By Tim Hunt
A Costco tempest in a tea potUploaded: 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.