By Per Peterson
Tracy Area Headlight Herald
EDA Board President Dennis Fultz was asked by EDA member Tony Peterson to resign his position from the board at last Wednesday’s meeting for “making a statement to the City on behalf of the board without the board’s knowledge.”
Fultz, who said he was blindsided by the request, said this week that he has no intentions of resigning.
Peterson said he wrote up a formal complaint which he said he would “gladly destroy” if Fultz stepped down. He also asked Fultz to abstain from the rest of last Wednesday’s meeting, which ultimately did not happen since the matter was tabled until more information can be gathered.
On Thursday, Tracy City Administrator Kris Ambuehl said he has sent the complaint onto the City Attorney. Ambuehl said he has reached out to Fultz on the matter.
“I think you have a conflict of interest … with the intent to sell the Asian grocery store (Asian Market),” Peterson told Fultz. “I think you’re conflicted in the way you’re operating meetings. It’s come to my knowledge — and it’s been proven by the (city) council — that all you need is an opinion of conflict. You need to recuse yourself or be censured.”
Fultz said he was caught off guard by Peterson’s request and subsequent statements— a sentiment shared by least one other EDA board member.
“This got sprung on me — I haven’t had a chance to contemplate or think this through,” he said. “This is totally news to me.”
In response to the accusations, Fultz told the Tracy Area Headlight Herald that he doesn’t feel he has done anything wrong.
“I think they did this as a retaliatory measure after Jeff (Salmon) got voted off the EDA at that Monday night meeting,” he said. “The grounds that they have have even asking for a resignation are extremely flimsy at best. I have no fears whatsoever about any type of allegation that would turn anything up that would warrant me resigning.”
Peterson said Fultz signed a document sans board approval and that he didn’t have the authority to do so. That document addressed to City Administrator Kris Ambuehl — a formal complaint against EDA board members by Jamie Mattson, who was in line to purchase the Asian Market building but eventually withdrew interest in the property — reads as follows: “I would ask the City Attorney and City Council review this matter on behalf of the EDA. Please let me know if I can be of any further assistance.”
Peterson took exception to Fultz signing the document without consulting the EDA board.
“Everything you’ve signed in the past was approved by the board — all the sales, all the contracts — this should never have been signed by you without the knowledge of the board,” said Peterson. “And you had the opportunity at the July 3 meeting to bring it to the board. But someone, somehow let this drag on and become a fiasco in the paper and in the council chambers …”
Fultz, who said he wasn’t the one who initiated the document, told the board he signed it on the advice of the City Attorney in the process of looking into the allegations that Mattson was making.
“It was under the advisement of the attorney that I talked to Dennis,” Ambuehl said, “and that I show him the complaint and state that the City would be taking it over and ask Dennis if that was OK with him. I typed it and Dennis signed it.”
Mattson and Fultz have a connection in that Mattson is purchasing property on 3rd St. which Fultz’s son, Jay, has ties to. Peterson asserted that the purchase of the property benefits Jay Fultz by “maintaining a common wall.” Dennis Fultz said that as far as his son’s building is concerned, it has its own exterior wall, so “from a structural perspective, he does not need that Asian Market building next to him.”
Peterson reiterated that he doesn’t believe Fultz has the authority to speak for the board on the matter. Ambuehl said seeking legal advice on the matter was the right thing to do.
“This was a matter than not one person at this table … is an expert on,” Ambuehl said. “To seek legal advice was absolutely the proper thing to do. If it’s a legal issue that people are not educated enough on, it should be brought to the attorney. It was brought to the attorney because the complaint came to me. The attorney’s advice was to notify the EDA president.”
Mattson is also in the process of purchasing the Park Place property, in which Dennis Fultz has been a silent parter of for the last four or five years.
“I don’t think there’s anything that would expose me to any conflict of interest,” he said.
Peterson made five formal complaints against Fultz last week: Fultz failed to make decisions based on what is best for the City; took advantage of his position in forwarding a complaint to the City without board approval; did not declare a conflict of interest in the purchase of the 3rd St. property; conducted serial meetings with other EDA members in order to secure their support for the sale of EDA property; and provided hearsay testimony to the city administrator to falsely accuse another EDA member of wrongdoings.
EDA board member Mark Seager asked why this situation wasn’t handled the same way the issue surrounding Jeff Salmon was dealt with. Salmon, also an EDA member, had been requested by Mattson to be removed from the board. That issue eventually went to the city council, and Salmon was voted off the EDA board at a public hearing last Wednesday.
“I’m willing to let it go upon (Fultz’s) resignation,” Peterson said. “It’s up to Denny. At least he’s got a chance to have a choice.”
Seager, co-chair of the board, made a recommendation for Fultz not to remove himself from the board until a hearing and/or investigation into the matter takes place.
“It needs to be flushed out to find out if there’s merit here,” Seager said. “The idea of springing this on him … He’s been serving with the EDA for decades. Decades. And this gets thrown out to cut his throat, to try to make a point — it’s bad medicine. Let this play out just like it is with with Mr. Salmon.”
Fultz said he doesn’t deal much with legal issues and assumed that everything was being handled in a proper manner.
“I guess I can say that nobody wanted this situation to arise in the first place,” he said. “We want it to be resolved in the least-divisive nature in this community as possible so the community can move forward, because we’ve got a lot of good things happening here. It disappoints me that this got sprung on me in a moment like this.”
Peterson said Wednesday provided an opportunity to put the issue to bed, given Fultz resigns.
The board moved on from the issue to regular business, agreeing that further investigation into the matter was warranted.
Before the official start of Wednesday’s meeting, Ambuehl asked Salmon if he acknowledged that he had been suspended from any EDA proceedings prior to last Wednesday evening’s hearing that was intended to determine whether or not Salmon be removed from the EDA board, and reminding him that’s the decision that was made at Monday’s city council meeting on a 3-1 vote. Salmon asked if he could stay for the public portion of the meeting, which he did.