Trustee Joel Kinnamon fired series of bombshells aimed at COD President Martha Garcia, lack of transparency, more.
PALM DESERT — The ultimate 3-2 approval of the College of the Desert Palm Springs schematic design dated March 23, 2021, paled in comparison to the series of bombshells newly elected Area 4 Trustee Joel Kinnamon lobbed with a sense of calm, self-confidence and lack of theatrics.
Kinnamon; Trustee Area 3 and Vice Chair Fred E. Jandt; and Area 5 Trustee Bonnie Stefan approved the Palm Springs design excluding the Learning Hotel. In the motion Kinnamon advanced, all money designated by Measure B ($40 million dollars), Measure CC ($346 million dollars) and approximately $5.7 million dollars for the property given by the City of Palm Springs will be committed to the project with an augmentation of $14 million dollars from Redevelopment Agency Funds to offset for two years of delays resulting in higher costs.
Rubén AríAztlán Pérez, Trustee Area 1, and Area 2 Trustee and Chair Bea Gonzalez opposed the plan.
During the discussion Kinnamon attempted to shed light on questionable behind-the-scenes practices but was abruptly shut down. He might have been silenced, but it was only momentary. Later in the meeting, as trustees shared their updates and issues, Kinnamon was ready.
“Another issue that has come to my attention concerns the canceling of Roadrunner Motors in Cathedral City back on Oct. 27, 2021, via a press release from Dr. Garcia,” Kinnamon said. “New information reveals on the same day, COD entered a purchase and sale agreement for land in downtown Coachella at the corner of Sixth and Tripoli, known as the Rosa Lucas Family Trust land. It was being listed by Noel Ramos of Wilson Meade Realty. I don’t believe this information was revealed to the public.”
That wasn’t the only issue.
“What is more interesting is that on April 22, 2022, when the Board of Trustees voted to place Roadrunner Motors back at its original location in Cathedral City, the Purchase and Sale Agreement with the land in downtown Coachella was terminated by COD on that very same day,” Kinnamon said. “My question is, was Roadrunner Motors planning to be moved to downtown Coachella? If not, what was being planned for that property?
“Did the Board vote for this in closed session? With a conflict of interest at hand, did former Trustee (Aurora) Wilson participate in the discussions?”
Another bombshell that has come to my attention this week regards the Feasibility Study and Needs Assessment regarding the Palm Springs Campus, Kinnamon said.
“Dr. Garcia, in mid-December of 2021, told the media that a feasibility study and needs assessment had not been performed by the previous administration as required by law. Two days later, Dr. Garcia reversed her statement saying that she had discovered the feasibility study on the college’s website. She further blasted staff in those comments for not providing the information to her after several requests.”
If that had occurred as she stated, it would be right for her to condemn staff for their lack of action, Kinnamon said.
“However, that doesn’t appear to be true. On Nov. 30, 2021, two weeks before her media statements, the information was presented to her via email providing her with an outline of the Feasibility Study for the Palm Springs Campus that included a Needs Assessment. Staff stated that the information is well organized, cataloged, and readily available in Administration Building 1. Staff offered to assist in any way. Maybe Dr. Garcia didn’t read the email over the two-week period, but it is irresponsible to go to the media to accuse the previous administration of affronting the law when in fact all processes had been completed and readily available for review – and it is irresponsible for blaming your staff when you clearly didn’t read your email or bother to pick up a phone and call staff to ask more questions.”
Uken Report has obtained emails that provide some proof of what Kinnamon said.
Addressing Chair Stefan and members of this board, Kinnamon said, “I hope you can understand that I ran on the notion of providing complete transparency. As long as I am serving on this board that is exactly what the public shall receive, complete transparency. We will investigate and tell the public what has happened over the past two years, who were the people involved, and their conflicts of interests. The days of patting each other on the back in public and not disclosing what was happening behind closed doors are over!”
Lynne O’Neill, a retired attorney from Thousand Palms, also threw shade toward what she alluded to as skullduggery. She prefaced her remarks by saying she was not speaking in legal conclusions. Instead, she said she was raising questions to the board that should be asked and must be answered by the board.
Armed with what appeared to be public documents, and spoke of the names, insults and hate talk directed toward her on social media.
“The impact of which was to make me think that all of this high emotionalism and victimhood was a distraction from what’s really going on here. It compelled me to do extensive public record searches, which is what’s in my background. Let’s have some clarity of thought. Oh, in terms of the censure (of Trustee Perez), that’s governed by the code of conduct. It’s a nice document, but frankly it reads like the Boy Scout Pledge compared to your obligations to manage over $500 million in public money that are imposed on you by the government. It’s a lot more complex.”
O’Neill said she wanted to talk about the money. “Because as I said last time, this is not white or brown. This is green.”
Let’s have some clarity of thought about what this bond money is. It’s very nice to talk about education, it’s very lofty. But in the real world, as a practical matter, this fund is for the construction industry, a colorful industry if there ever was one. When you have more than $500 million on the table in construction and real estate money, the line is around the block for who wants a piece of the pie.
“So, my questions today are, who jumped the line for money that was intended for the desert?” O’Neill asked, looking directly at the board. “Who jumped the line? Who allowed them to jump the line? And if they jumped the line, did you disclose it? And if you didn’t, why didn’t you disclose it?
“At the time that you were in charge of the board, young man, (meaning Perez) you had an attorney here advising you who was also the city attorney for Coachella,” O’Neill said. “Who was also the brother-in-law of the former mayor of Coachella. And although he left office under particularly adverse circumstances, the former mayor (Jesus R. Gonzalez, who was indicted on felony bribery and conspiracy charges, the result of a land deal that involved his sister and developers of the property) retained exorbitant influence in construction, in real estate, and in politics. How many up there on this dais, and how many politicians out in Coachella were supported by the former mayor? Did the former mayor jump the line at a time that no one else was having an opportunity to have information, and impose on this board certain demands about his property or his contracts, or whatever else involving money? Did that happen? If it happened, did you disclose it? If you didn’t, why didn’t you? Anybody here have any relatives that had walkthroughs on their property that abut COD Properties? Anybody here jump the line?”
She didn’t mince words.
Anybody have a relative that jumped the line? If they did, did you disclose it? If you didn’t, why not? In terms of your present mayor, Steven Hernandez, he has two interesting things to me. One, the role he took in leading the walkthroughs for his political friends for COD properties at a time that you were not disclosing it.
“Folks, what can I tell you? You can do anything in this world if you disclose anything, but you chose not to disclose. Why? You either didn’t think it was anyone’s business … or you knew it had the appearance of impropriety. Or you live in a bubble so much you just thought no one would notice. And frankly, I didn’t notice either until certain members in Coachella started posting crazy talk online. And it made me think, what is going on out there? You drew this. You brought this on yourselves. You brought the spotlight on yourselves. I’m glad to hear everyone talk, all this nice talk today. You should do this, you should do that. What you should do is honor your obligations as the stewards of public money. It is not a private piggy bank.
“If I were you, I would read every email. I would read every note that I ever took on any meeting involving Coachella,” O’Neill said. “I would rewind in my mind every conversation that I ever had about Coachella money. … It’s going to end up on the front page of the paper or an exhibit in a document. You read all your stuff and see what that looks like. … Do the right thing.”
- Joel Kinnamon: Joel Kinnamon
- Bombshell (Shutterstock_1816729469): Shutterstock