry said IOV is not exempt from such an analysis, but how in depth it will be is yet to be determined. Taking that potential expense into account along with accrued expenses, Day said the $105,000 estimate is believed to be low at this time. Regarding the amount of money spent by SOV questioning incorporation, Day said he is alarmed. "To see so much resentment before accurate facts come back from LAFCO is alarming," he said, referring to eventual findings of the final financial and environmental analyses. If LAFCO approves incorporation based on those findings, 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.