Influential swing vote, Commissioner Santino, addressed Salkin who sat in the front row of the audience easily identifiable by his long ponytail and backwards-facing baseball cap.
“Well, anyhow I agreed to meet Mr. Salkin, watch a 30 to 40 minute presentation, myself and Commissioner Rice, and we sat in the room to watch it and without any notice to us, you showed up with your cameras and I said ‘You know I’m not comfortable.’” Santino said, successfully controlling his anger. “Now I understand; KB Homes said ‘Can we sit in to observe what they’re going to show you so we know how to rebut?’ I said that’s fair. [In] a court of law, when you present your case, you have to let the opposing team know what you’re doing, okay? Perry Mason is different but in real life it’s not. It would not be fair to sandbag them and just as well I wouldn’t let them do that and they weren’t allowed to ask any questions or do anything. They were merely observers. But my point is I asked you to take away the cameras and we started reviewing your piece there, your report, and what happened? Within five minutes, I had to demand that your cameraman stop because he was surreptitiously filming us. He had his camera at an angle and all the lights were on. Sir, I did not like that. I thought that was very unprofessional and it goes to my point tonight. Again, this is all for the public to see. This is broadcast on the web. It’s archived. People at home can watch it. We’ve allowed you guys to film. Halfway through the meeting tonight, I realize buried in the wires up here is a microphone. No one asked me if this microphone could be up here. Excuse me. And when we’re discussing things in between agenda items, you were recording us. I don’t think that’s appropriate, sir. You did not ask me, I can tell you that.”
The commissioners, this reporter and even the activists in the audience sat in stunned silence. Salkin had managed to destroy the credibility of the community with yet another secretive audio taping of non-consenting adults much as he had done to this reporter in May.
Indeed, this reporter took photographs of Salkin illegally recording the confidential conversation of Norm Riley, the Reverend John Southwick and former Simi Valley resident Frank Serafine March 27, 2008 at a meeting of the former Santa Susana Field Laboratory Workgroup at the Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center.
Salkin did admit culpability at the planning commission meeting. “I didn’t ask you [for permission to audiotape],” Salkin said responding to Santino. “I just put microphones here so we could capture sound, that’s all.”
But that’s not all. The commissioners were clearly angered by the sneaky law-breaking, bold even by Salkin’s slippery standards.
“I am so mad about this, I’m having problems thinking,” Commissioner Mary Bibb said through repeated interruptions by Salkin who was eventually silenced by Planning Commission chair Michael McGuigan who threatened to throw him out of the meeting chambers if he didn’t stop.
“First of all nobody told me that I was being taped and I really really resent that,” Bibb said, voice quavering. “It is illegal to tape somebody without notifying them.”
Within minutes, the commission voted unanimously to recommend granting KB Home the additional five years to build its Runkle Canyon development.
Tonight’s meeting will most likely codify this recommendation. After all, three of the councilmembers were present in 2004 when the original Runkle Canyon EIR was approved by them. These councilmembers, Glen Becerra, Steve Sojka and Barbra Williamson, all voted in favor of the project then even though they neglected to mention that they might have a conflict of interest since they had accepted thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from the developer at the time, GreenPark Runkle.
Approving this project will bring full circle the lethargy of government regarding the Runkle Canyon development project. That lethargy did not extend, however, to the hostility that government regulators and politicians have had towards the letter of environmental law and the citizens concerned about it.
Those citizens have a powerful recourse, one where false statements under oath are rewarded with a trip to the pokey. “My feeling is if we go through this five year extension, you have seven years to sue them,” Commissioner Bibb added before she voted for it.
Nine days after the vote, DTSC’s new test results from the windmill well came back positive for the manmade chemicals Toluene and Naphthalene, both toxins though some government agencies here and abroad consider both chemical carcinogenic. It is unlikely that any method of well contamination by these chemicals exists other than them having been introduced to the well manually. That means they had to be poured into the well.
Regardless of potential legal challenges to the city and KB Home, residents can take comfort in the fact that potential future residents and open space users will have ready access to the scientific and political truths about Runkle Canyon via the Internet.
While the developer and government may have failed the community it disregards with hostility, the truth remains. The law of land, like the Clean Water Act, reign supreme in this country. Local traditions of obfuscation, misrepresentation, and gross negligence do not trump the federal laws and regulations of the United States of America.