City report on Surland memo finds no wrongdoing
by Michael Langley
Dec 19, 2013 | 4362 views | 9 9 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The inquiry into whether the city staff acted inappropriately and made an agreement with Surland Communities LLC without the knowledge of the City Council is over, with the staff finding that no such agreement existed.

Councilman Robert Rickman, at the Dec. 3 regular meeting of the City Council, asked the staff to review a proposal from Surland dated April 26 and report whether the staff had agreed to any of the items without the knowledge of city leaders. He said he was troubled by public accusations of criminal behavior on the part of the city and Surland.

“Were there conditions of that agreement, whatever they may be, performed by staff without going to City Council,” Rickman said during a Dec. 4 interview. “Is there information that we should have been made aware of.”

Assistant City Manager Maria Hurtado reported back during the final agenda item of the regular council meeting Tuesday, Dec. 17, with an itemized list of city responses to the 10 proposals outlined in the Surland memo.

Hurtado said the city staff development team, which meets regularly with all Tracy developers, verbally rejected the memo, and every proposal within it, during an undated meeting with Surland owner Les Serpa.

“No written response was given because the entire proposal was rejected,” Hurtado said. She concluded that there was therefore never any agreement, inappropriate or otherwise, between Surland and the city of Tracy.

Rickman asked during the meeting Tuesday about a connection between the memo and a $50,000 payment Surland made to the city on behalf of the airport fuel service provider, Turlock Air Center.

“We had a contractual agreement with Turlock Air Center,” Hurtado said. “We didn’t question where (the money) came from or what the motive was behind it, because we were focused on the contractual obligation that we had been trying to get them to pay.”

After the staff report that there was no wrongdoing on anyone’s part, Rickman explained his view on the importance of government transparency.

“We have a moral and ethical duty, when someone does bring accusations of this magnitude, that it should be vetted here in public,” Rickman said.

Councilwoman Nancy Young offered a similar assessment.

“Overall, this was a good exercise in transparency, whatever that Pandora’s box opened up, but where do we go from here?” Young said.

Councilman Charles Manne offered one possible result of the inquiry.

“I’m not sure anything got solved tonight. There might be some business processes that the city might look into doing a little better,” Manne said, adding, “But unless there is any accusations or any wrongdoing, it’s time to put this to bed.”

Mayor Pro Tem Michael Maciel felt that the questions posed by Rickman and the community had been answered honestly and openly.

“One thing I’m certain is that no one was trying to pull anything, because it was upfront,” Maciel said. “The rhetoric was at a much higher level. There was talk of criminal acts and everything else. Thankfully, that has calmed down somewhat.”

Mayor Brent Ives had the final word, saying he was satisfied that nothing inappropriate was done and thanking staff members for their work to ensure that was true.

“Thank you for indulging us in this quest for transparency,” Ives said. “I’ve heard enough. There are some lessons to learn here, I think, for all of us. There always are when you go through a process like this.”

In fact, Hurtado mentioned in her presentation one policy change that may result from the official inquiry:

“The city manager may consider establishing some administrative policy that requires us to provide written rejections when we get them in writing.”

• Contact Michael Ellis Langley at 830-4231 or

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December 24, 2013
Deal point number 1 in the Surland Agreement called for Surland to pay Turlock Air's shortfall. Staff got a $50,000 check from Surland to pay Turlock Air's yearly obligation to the city. Staff didn't question that the check was from Surland instead of Turlock air.

Under the Surland deal the City was supposed to and did propose to shorten the Airport runway to 3,997 feet.(Deal point number 4.)The city would have shortened it had the FAA not stepped in.

Under the agreement the City was supposed to and did ask the San Joaquin Airport Land Use Commission for an amendment to shorten the runway (Deal Point number 6) but the Airport commission said NO. The City Council voted to explore an override of the Commission.

The city is in the process of amending the Surland specific plan as required by deal point number 9.

Never got an answer whether Surland got 7 cents a gallon or not I guess they just left that little detail out.

According to City Staff they told Surland no deal verbally but the Staff dosen't recall the date of the meeting. Right.

Whether there was a deal or not both sides met there obligations under the deal. Looks and smells like a deal. Must be a deal.

December 21, 2013
Why do people put little thought into their comments?

Old timers know that Surland was born and raised in Tracy. Redbridge was developed by Surland. Not bad homes actually. Anyway a little more history. I met a person at the coffee shop, few years back repeating the same thing. "Surland does not go away" so I asked him, are you from Tracy? He didn't answer the question.

