The California Fair Political Practices Commission is investigating votes in January by two Del Rey Oaks councilmembers—John Gaglioti and Pat Lintell—concerning the nursery center Hana Gardens, located on city property within 500 feet of where they live.
The investigation was confirmed in a letter dated April 29 from Angela J. Brereton, chief of the FPPC's enforcement division, to the resident who filed the complaint, attorney Kenneth Rutherford.
Before the vote on Jan. 26, both councilmembers stated that despite living in the houses, they did not own them and therefore did not have a conflict. Lintell said she had signed over the deed to her son and Gaglioti said his parents owned the home. They voted in favor of a measure that would require Hana Gardens to curtail some of its activities and scale back its footprint, as required under an earlier lease.
Rutherford researched county assessor records and discovered that Lintell did not actually transfer the deed until Feb. 4, a week after the vote. In Gaglioti's case, the house had been owned by his parent's trust but it was transferred to Gaglioti on Feb. 11, two weeks after the vote.
Rutherford filed a complaint with the FPPC and contacted the Monterey County District Attorney's Office. (An investigator for that office told Rutherford later the DA was not going to pursue the case.)
In a written statement submitted to the Weekly, Gaglioti writes that the house and other assets were transferred due to his mother's recent health issues and not related to the nursery vote.
Both councilmembers recused themselves from voting on the nursery property in 2014, when Lintell was on council and Gaglioti was on the Planning Commission. Gaglioti writes that he was advised at that time by the city attorney at the time to recuse himself, even though Gaglioti disagreed there was a conflict. He did not own the house at that time.
"The complainant lives on a connecting road to the entrance of [the nursery] and is angry about the impacts the business had on their road. The negative impacts are due to the tenant being out of compliance with the use permit and lease terms," Gaglioti writes. (Rutherford says he once did live near the nursery but no longer does.)
"I share the complainant's frustration with the tenant, and I am working with the rest of the council and city staff to enforce compliance," Gaglioti states, adding that he thinks Rutherford filed the complaint to force the council to act more swiftly in the matter. Gaglioti suggests Rutherford is impatient and "appears not to accept that the council and staff are moving as fast as the process allows."
Rutherford says he agrees with the council's vote to reign in the nursery but that filing the complaint was more about his belief that the councilmembers were lying and broke not only California law but the city's own code of conduct, which requires members to avoid all appearances of impropriety. Regardless of whether they owned the homes or not, they would still be owned by family and that could be construed as a conflict, he says.
"We've got to restore the integrity and confidence in our Del Rey Oaks city government. That's of paramount importance to me," says Rutherford.
If there was any attempt to speed up the council's actions in regards to the nursery, that came before the January vote when Rutherford asked to meet with both Gaglioti and Lintell to share information he uncovered that shows the nursery is encroaching into wetlands and parkland. Gaglioti never replied to Rutherford's request and Lintell declined to meet in person due to Covid.
The land that the nursery sits on off of Canyon Del Rey was donated to the city, with deed restrictions that Rutherford believes should have never allowed the nursery to exist in the first place.
Lintell did not respond to a request for comment.