Former Councilwoman Annette Smith approached the dais and addressed the council for about 5 minutes regarding what she perceived as the appearance of closed session leaks by current Councilwoman Sheree Lustgarten in the public comment portion near the beginning of the meeting.
Smith went on to talk about an ongoing lawsuit and counter lawsuit between developer Dominic Speno and the City of Patterson.
Speno took out an advertisement in the Irrigator last week laying out his grievances with the city, and his plans for his vacant land near the Best Western Villa Del Lago Hotel in west Patterson near Interstate 5.
Smith then pointed the finger at Lustgarten, who was seen in the Best Western Villa Del Lago Hotel speaking with Speno three weeks ago. The hotel is owned by Speno, as well.
“I am very disappointed that Council member Sheree Lustgarten met with Mr. Speno against the express direction of the city’s legal team,” Smith stated Tuesday evening. “The meeting took place three weeks ago at the Best Western Hotel and lasted approximately one-half hour.”
Smith then accused Lustgarten of discussing closed session discussions with Speno.
City councils routinely meet in closed session to discuss matters out of the public eye such as legal strategy during litigation.
“The meeting between Speno and Lustgarten breaches the confidentiality of closed session, and jeopardizes the city’s position in an ongoing lawsuit,” she stated.
Lustgarten stated she was at the Villa del Lago to get a recipe for soup from the chef of Damasco’s restaurant inside the hotel. The recipe was to be used for lunch at the Hammon Senior Center, she said.
“He makes really good crab chowder,” she said during a council recess. “Dominic came by and talked to me about the Patterson Tourism Workshop.”
The Patterson Tourism Workshop is a group of city leaders working together to promote Patterson as a tourist destination.
“In order to know what was discussed in closed session, someone had to tell her,” Lustgarten said.
Smith was on the council from 2006 to 2012 and was in office when the lawsuits origininated.
The city filed suit against Speno for back Transit Occupancy Taxes (hotel room taxes) for $175,000.
In his counter-action, Speno argued the city owed him $2.5 million because of a developer agreement about reimbursements for storm drain and flood-control improvements he made in the late 1990s.
Speno forged the agreement with Stanislaus County before the city of Patterson annexed the land containing his project off Rogers Road in 2004.
Speno’s attorney, Andrew Bassak of San Francisco, stated in court documents that starting in 2005, Speno approached the city to resolve the situation, meeting with three city managers, two city attorneys and various elected officials.
Doug White, the deputy city attorney, argued in court documents that Speno’s claim was made too long after the deal was struck and exceeded the statute of limitations for a complaint to be heard.
Contact Nick Rappley at 209-568-9975 or email@example.com.