INDIO – An Indio Planning Commissioner, Sam Torres, is under fire for his alleged open and unequivocal bias against projects the Chandi Group USA is developing in this community. Torres, a sometimes controversial man, is also accused of harassment.
Attorneys for Chandi Group USA are demanding that Torres recuse himself from any and all votes or public hearings involving the Group’s projects, Jefferson North Gate, Golf Center, and Gurdwara.
The Palm Springs-based firm of Blasdel Guinan Lawyers on March 18 sent a letter to members of the City Council, members of the Planning Commission, City Manager Mark Scott, and City Attorney Roxanne M. Diaz objecting to Torres’ appointment to the Planning Commission and more.
The letter was sent on behalf of Nachhattar Singh Chandi; his wife, Susana Chandi; and Chandi Group USA.
Examples of Torres’ continued “harassment,” according to the letter include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Continuous disparaging, defamatory statements of and about Chandi made to local businessmen and businesswomen throughout the community.
- Improper and unfounded claims, on the record, regarding projects during quasi-judicial proceedings.
- Extensive interference with business contracts and substantial interference with prospective economic business relations.
- Extreme and outrageous conduct toward Susana Chandi at business events.
- Intentional interference at construction sites – violation of right of privacy to construction workers.
- Malicious attacks on Social Media platforms regarding Chandi, Chandi Group USA and the Group’s projects.
- And, the most egregious to date, Torres’ conduct, behavior and statements at the Planning Commission hearing held on March 13, 2019 – the audio/visual speaks for itself.
At the March 13 meeting, Gurdwara Indio CA Inc. on behalf of Chandi Group USA, filed an application requesting approval of a Conditional Use Permit to allow a Place of Worship within an existing building located at 82740 Atlantic Ave.
Gurdwara Sahib is a worship center for members of the Sikh religion. The Sikh religion has an estimated 250,000 Sikhs in the United States and nearly every major city has a Sikh place of worship and community center called “Gurdwara Sahib.”
By nature of the Sikh religion, a Gurdwara does not hold regular scheduled events or congregations where seating is required for worship at the temple. The Gurdwara at this location operates 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. Based on the information provided by the applicant, there is a maximum of 12 worshippers on site at any given time and typically spend about 45 to 60 minutes at the site.
Torres expressed concerns about the request and questioned whether Chandi would comply with the conditions of the permit.
You may watch a portion of his argument here:
Torres had more to say before commissioners ultimately voted 4-1 to grant the Conditional Use Permit. You may watch the discussion in its entirety here. Torres cast the dissenting vote and there was one abstention.
The letter goes on to say that Torres is “clearly and unequivocally” biased against the Chandi’s and projects.
“It is clear that Mr. Torres cannot be, and will not be a fair and impartial decision-maker and thus, our client’s rights to due process will be violated should Mr. Torres take part in any vote concerning our client and/or the projects,” the letter states.
You may read the letter in its entirety here.
Neither the city attorney nor the city manager returned Uken Report’s phone calls.
Torres could not be reached Thursday for comment.
Councilmember Oscar Ortiz, elected in November 2018, appointed Torres to the Planning Commission earlier this year. Ortiz acknowledged to Uken Report that “a few” people cautioned him not to make the appointment but said “a lot” of people urged him to go for it and appoint Torres, so he did.
Ortiz said he watched the video of the Planning Commission meeting and asked City Attorney Diaz to look into whether there is validity to the lawyers’ claims.
Ortiz said he has been pleased with Torres’ performance on the Planning Commission.
“We appoint them and I trust him to make the best decisions for us,” Ortiz told Uken Report.
This is not the first time Torres has been in the eye of the storm.
During Torres’ four years as a City Councilmember, between 2010-2014, he publicly feuded with Goldenvoice, the promoter of Coachella and Stagecoach, and reportedly almost ran them out of Indio. He did not win reelection.
- Gurdwara Sahib Indio: Facebook
- Gurdwara Sahib: Facebook
- Gurdwara Sahib: Facebook