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A Costco tempest in a tea pot

Uploaded: Aug 25, 2016
Former City Councilman Matt Sullivan and some of his allies are engaging in tossing some stuff against the wall hoping something will stick to Mayor Jerry Thorne.
Sullivan announced this week that a coalition dubbed Pleasanton Citizens for Responsible Growth had requested all of the city’s records concerning meetings about the economic development zone on Johnson Drive. The zone was approved by the council a couple of years ago and the landowner has a purchase agreement with Costco.
The latest furor concerns Costco stock that Thorne held in one of four managed stock funds. Similar to mutual funds, these are managed by a financial adviser who buys and sells the individual stocks. The owner’s role is selecting the fund by its investment objectives. There are a variety of stocks in each fund—most with a value of less than the reporting limit of $2,000, but some with more.
I reached out of the mayor who responded:
“When I ran for office I learned that I had to fill out form 700 which requires listing all stocks in companies in Pleasanton that might have something before the Council which have a value of $2K or more.

Wanting to be completely transparent I asked my financial advisor for a list of all stocks contained in the funds that had a value of $2K or more. Since stock moves in an out of these accounts daily we both thought the requirement was a little silly, but again, I wanted to be completely transparent. I ask for this list every year or when I run for office as required by the rules.

Again, I have been reporting all stocks in the funds that exceed the reporting limit, not just those that exist in Pleasanton.”

Thorne wrote that looking back over five years of quarterly reports, there were four times that there were no Costco holdings.

The perspective that is helpful is that the Costco holding—within the managed account—was 26 shares worth about $3,500.

Costco is a $116 billion company with 496 locations in the United States and Puerto Rico. A store in Pleasanton is not going to materially affect the company or its stockholders.

” When I filled out new form 700's to run for re-election I noted the Costco stock and immediately called it to the attention of the City Attorney. He advised me to recuse myself until we could get a ruling from the FPPC (Fair Political Practices Commission) which we do not have at this point. So, that is what I did,” Thorne wrote.

He also emphasized that the he and the council have not dealt with any application concerning Costco—those discussions have been held at the staff level. Since Costco has not done business in Pleasanton nor applied to do so, it would be surprising if the state commission finds he should recuse himself.

What’s needed is a fresh look at the reporting standards. A $2,000 holding is pretty tiny in today’s terms—I suspect that number has not been updated in decades.

Of course, citizens will decide whether Costco can locate along Johnson Drive when they vote on an initiative qualified for the ballot by Black Tie Transportation owner Bill Wheeler. That would forbid any retailer larger than 50,000 square feet in the Johnson Drive zone.

What is it worth to you?


Posted by SHale99, a resident of San Ramon,
on Aug 25, 2016 at 11:28 am

SHale99 is a registered user.

the possibility of a single Costco store having ANY effect on the P&L, cash flow, stock price etc is just about zero. Just something for a few vocal users (at least on these forums) to complain about. All because they don't want a Costco. Well, they are not the voice of the area and than goodness for that.
They should be happy to get to vote. now chill out and wait for the results come November.

Posted by JJ, a resident of Walnut Grove Elementary School,
on Aug 25, 2016 at 12:54 pm

JJ is a registered user.

Sounds like a big coverup to me. This article makes it worse.

The mayor reported Costco stock ownership on form 700 in April, 2015. It is shown on page 7 as "Costco" and again om page 14 as "Costco Wholesale". It states that he held these stocks since 2014.

Now, he says that he just learned of the holding on July 18, 2016- - the day before the council meeting on a July 19, which was the night he was to be confronted by members in the audience about this conflict.

It would have been more honest to say that "I made a mistake" , rather than to fabricate a story which is contrary to the facts.
I would have respected the truth, and an admission of wrong doing. I do not respect this type of coverup, reported as truth.

Before this article was written, was any investigation done by the reporter. This makes the Pleasanton Weekly look bad.

Michaela Hertle, his campaign manager, gave the same story on July 21. It was unbelievable then, and now coming directly from the mayor, it is more damaging to his credibility.

Owning $4.000- $20,000 of Costco stock and not reporting the conflict until caught is bad...Covering it up with an un believable story is worse.

Posted by MsVic, a resident of Mission Park,
on Aug 25, 2016 at 6:59 pm

MsVic is a registered user.

Of Course I have a few comments. Matt Sullivan needs to be charged the normal fees for each document he is requesting. He is on a witch hunt - he needs to pay for the copies. They are public record but there is a cost associated.

@JJ seriously is all I have to say and I shake my head at the foolishness of the post. I have a financial advisor that buys and sells stocks in my portfolio all the time. I don't know from one month to the next exactly which ones I own. Even if the value of his stock rose 10% (which is highly unlikely based on opening one store) it would mean a return of what? Can you do the math? Peanuts.

Good luck Matt, let's see how successful you are with this one. And that is sarcasm if you don't recognize it.

Posted by JJ, a resident of Walnut Grove Elementary School,
on Aug 25, 2016 at 10:44 pm

JJ is a registered user.

FPPC rules and regulations are to be respected. Signing a 700 form in April 2015, and listing ownership of Costco stock since at least January 2014 on two pages, and then saying that you just learned of it on July 18, 2016 -- is a little stretch.
On July 19, just after it became knowledge by several people and just before being confronted-- he finally recused himself.

The Pleasanton Weekly in an editorial "Costco and the Mayor" dated July 29, said:

"He just didn't tell us, and preceded to meet with a city task force he appointed that was considering land- use zoning changes that would allow big box stores like Costco to build on Johnson Drive".

In April, 2015 when he listed Costco stock on form 700, he was already working on the land-use change.
With all due respect, the more this point is argued, the worse it looks for Mayor Thorne.

Posted by Michael Austin, a resident of Pleasanton Meadows,
on Aug 28, 2016 at 6:32 pm

Michael Austin is a registered user.

For all the who runs Pleasanton question are all those that want Costco to be built in Pleasanton on Johnson Drive.

Who runs Pleasanton is the majority vote that put everyone in office to move the Costco issue forward.

The majority vote is from the tax paying and non tax paying citizens of Pleasanton that is responsible for the Costco to be built in Pleasanton.

It is not the chamber, it is not the developers. It is the registered voter bringing Costco to Pleasanton.

Posted by Lisa S. , a resident of Stoneridge,
on Aug 28, 2016 at 10:04 pm

Lisa S. is a registered user.

Even though I posed the question about : "WHO RUNS PLEASANTON", and received much new information-- this blog by Tim Hunt is about a different subject.

I agree that Mayor Thorne should have recused himself on April 6, 2015 - or before. Let's let the process play out.

Posted by JJ, a resident of Walnut Grove Elementary School,
on Aug 30, 2016 at 9:40 pm

JJ is a registered user.

Tim Hunt's blog and Mayor Thorne's explanation look bad for the Mayor. Enough said.

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