Lawsuit Advances to Help Public Get to the Bottom of Bakersfield-Area Politicians’ Votes to Kill Popular Home Improvement Financing Program
Attorneys for Checks and Balances Project (C&BP) have served subpoenas to four realtor lobbyists in California. The subpoenas are part of our effort to help the public learn more about communications between powerful lobbyists and the Bakersfield-area politicians who voted to kill homeowner access to the popular Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing program in July 2017.
The four lobbyists served are:
- Jeanne Radsick — Director of both the National Association of Realtors and the California Association of Realtors, as well as an agent with Bakersfield-based Scott Tobias Real Estate.
- Kim Schaefer — Government affairs director of the Bakersfield Association of Realtors and a former chief of staff of Kern County Board of Supervisors, District 5.
- Sanjay Wangle — Legislative advocate for the California Association of Realtors.
- Jimmy Yee — President of Yankee Communications, a public & government affairs firm located in Bakersfield, CA.
In August 2017, C&BP filed twin lawsuits against members of the Kern County Board of Supervisors and the Bakersfield City Council. Our suits allege potential violations of the Brown Act, the long-standing California law that guarantees the public’s right to attend and participate in meetings of local legislative bodies.
The City and County have failed to meet some of our lawful records requests, forcing us to turn to subpoenas to enforce public access to information about how public policy decisions were made.
In our reporting to date, we have discovered that several of the individuals served with subpoenas worked in concert to kill homeowners’ ability to use PACE to improve their homes. In a grant application to her federal lobbying association, the National Association of Realtors, Ms. Schaefer claimed that:
“we have held preliminary meetings with local elected officials that are willing to lead the charge… but are asking for political cover.”
The votes by the County Supervisors and the City Council appear to be the culmination of what state law categorizes as “serial meetings” between opponents of the PACE program and elected officials, as well as among elected officials themselves, prior to the formal votes.
Both of our lawsuits seek to determine if the public meeting law was broken, as well as to enforce the public’s right under the California Public Records Act to access records of politicians’ deal-making with the powerful realtor and mortgage lobbies.
To view the subpoenas, click here.
Scott Peterson is executive director of Checks and Balances Project, an investigative watchdog blog that seeks to hold government officials, lobbyists and corporate management accountable to the public. Funding for C&BP comes from sustainable economy philanthropies and donors.
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