Tulare Councilman legal woes mounting
Councilman Greg Nunley finds himself embroiled in lawsuits, and FPPC complaints
By Nancy Vigran, Reporter for the Sun-Gazette
While the City of Tulare swore in two new council members last week, another council member’s problems are mounting up.
The City is utilizing an attorney, who is on retainer, to look into allegations made by city staff, most specifically some within the Community Development Department, against Councilman Greg Nunley. Daniel Rowley, a Clovis-based attorney, who was placed on retainer to perform a variety of personnel investigations for the city following the appointment of Mario Zamora as the city’s interim city attorney in July, was asked to look into claims of workplace misconduct by Councilman Nunley.
In a Public Records Act request, made by Visalia attorney Michael Lampe earlier this month, he requested:
“1. Any written contracts or fee arrangements entered into between the City of Tulare and Attorney Daniel Rowley (or any other person) that establish compensation for the investigation referenced in Mr. [Josh] McDonnell’s [Community and Economic Development director] testimony.”
“2. Any billing statements (properly redacted), from any source, that will inform the general public of City funds expended to date on the above-referenced investigation.”
The PRA, made public by Lampe forwarding it to the press, states:
“On November 9, 2018, Josh McDonnell, the City of Tulare Community and Economic Development Director, testified under oath regarding efforts by Tulare City Councilman Greg Nunley to have multiple City employees fired who work on his projects. Mr. McDonnell further testified that the City has retained the services of Attorney Daniel Rowley to conduct an investigation into allegations of workplace misconduct engaged in by Councilman Nunley.”
Lampe received a response to his PRA indicating Rowley had spent 20.1 hours, during October and November, investigating Nunley at a cost to the city of $6,541. Included was a phone conference with Zamora, and an email exchange with Janice Avilla, Tulare’s Human Resources director. Some other references were redacted.
Furthermore, in a deposition taken of McDonnell on Nov. 9 by Lampe, the following exchange took place:
- “Have you been interviewed by Mr. Rowley in connection with that investigation?” [Lampe]
- “Yes, I have.” [McDonnell]
Lampe is the attorney for David Frost, a resident and retired police lieutenant of Tulare, who filed a lawsuit in early August against Nunley, some of his businesses, and the City of Tulare. The suit listed 12 causes of action including unpaid development fees, impermissible use of Nunley’s official positon as councilman to influence a governmental decision, a violation of the Fair Political Practice Commission (FPPC) for failure to file a 2018 Statement of Economic Interests form with the city as required of an elected official annually, and a threat of retaliation against city staff.
At that time, Nunley sat down to discuss the lawsuit with the Sun-Gazette, disputing the allegations including that of threatening the city staff. Nunley has not responded for comment since.
Frost has further filed a complaint with the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) accusing Nunley of inaccurate filings in his Statements of Economic Interests for 2016 and 2017.
Nunley claimed no more than $10,000 reportable income for his company, Great Valley Builders, for each 2016 and 2017.
Frost claims Great Valley Builders had received more than $10,000 reportable income during each of those reporting periods. On the FPPC complaint, Frost states:
“On September 6, 2018, John A. Moons executed a declaration under penalty of perjury in connection with Tulare County Superior Court case no. 274926, entitled Frost v. Nunley, et al., a copy of which is attached hereto and incorporated by reference as Exhibit 4. The Moons declaration states, in relevant part, that:
“Moons is the managing member of Seminole 32, LLC, a California limited liability company.
“At all times mentioned in the Moons declaration, Nunley held himself out to be the owner of Great Valley Builders.
“In 2016 and 2017, Great Valley Builders received a portion of $3 million for the construction of 32 apartment units commonly referred to as the Oak Creek Apartments.
“By September of 2018, Great Valley Builders had received an amount exceeding $400,000.00 for the construction of four duplexes on Bella Oaks Drive in Tulare, California.”
“On September 10, 2018, Arnel D. Koster executed a declaration under penalty of perjury in connection with the Frost v. Nunley case, a copy of which is attached hereto and incorporated by reference as Exhibit 5 (containing attached Exhibits 3 and 4). The Koster declaration states, in relevant part, that: Koster is the managing member of Central Valley Investment Associates, LLC, a California limited liability company.
“At all times mentioned in the Koster declaration, Nunley held himself out to be the owner of Great Valley Builders.
“By September of 2018, Great Valley Builders had received $378,794.79 for the construction of two duplexes on Bella Oaks Drive in Tulare, California.”
“I am informed and believe, and thereon allege, that Great Valley Builders received reportable income of $10,000.00 or more from Seminole 32 and/or Central Valley Investment Associates during one or both of the reporting periods set forth herein.
“I am informed and believe, and thereon allege, that multiple business entities listed by Nunley on Schedule A-2 of the Statements of Economic Interests filed by him have received reportable income of $10,000.00 or more from single sources during in a single year that remain undisclosed.”
A new lawsuit has been filled against Nunley’s Swift Homes, as well as Great Valley Builders, by Q-K (formerly known as Quad Knopf), an engineering and construction management company, in an amount nearing $100,000 for work performed in 2017, but not yet paid.
Zamora confirmed to the Sun-Gazette that he had placed Rowley on retainer following his appointment as Tulare’s attorney. He also confirmed the request for Rowley to look into the allegations regarding Nunley came at the direction of the city staff, specifying that no member of city council was involved in the decision. It should be noted a city attorney is hired by and works under the direction of its city council.
Zamora had no comment as to when that investigation began. There is no specific timeframe, at this time, as to when it will be finished.