Surprise? You seem surprised, Sero7. Maybe you would not mind explaining why Surland was accused of being a "criminal" for not "going away"? Is there something you know that you've been wanting to say all these years? And while you're at it why not explain what Surland "bought"? I saw in the paper they "bought" fuel for the airport. But it also says that's not "criminal".

Sorry. Off my soapbox. Just thinking of my critical thinking class years ago and was wondering what happened to people using their heads for more than just a TV sponge.
December 22, 2013

Good on ya. It seems ya picked up somethang valuable in that critical thinkin class ya took years ago. To bad more people can't seem ta do th same.

Most people read in a paper or hear someone else's mindless complainin about businesses like Surland an others an without verifyin any of that information as bein factual assume that Surland an those who do business with them are criminal.

When lookin at at th complete history of Surland an th City of Tracy I am of th mindset that Surland has done more good fer th City an its residents than bad.

Fer one, a lot of them thair homes our complainin citizenry live in were built by Surland. Yes, if Surland hadn't done it someone else no doubt would have. Then those same people could complain about that developer I suppose.
December 22, 2013
Well OG I think you keyed in on something too about folks who keep repeating the mindless complaining. Let me tell you, for too many of us, we rely on little more than Middle Age reasoning and where education was unimportant. Far too many of the population is dummed down to a Middle Age foot soldier type mentality.

It's to the point where the people can be led by a few political interest groups. Honestly, what we have seen in Tracy over the years, is one political interest group who has quietly taken advantage of the voters in Tracy. That's why the allegations on Surland are never followed through with, but still keep coming. It not illegal to bring allegations and lawsuits, especially if you are a lawyer. And that's what happened, and is happening.

Why is the goal of one political interest group to keep Surland's money from building more Tracy homes or a swim center? Well I always thought it was for their own political and financial gain. These people have more money than they know what to do with and ample supply of residents who reason like Middle Age foot soldiers keeping them fat and rich.

Funny that most of the people hanging out at the coffee shop, and now the brew haas, have no idea what special interest group actually accused Surland of being a "criminal". They don't even know who actually yelled FIRE at the meeting. These citizens just repeat the word "criminal". Heck, might as well. Oh, did I mention the political interest group doesn't even live in Tracy? All like sheep to the fat man's table.

Look what ALL that money can buy. A ranch up on the hill. And plenty of serfs who will echo the word "criminal" for you. In some ways we have reverted back to the Middle Ages where a few rich people controlled the masses and told them what to say, where to say it, and who to say it about. We think we are smarter, but some of the population actually fell further behind and don't even know it.
December 19, 2013
Surland just never goes away. No surprise on the out come of this memo. Surland has long been close to the city, and will continue to be so. Waste of time. Money talks and the rest walk and Surland isn't walking. The city is bought and sold by Surland!
December 20, 2013
First of all, Surland is a business owner. If the ale house owner lied about the "criminal" charges then there is no need for Surland to "go away"?

For few weeks I had been all worked up wondering if there was wrongdoing and the whole nine. Now we are seeing there was a mountain out of nothing and I have a few questions of my own.

First. Does Rickman work for the ale house owner or the people of Tracy. Seems to me like there is a trend with the obnoxiousness. Rickman cannot see it but everyone else can?

2nd. When I was in college I had "buddies" that drank too much and sometimes got out of hand even when they were sober, is that what happens to logic when you're livin the vida loca?
December 22, 2013
I appreciate that Rickman at least wanted to look at the situation. When Surland is involved, it does look suspicious. They are certainly favored by the City and Council.
December 22, 2013
Surland looks suspicuous or Rickman?

Its funny that the same few people keep going after Surland and never follow up. The three amigos. Now four with Rickman? If it really is suspicuous, where did the 3 amigos go to after last months accusations?

Also interesting to say Surland is favored, when Surland was the only developer willing to put a swimming deal on the table in a down economy.

Me thinks ur upset that Surland and other businesses spent money to keep whats her face out of Tracy City Hall.

Well, I am guilty of not backing whats her face, but that does not mean Rickman has a right to in investigate me.

me-here sounds like a communist supporter who believes its ok to harass businesses whose thinking does not allign with his.

Shame on me-here and our new council member who is obviously playing with his TRAQC card.
December 24, 2013
eightem ~

Well, Surland makes a new deal and gets the shortened runway so he gets his housing project at the end of the runway. Wakeup.

Where can I sign up for a TRAQC card?

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