Dean Andal’s Congressional campaign continues to be dogged by questions surrounding his role in negotiations for new community college branch campus. Andal’s campaign has denied any wrongdoing, characterizing the issue as internal bickering on the board.
At issue are claims made by Ted Simas, a Board of Trustees member of San Joaquin Delta College who is also a registered Republican and a former Andal supporter. The negotiations among the board have been the subject of a grand jury investigation.
Controller John Chiang’s office has ordered on audit in response to a request by the area’s state Senator, Mike Machado, D-Linden.
Andal, a former Assemblyman and Board of Equalization member, is running to defeat one-term Congressman Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton. McNerney defeated seven-term Republican Congressman Richard Pombo, a hero in many conservative property-rights circles, in an upset in 2006. The seat ranks high on the list of Republican targets this fall. The GOP has a slight registration advantage in the district.
In recent years, Andal has been working for Sacramento-based developer Gerry Kamilos. Kamilos has been in talks with the Delta College board for several years to bring a branch campus of the school to the Mountain House development near Tracy. Andal was heavily involved in the talks with the board.
Delta board member Simas said that in February, 2006, Andal appears to have been contacted by two board members, who told him of the board’s closed-door discussions. It was the board members who violated the Brown Act open meetings law, Simas said—but Andal and Kamilos erred in not admitting the violation had taken place.
According to Simas, the board had been moving forward with plans to build at Mountain House, in an area of the development to be known as “College Park.” Kamilos and his team had promised to come forward with about $15 million to help cover infrastructure costs such as road and sewers in order to convince Delta to locate the campus at Mountain House.
But Simas said that money was several months late, forcing a delay in opening the campus, when the board started looking at a late competing offer from the city of Tracy. The city offered to give them 106 acres right next to the city’s historic downtown, Simas said. Tracy’s offer was discussed at a closed board meeting on February 9, 2006, he said.
That night and the next day, Simas said, Andal called him and expressed concern about the Tracy offer. This included financial and other information that Andal could not have gotten without speaking to a board member, Simas claimed. He added that he has asked the grand jury to subpoena all of the board member’s phone records to find out who made the call, but they have so far declined.
Kamilos said that he and Andal had been cleared after a two-year investigation by a San Joaquin County grand jury. He had a different take on why communications that occurred two to three years ago are now in the news.
“This is just a bunch of partisan spin that has been going as a result of the Congressional race,” Kamilos said.
Andal campaign spokesman Richard Temple noted that Andal’s name doesn’t even come up in the grand jury report.
“A board member thinks another board member leaked some information,” Temple said. “That’s the issue, and he can’t even prove that.” He added: “This is not a big issue with voters, nor has Dean Andal been suffering in the district because of it.”
However, the report did offer some harsh criticism of Delta’s board and the Mountain House plan, noting: “Despite recommendations from staff and hired consultants, the Board of Trustees continued to pursue Mountain House as the site for the new south county center/campus potentially increasing taxpayer cost by tens of millions of dollars.” It went on to state “The Grand Jury has no confidence in the Delta College Board of Trustees as they are currently constituted.”
No one disputes that there has been extensive contact between Andal, Kamilos and board members. These are detailed in a series of emails released by Delta College in response to a public records act request. These emails do not show any Brown Act violation, according to Delta spokesman Greg Greenwood.
“There is an exemption in the Brown Act that allows for these communications under particular circumstances,” Greenwood said. “It is out belief that these communications were allowable and actually necessary.”
Simas said he has reviewed many of the emails and found no Brown Act violations. Some of the emails contain references to outside meetings between Andal, Kamilos and board members, such as a lunch they arranged with board member Janet Rivera. But the lunch itself was not a violation, Simas said. He went on to call Rivera “very ethical” and said that he did not suspect her of being one of the board members who contacted Andal. Rivera did not reply to an email seeking comment.
In the financial disclosures forms he filed for his Congressional run, Andal lists $39,600 in 2007 salary from Gerry Kamilos LLC, as well as $117,905 in consulting fees from Pacific Coast Capital Partners (PCCP) Mountain House LLC. There are multiple developers involved with Mountain House, a partially completed, 2,400 homes, 800-acre planned community, but the proposed Delta site is owned by Kamilos.
Andal has been considered a strong challenger to the vulnerable McNerney. His last major run came in 2002, when he lost a Republican primary to Senator Tom McClintock, R-Thousand Oaks. The years since have made the loss look a bit better, as McClintock has become a star in the GOP and is considered the favorite to replace embattled John Doolittle in the nearby 4th Congressional District.
But Andal’s troubles have been piling up in recent weeks. McNerney has out-raised him by about a two-to-one margin. As of late August, McNerney reported $1.37 million in the bank to Andal’s $663,000.
Meanwhile, Democratic-leaning groups have been targeting Andal, just like they did Pombo. In July, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee announced they would hit him and McClintock with a combined $2 million in TV ads. Last month, the League of Conservation Voters added him to their “dirty dozen” list of Republicans they’re targeting for defeat.
Worse for Andal might be Stockton mayor Ed Chavez’s decision to endorse McNerney. The 11th district famously cuts out the urban center of Stockton and many of its Democratic-leaning voters. But Chavez is a popular Latino Republican and a former police chief. In response to these factors, the Cook Political Report changed their rating on this race last week from “tossup” to “lean Democratic.”
The McNerney campaign declined to comment for this story.