Posts Tagged Ajit Mithaiwala
Last December we posted about a character named Ajit Mithaiwala who had built a heavily subsidized low income housing fustercluck project in Fullerton in the 1990s that epitomized the futility and incompetence of Fullerton Redevelopment Agency.
Remember? His name popped up on a host committee list for a fund raiser thrown by high speed rail impresario and con man Curt Pringle, in honor of his boy, Hide and Seek Harry Sidhu. Since the name appeared to be mispelled we had fun with the notion that it might be somebody else.
In the post we wondered aloud what had become of Mithaiwala, and what he had been up to the past ten years.
It turns out we weren’t alone. Federal government auditors, prosecutors, and the FBI have been wondering too, according to an L.A. Times article forwarded to us by an alert Friend.
All sorts of misbehavin’ have been attributed to this guy and his development company that found a niche building subsidized, low-income housing projects, including fraud, failure to report income, and building shoddy, unsafe buildings. His politcal contributions have been scrutinized, too.
Here are a few choice morsels in the article from the Federal investigator:
“virtually no financial records,” no general ledger, no balance sheet and no bank reconciliations. Working with forensic accountants, he said he had discovered “potential fraud and criminal activity.”
On Tuesday, he told the court he was still trying to gain control of company assets and had identified 400 bank accounts, as well as $600,000 in gold bullion and three cars, including a Bentley.
It transpires that besides Fullerton, Mithaiwala has left a trail of tears behind him in cities across Southern California, including our neighbor to the south, Anaheim, where the Mayor Pro Tem is none other than Hide and Seek Harry Sidhu.
Yikes. You don’t mess with the Treasury Department, boys. Even Al Capone could tell you that.
How come our electeds don’t seem to be able to grasp simple concepts; why have they no resistance to the bureaucratic sales pitch; why must they obscure their own ignorance in a cloud of asinine nonsense or outright lies?
Last Tuesday night the Fullerton City Council/Redevelopment Agency approved the idiotic Richman housing project, a staff-concocted, no-bid, pet project that proposes to subsidize ownership of condos. The vote was 3-1, Sharon Quirk-Silva, dissenting. Shawn Nelson took a powder.
Why is this project idiotic? First we believe that the ownership of a house is something that should be available equally, and not doled out by the government to its own selected recipients.
Second, the units in this project will have to be perpetually restricted to people whose income levels qualify. Perfect: perpetual housing bureaucracy! The necessary deed restrictions are a pretty significant encumbrance and will just add to the financial shakiness of the whole enchilada. But without these restrictions the original buyers would be in line for a massive windfall courtesy of all of us, when they sell.
A third point, as was admirably developed by Sharon Quirk-Silva, the proposed occupancy restrictions would very likely disqualify people who need housing the most. Which leads to the fourth point. These units will not count against Fullerton’s most neglected RHNA category – low and very low income. Which leads to:
Five. Dick Jones claimed that approving the Richman project is required to satisfy some legal mandate – it is THE LAW. That’s just a tin-plated, bald-faced lie. The SCAG RHNA allocations are goals, not a legal mandate. Cities are required by the State HCD to provide evidence of programs used to achieve those goals – not specific projects. And, in any case hypocritically, this project does not address the most urgent RHNA category of all which means that for folks who profess to really like this sort of thing, an opportunity has been lost.
Finally, FFFF has tried to promote better, more sustainable design in government-subsidized projects. And this project just promises more of the same old architectural crap we’ve been getting all along.
And now that we contemplate this fiasco, we feel the need for a last minute adendum to the Fringie Worst Vote category.
We got a hold of an invite to a Harry Sidhu for 4th District Supervisor campaign event. It’s hosted by Curt Pringle and it will cost its well-heeled attendees $500 bucks a pop. Here’s the text:
Dear Supporter: I have had the great pleasure to work with Harry Sidhu on the Anaheim City Council over the past five years. As you may know, Harry is planning a run for the 4thDistrict Supervisorial seat. I am supporting Harry for that election. Even though these are difficult times, I would very much appreciate if you could support Harry at his upcoming fundraiser at the Anaheim White House, on December 16 at 11:30 AM. Your participation would mean a lot. The event charge is $500 per person. Please consider attending and let me know at your earliest convenience.
