Clayton planning commissioner says civic club gets inside info in exchange for ‘donations’ to city

Clayton City Council candidate questions: Frank Gavidia
Frank Gavidia

CLAYTON, CA — A Clayton planning commissioner recently set off a firestorm of controversy when he accused another planning commissioner of giving inside information to a local civic club in exchange for that organization’s donations to the city.

At the May 18 city council meeting, Frank Gavidia, speaking as a planning commissioner during the public comment period, told the council he found out the results of a planning commission vote on a matter from which he was recused at a Clayton Business and Community Association meeting two days after the vote. The planning commission traditionally reports recent actions and votes during the regular CBCA membership meeting.

Gavidia, apparently unaware that the vote was public record as soon as it was taken, said the CBCA got the information “before the taxpayers” because the CBCA “…happens to give money to the city…that’s just not right.”

The accusation is false, said CBCA president John Rubiales in a strongly worded four-page statement sent to Clayton mayor Carl Wolfe May 27.

“The simple reason Gavidia found out about the vote at the CBCA meeting was because he recused himself and left the planning commission meeting before (the vote).”

The CBCA holds festivals and events to raise money for charitable giving and scholarships. Some funds are used to support city concerts in The Grove. The club has traditionally paid for the downtown holiday decorations and a few beautification projects, all of which are considered “in kind” donations.

Never has the CBCA given money to the city, Councilmember Holly Tillman told the council in response to Gavidia’s claim. Tillman was a CBCA board member until her election to the council in 2020.

“The CBCA does a lot of good, and their name should not be tainted,” Tillman told the council at the June 1 meeting. “No one’s getting favors for donating anything.”

“Frank Gavidia’s allegation that CBCA happens to give money to the city in return for information unavailable to the public undermines the very foundation of CBCA’s ­existence,” Rubiales said.

Gavidia’s charge came during a council discussion on whether planning commissioners should report recent commission votes to CBCA at all to avoid any potential Brown Act violation. CBCA members include city council members who could potentially be hearing an appeal at a later date. In an abundance of caution, city attorney Mala Subramanian advised the planning commission not to discuss land use matters in their CBCA reports.

The CBCA board has moved to terminate Gavidia’s membership along with that of long-time member and councilman Jim Diaz, whose comments the board views as supporting Gavidia’s claim.

Gavida ran unsuccessfully for the city council in 2020. He has not responded to our request for comment.