City Expenditures Increase Due to Piazza Legal Troubles

The city of Temple City has spent approximately $150,000 to pay for legal fees associated with the Piazza legal case, according to City Manager Charles R. Martin.

“Our expenses are up by about 5 percent with the increase in attorney fees due to the costs of outside counsel and the Piazza controversy” wrote Martin in the March 19, 2009 City Manager’s Report.

In April 2008, the City filed a suit against Piazza owner and developer Randy Wang in anticipation of a breach in the developer’s agreement.

Wang countersued in September 2008, accusing Temple City Mayor Judy Wong, councilman David Capra, former councilwoman Cathé Wilson and former city council and state assembly candidate Scott Carwile, of bribery.

In exchange for support of the project, Wang alleges he gave Capra, Carwile and Wong $13,000 in cash during the March 2007 city council elections. He also claims Wilson demanded one of the 52 one-bedroom condominiums.

Capra, Wilson and Wong have all publicly denied the allegations.

The Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office-Public Integrity Division has been investigating the case since last year.

Members of the D.A.’s office conducted searches at the homes of Capra, Carwile, Wilson and Wong in February 2009. The home of the first Piazza construction manager, Jay Liyanage, was also searched. In addition, the D.A.’s staff also visited City Hall, but according to City Manager Martin, they took “nothing of value.”

The D.A. seized tape recording the developer secretly recorded while conversing with city officials in January 2009. This incident followed the questioning of councilmembers in December 2008.

Months of negative news stories about the developer’s allegations, by the Pasadena Star News and Los Angeles Times, have dogged Temple City and city officials.

Earlier this month, former councilmembers Wilson and Ken Gillanders were ousted by Temple City voters. Both had voted for the Piazza development in May 2006.

The Piazza at Temple City, formerly known as the “Temple City Galleria” and “Piazza Las Tunas,” once promised 52 one-bedroom condominiums and a large retail center. The project included a proposal for a banquet facility, a wish the Temple City community has desired for years.

Since its initial approval in 2006, there have been two ground breakings and three different construction management firms in charge of the project. The developer proposed changes in 2007 and again in 2008.

In December 2008, the City Council sent the developer’s newest changes to the Planning Commission for review. Wang, who has not yet filed a new proposal with the city, is expected to do so shortly.

The developer has until August 23, 2009 to complete the construction of the Piazza at Temple City. If Wang fails, the city has the option to purchase the 3.7 acre lot for $5 million.

A court hearing to discuss the Piazza’s original development agreement has been set for July 2009.

 

This article was written by Matthew Wong. It was published in the Temple City Voice on June 12, 2009.

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