Tracy City Council hears concerns over possible conflict of interest violations
TRACY — A Planning and Zoning commissioner accused a city councilman of conflict of interest violations involving city employee health insurance and the vacating of a portion of Sixth Street during Monday’s Tracy City Council meeting.
Council members also answered questions addressed to them by concerned citizens at last month’s meeting.
“I believe that Councilman Bill Chukuske should declare his conflict of interest and not vote on any issues involving PC&B Properties. I believe the vote on this should be rescinded and re-voted on,” Rosemary Martin said during the public comments part of the meeting. “I believe that the (disclosure) was ambiguous at best.”
The conflict of interest allegation involves the vacating of a portion of Sixth Street. Martin explained that property owners listed on a city mailing would benefit from the vacation.
“I believe that (conflict of interest) is because Bill Chukuske has a significant interest in PC&B Properties. Per our city code, Councilman Chukuske should have identified this conflict of interest and abstained from voting on this motion,” Martin said.
Martin also expressed concerns of the health insurance provided to city employees. In her comments to the council, she said in six years the city has not taken health insurance bids. And the city purchased the health insurance through Chukuske at Bill Chukuske Insurance Services.
After Martin made her comments, Councilman Tony Peterson responded to her allegations. Peterson said Martin, as a member of the Planning and Zoning Commission, should have brought forward the conflict of interest concern sooner.
“I just found out about it,” Martin said. “It was not part of the formal request that we were to act upon, but I’m bringing it up now. I just want to you to follow city code.”
The council then asked city attorney Matthew B. Gross to offer an opinion on the insurance issue.
“Cities with less than 25 employees do not have to bid out health insurance,” Gross said. “Tracy has 15 employees with health insurance coverage.”
Gross said that when the vote in any given question would come out with the same results even if the individual vote in question was thrown out, the courts would let the vote stand.
Later in the meeting, Councilman Chukuske ended up abstaining from voting on two agenda items due to possible conflict of interest.
Also during the public comment period, Shirley Anderson was concerned with city code violations. First, there should be nine, not just seven members on the charter commission. Secondly, she said that the city had permitted some pet owners with multiple dog licenses that exceeded the city limit on dogs without even notifying the neighbors.
“The entire council have taken oaths to uphold the constitution and the city’s regulations. Recently they violated this oath,” she said. The council had voted to approve multiple pet licenses for one party who had over the limit of number of dogs, she said. “Neighbors are to be notified, but this was not done.”
Anderson charged the council members to uphold the city charter and the oaths they made. She wants to know what has been done.
The charter commission is to be meeting soon, city officials said.
“One other thing,” Anderson said. “Stop all these closed meetings. I’m tired of it, and I want to know what’s going on.”
During the course of the meeting, Mayor Steve Ferrazzano and other council members answered several questions asked by Rosemary Martin, Shirley Anderson and others at last month’s meeting.
Some of the questions involved former City Administrator Madonna Peterson.
Councilman Peterson explained the numerous reviews of Peterson were conducted as “a tool” or a “two-way street” Madonna Peterson could share what wasn’t working for her, according to Tony Peterson.
“What is Councilman Tony Peterson’s agenda?” Martin asked. “And what does he hope to accomplish? Does he want the administrator’s job?”
“I’m here to serve,” Councilman Peterson said.“That is my agenda.”
Another question involved the Tracy EDA asking for an extension on the loans for properties belonging to Jason Lichty and Dale Johnson.
Martin said that Peterson had exonerated them because they held high positions in Tracy as police chief and fire chief, positions in which they risked their lives for the city.
“Peterson doesn’t have that authority,” Martin said. “And people are asking why they get different standards.”
Councilman Peterson just said that it was a filing error.
The council had been asked, “Will you rescind your acceptance of Madonna Peterson’s resignation?”
“If we would receive something from her, we would consider it,” Ferrazzano said. “To date, we haven’t received anything.”
Martin and others are still collecting signatures on a petition to have Councilman Peterson’s seat recalled. They plan to file it later this week. Even if the council declines to ask him to resign, a special election can be held, Martin said.