Wednesday Jul 13 2011
Did officials receive a taxpayer-funded freebie?
By: Martha Garcia, Colfax Record Editor
Colfax mayor, treasurer deny special treatment claim
Two backhoe bucket-loads of material spread on a private driveway are the center of controversy among a City of Colfax contractor, a neighbor, and two city officials. The driveway at 999 Pine Street leads to the home of Ken and Melba Delfino, the mayor and city treasurer, respectively, for the City of Colfax. The Delfino driveway is located off Pine Street, a private dirt road that is the access to the city’s Sewer Lift Station No. 3, where Maguire/Hester has been making improvements to the sewer system. The neighbor is Will Stockwin, who operates the Downtown Farm, located at 525 Pine Street, in the “Y” between the Delfino driveway and the road to the lift station. All parties acknowledge the improvement was made, but there is disagreement on whether the Delfinos received special treatment, where the gravel was actually spread, and who benefits. Stockwin said that on June 3 he saw, and photographed, a Maguire/Hester backhoe operator applying the road material to the Delfinos’ driveway. “The driver was putting (down) gravel that was left over from a job they had just completed over on Shultz Avenue,” Stockwin said. Stockwin said that when the backhoe driver saw him taking his picture, he approached Stockwin. “When I told him what I was doing …” that “he was essentially putting down gravel in the driveway of two city officials, even the driver understood rightaway it was a bad thing,” Stockwin said. Stockwin called the material “taxpayer-funded” and, because construction traffic caused damage to the roadway, he said the excess material should have been spread on the main road to the lift station as had been done in the past. “If it was a freebie – what other freebies are they giving away?” Stockwin said. Kim Fisher, corporate counsel for Oakland-based Maguire/Hester, said the crushed asphalt, with some gravel, was applied to the Delfinos’ driveway, but that it “would not have been a proper application for the project site road. That material would have had to been off-hauled.” Fisher said it is common practice that “anybody can come to us and ask for excess material. It could be soil; it could be crushed aggregate; it could be anything.” She said the company would have had to pay a trucker to remove the material, and it was to the benefit of Maguire/Hester to spread the material where it did. Fisher also said the workers at the road site were not aware that the Delfinos are city officials. “Nobody working on the project site involved in this incident knew until just recently that Ken and Melba Delfino were the mayor and treasurer,” Fisher said. Melba Delfino said she knew that contractors often have leftover materials and in May contacted Maguire/Hester personnel about purchasing leftover materials. “I said, ‘We want you to invoice us for your time and efforts and equipment use.’” According to Delfino, she told the driver, whom she knew only as Dusty, “at least six times that I wanted to pay for it.” Melba Delfino also said that “most of what they had left was put on the common road.” But Fisher said Maguire/Hester does not intend to send the Delfinos an invoice. “We would never bill them, or anyone, for something that we did not incur costs on. They were doing us a favor because they saved us money for not having to pay trucking costs,” Fisher said. “They’ve asked us to invoice them, and we wouldn’t do that for anybody. If we didn’t incur costs for it it’s not the right thing to do.” Colfax City Manager Bruce Kranz said the material was not city-owned and it was the contactor’s obligation to get rid of it. “From the city’s standpoint, the product had to be removed by Maguire/Hester … It had to go; we would have insisted they to take it off site, if they didn’t find a place for it,” Kranz said. Ken Delfino said he and his wife have been aboveboard and the matter is actually “the assumption of the appearance of impropriety.” Anyone who has known them over the last 9 years, he said, “knows how much we put into this community in labor and money. My colleagues know that I am the most weary of anything to the Brown Act or any such impropriety … I’ve been like this all my life, (now) the awareness is even more enhanced.”