Mayor Curt Pringle
Luncheon Host Committee
George Adams – Adrian Foley – Dr.Howard & Linda Knohl Pat Mahoney – Jerry Zomorodian – Sandy Day – Ajit Mithwalia John Thomas –Ajesh Patel – Bill Taormina – Larry Lake Todd Ament –Virg Narbutas – Bill O’Connell – Hamilton Brewart Derral McGinnis – Ken Ryan – CB Nanda
Cordially invite you to a special fundraising event honoring COUNCILMAN HARRY SIDHU
Republican Candidate ~ Orange County Supervisor, 4th District
We have already addressed Pringle’s arachnid qualities, so we’ll let that go for now. Of keen interest to Fullertonians will be the name of one of Harry’s benefactors: “Ajit Mithwalia.” Could that really be Ajit Mithaiwala? The Ajit Mithaiwala?
Last spring we detailed the long, sad, and disastrous story of the Fullerton “City Lights” SRO project (two installments of which are here, and here); a project in which LA developer Ajit Mithaiwala figured prominently, both as the Plan B developer dredged up by Redevelopment director to save the fiasco; as the man who threatened to sue the City for make believe breach of contract; and who then took several years to finish his project.
What Mithaiwala has been doing for the past 10 years is anybody’s guess, but the fact that he might be popping up now is pretty interesting. The fact that he originally received a million bucks from the County for his project and might now be dabbling in County politics is interesting, to say the least.
Of course we could be wrong. Maybe this is just some guy named “Mithwalia.”
Fans of Evita will remember these lyrics: “When the money keeps rolling in, you don’t ask how. Think of all the people guaranteed a good time, now!”
Well, a lot of people at Rutan and Tucker Law firm have made plenty $$$ off Fullerton taxpayers, especially its redevelopment attorney Jeff Oderman.
Oderman has a record of loyalty to city staff and staff-directed projects, even if it means bamboozling the council (acting as redevelopment agency). Take the City Lights low-income housing project on East Commonwealth (next to the Old Post Office). In 1997 the Agency-assigned developer Caleb Nelson (who was living out of his car) disappeared. The whole deal should have ben sent back to the Council for reconsideration. A request-for-proposal should have been issued to give developers an equal opportunity.
Instead, LA developer Ajit Mithaiwala appears from nowhere to take over the project. Then-RDA Director Chaplupsky starts dealing with Ajit, until council members Norby, Sa and Jones start wondering aloud– “where did this developer come from?” Oderman claimed Ajit was now the developer. Not true, Jeff! Despite demands from the council majority, no document was ever produced showing that Mithaiwala had ever been legally assigned the project. His shoddy construction of LA projects was also a concern.
The council saw past Oderman’s bad advice and voted to end the project. Then, Mithaiwala threatened to sue Dick Jones personally for derogatory comments he made about future tenants. Jones got no protection from Oderman and instead Jones was pressured to change his vote. He did, and the project went through.
In 1999 the City started a breach-of-contract suit against Southwest Engineering, Inc. for non-performance on the Basque Yard remodel. It turned out that Southwest had used Rutan and Tucker to defend itself against a similar suit with another city. For a firm to represent both parties in a lawsuit–even if not the same case–is a serious question of legal ethics. Yet Oderman never told the council, who found out about it from a third source–when it was too late to change lawyers.
Oderman then recommends the City settle with the non-performing contractor, paying Southwest over $1 million.
Now Oderman is giving the council/agency the same bad advice on blight in the proposed expanded redevelopment area. Its passage will lead to at least two legal challenges on the bogus blight findings. County Counsel Attorney James Harman and FFFF’s attorney Bob Ferguson have stated convincingly and repeatedly why the blight findings fail legal muster.
Similar blight findings in many other cities–including Upland, Mammoth Lakes, Diamond Bar, Murietta, Arcadia and Glendora–have been thrown out by the courts. Fullerton’s may well be headed in that direction. Has Oderman cautioned the council about the legal risks? Or is he there to provide cover for the staff and the consultants?
But, what does Oderman care? A lengthy lawsuit only adds to his hourly billings ($400/hr. adds up pretty fast). Win or lose, he’ll still be paid. If Oderman is really so confident about winning the long legal blight fight ahead, then pay him on a contingency!
Please, City Council–hire a lawyer to represent you–not defend staff boondoggles. Until then, the money keeps rolling in for Rutan and Tucker! $400 per hour for 15 years of bad advice.