Capra will not be charged in Piazza bribery case
Temple City councilman David Capra has resigned.
“Although I feel I have diligently and effectively represented the people of Temple City, it is with great regret that I am informing you of my immediate resignation from the City Council,” Capra wrote in a statement to the City Clerk.
Capra was first elected to the City Council in March 2003. Four years later, Temple City voters re-elected Capra to a second four-year term. His term would have expired in 2011.
According to Pasadena Star News reporter Alfred Lee, councilman Capra had plead guilty on June 2, 2009, for not reporting a campaign contribution of $1000 or more during the 2007 City Council election.
In exchange for admitting guilt, Capra was placed on probation for 36 months, must resign from office, agree not to run for four years and pay a $150 fine. Prosecutors also promised not to file any charges against him in relation to the Piazza bribery case.
Since 2008, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office has been investigating Capra, councilwoman Judy Wong, former councilwoman Cathé Wilson and former city council and state assembly candidate Scott Carwile.
The four had been accused by Piazza at Temple City developer Randy Wang of bribery.
The Piazza developer claims he gave Capra, Carwile and Wong $13,000 in cash during the March 2007 city council elections. He further alleges Wilson had demanded one of the 52 proposed one-bedroom condominiums and $48,000 in cash.
All four have publicly denied the allegations.
Piazza developer has proposed changes thrice since winning approval in 2006
The $75 million project, formerly known as the “Temple City Galleria” and “Piazza Las Tunas,” once promised 52 one-bedroom condominiums and a large retail center. The development plans also included a proposed banquet facility.
Developer Wang secured approval of his mixed-use development in May 2006 despite fierce opposition from a group of neighborhood activists, known as Temple City Neighborhood Alliance (TCNA), and residents within the community.
After the City Council approved the project, a referendum drive supported by TCNA was launched. More than 1900 signatures were gathered. But the push to place the development on the ballot failed on the basis of a technicality.
From 2006 to the present, the Piazza developer has held two ground breakings and has worked with three different construction management firms. Wang has proposed changes thrice, in 2007, 2008 and most recently April 2009.
Wang has until August 23, 2009 to complete his development according to the developer’s agreement signed by Wang and the city of Temple City.
Last year, the city of Temple City filed a lawsuit against Wang, anticipating a breach in the Piazza development contact. A few months later, Wang countersued Temple City, accusing city officials of bribery.
If city officials are found to be guilty of Wang’s allegations, the contract signed between the developer and the city would be void. However, assuming the contract remains valid, Temple City may purchase the 3.7 acre site for $5 million should Wang fail to construct the Piazza by August.
On May 25, the Temple City Voice sent an e-mail to Piazza spokesman Enrique Medina. The request for more information regarding the development was unanswered.
A court-mandated settlement conference will be held in July. Councilmembers Fernando Vizcarra and Vincent Yu will represent Temple City at the meeting.
According to city staff, approximately $171,000 in legal fees have been spent in litigation with the Piazza developer, as of April 30. Temple City is being represented by Joe Buchman of Burke, Williams and Sorensen, LLP.
Online community react, speculate on next councilperson
A growing chorus of online commentators has expressed its disapproval of city officials’ alleged involvement with the Piazza developer.
Since the Star News first reported the story, more than a hundred comments have been made on the Internet. Besides condemning Capra, Carwile, Wilson and Wong, posters are wondering who the current City Council will choose to replace Capra.
After hearing from interim city attorney Eric Vail, who began his job on June 1, the City Council decided to hold a special council meeting on June 11 to appoint a new councilmember. Each councilperson can nominate up to two people.
Candidates must either submit a written statement or provide materials to the City Council and will have the chance to speak before the legislative body.
Likely candidates will probably be past and current city commissioners and former councilmembers.
This article was written by Matthew Wong. It was published in the Temple City Voice on September 18, 2009.