THE TIMELINE OF EVENTS
In parsing through a number of events that have occurred since September, an interesting and sometimes questionable series of activities are revealed.
At the Sept. 22 NTT IndyCar Series event held at Laguna Seca, central figures from the county involved with the voting and bidding process were seen together moments before the start of the race.
“At IndyCar Sunday, [ACAO] Dwayne [Woods], with Supervisor [John] Phillips, and John Narigi, were there together at the driver’s announcements,” McGrane told RACER. “And at that point I went…OK.”
ACAO Woods made the first public plea for new management proposals on Oct. 15, 2019. Rather than present the request for proposals through the county’s official website, the call was made through the media, with the local KION television station and its accompanying website breaking the news.
As previously mentioned, the deadline for management consideration was Oct. 31, giving interested parties just two weeks to respond.
Like McGrane, Pook was caught off-guard by the announcement. Both men were alerted to the county’s rapid-fire search for alternatives to SCRAMP via KION.
“We did not file (the paperwork to create) Laguna Seca Management LLC until, I believe, the Monday or the Tuesday following Dewayne’s Oct. 15 request for management proposals,” Pook told RACER. “We learned about it on the website.”
Of interest, A&D Nagiri, LLC, was registered with the State of California on Oct. 7, 2019 — one week prior to ACAO Woods’ appearance on KION.
Somehow, eight days prior to LSM and SCRAMP learning of a call for new management proposals, A&D knew to file with the state as a new business entity for a management opportunity that had yet to be announced.
THE FIVE SUPERVISORS
Five members of Monterey County’s board of supervisors hold the decision-making power to select A&D, LSM, or SCRAMP. Led by board chair and retired judge John M. Phillips, the panel includes vice-chair Mr. Chris Lopez, Mr. Luis Alejo, Mrs. Jane Parker, and Mrs. Mary Adams.
A&D TIES TO SUPERVISORS
Supervisor Alejo, who holds one of the five board votes available to A&D on Tuesday, is on record as receiving a campaign contribution from John V. Narigi, General Manager Monterey Plaza Hotel. The ‘Luis Alejo for Supervisor 2020’ campaign received $250 from Narigi on October 16, 2018, according to state records.
MORE A&D TIES TO SUPERVISORS
Within the proposal submitted to the county by A&D, Mr. Narigi’s work experience, achievements, and affiliations are included.
He lists “Past Chair / Board Member, Rancho Cielo Youth Campus, Salinas, CA (current)” as an active and ongoing involvement.
A story written by Mr. Phillips from 2015 detailing the formation and mission of Rancho Cielo cites the work’s author as “John Phillips, a former Monterey County prosecutor and superior court judge, is founder of Rancho Cielo, and a newly elected county supervisor.”
The ties go deeper.
Mr. Narigi made a personal donation of $1500 to Mr. Phillips’ supervisor reelection campaign in 2018. Acting in a leadership position with multiple Monterey-based Political Action Committees (PACs), Mr. Narigi was part of a $15,000 donation to Mr. Phillips’ reelection campaign through the Monterey County Business PAC; $5000 more through the Monterey Bay Action Committee Candidates; and another $5000 for Mr. Phillips through the Monterey County hospitality association.
Campaign contributions to Supervisor Lopez via Mr. Narigi’s PAC connections are also readily accessible through state records. Through Monterey Bay Action Committee, Mr. Lopez received $3000. The Monterey County Business PAC added another $10,000 to Mr. Lopez’s campaign finances.
Adding to these entanglements with Monterey County’s supervisors, Mr. Narigi is the subject of “a current investigation by the state Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) into allegations of campaign money laundering and other possible violations of election law. Among the recipients of the contributions under scrutiny were the campaigns of Monterey County supervisors John Phillips and Chris Lopez.”
In the report, the FPPC confirmed through a spokesperson that with Mr. Narigi’s case, “There are an attorney and an investigator working on it actively.”
Altogether, Mr. Narigi is under investigation for contributions to two of the five supervisors. He is documented as making direct campaign contributions as an individual, or through multiple PACs where he served as everything from treasurer to president, to three of Monterey County’s five supervisors.
With the majority of the supervisors having received money from Mr. Narigi (see contribution reports below), and Mr. Narigi standing to earn at least $229,840 per year for the next three years if A & D Narigi, LLC, receives the majority of the board’s votes, a worrying conflict exists with three of the five supervisors charged with casting a vote.
How could a brand-new company, with a single officer listed on the proposal, with no experience managing a park, or a motor racing circuit, be named as the best candidate to serve as Laguna Seca’s general manager?
Political donations in denominations of $250, $1500, $3000, $5000, and $10,000 from Mr. Narigi would suggest Monterey County, and the State of California, have serious investigations to launch and answers to find.
According to the Political Reform Act of 1974 (2019), “No public official at any level of state or local government shall make, participate in making or in any way attempt to use his official position to influence a governmental decision in which he knows or has reason to know he has a financial interest.”
Are the financial interests between three board members and the person who stands to profit from those relationships worthy of halting and restarting the bidding process?
For those who care about Laguna Seca’s survival, the answer is yes.