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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Councilmember Heystek's Purchase of Affordable Housing Done Properly

At the request of one of the councilmembers, the city of Davis investigated the purchase of a home by Councilmember Lamar Heystek. After review of the documentation, the city was satisfied that the Councilmember's home was purchased through the standard processing steps.

A September 9, 2008, an item appeared in the consent calendar pertaining to the purchase of Councilmember Lamar Heystek's home in the redevelopment area of the city.
"When a City Councilmember and/or Board Member on the Agency Board purchases a property within the City’s Redevelopment Area, law requires that it be disclosed publicly. Additionally, the Agency is required to certify that the property being purchased is in a habitable condition. Habitability of the unit is to ensure that the buyer does not take advantage of an opportunity to benefit financially from the Redevelopment Agency’s projects and/or improvements within the
Redevelopment Area."
In the agenda item, Councilmember Heystek wrote:
"On July 25, 2008, I purchased a unit at Southfield Park as my personal residence. The address is 1126 Greene Terrace, Davis, CA 95618. This property is in the Redevelopment Project Area. The purchase of the memorandum is to inform you of this purchase and for this disclosure to be entered in to the minutes of the Redevelopment Agency Board of Directors. This disclosure is being made pursuant to the State of California Health and Safety Code sections 33130 and 33130.5."
However, this disclosure was not enough for one member of the Davis City Council. And so, Danielle Foster, the Housing and Human Services Superintendent of the city of Davis conducted an investigation into Mr. Heystek's purchase of an affordable housing ownership unit to determine if the proper processes were used or if Mr. Heystek had used undue influence to obtain the unit.

Upon investigation, Ms. Foster cleared Heystek of any implication of wrongdoing:
"After review of their annual reporting documentation and receipt of the attached letter describing the process used in processing and qualifying Councilmember Heystek for the affordable ownership unit at 1126 Greene Terrace, staff has verified that the standard program processing steps were used in the qualifying of Councilmember Heystek for an affordable housing unit at Southfield Park/ Greene Terrace."
The memo continues:
"Consistent with the program, he went through the following steps:
  1. Submittal of a project pre-application to get onto the general waiting list for Southfield Park/ Greene Terrace
  2. Submittal of necessary income documentation, homebuyer education certification, and pre-approval documentation of a home loan from the buyer’s chosen lender
  3. Submittal of lender’s approval of deed restrictions on affordable housing unit (not all lenders will lend on these units), asset documentation, copy of loan application, 3 recent check stubs and documentation of any other income
  4. Once all documentation has been collected by CHOC and the buyer(s) has been qualified, the buyer(s) is added to the Income-Qualified/Mortgage Ready list chronologically and wait for either a two-bedroom unit or three-bedroom unit
  5. Buyers on the Income-Qualified/Mortgage Ready list are shown units as they become available and are offered the opportunity to purchase based on their list ranking"
It continues:
"Councilmember Heystek completed the necessary steps between the period of December 14, 2007 and June 2008. He was third on the two bedroom list when 1126 Greene Terrace became available. The two Income-Qualified/Mortgage Ready buyers ahead of him were not able to purchase 1126 Greene Terrace (one was leaving Davis for a job promotion elsewhere and the other buyer opted to wait for a later unit based on timing needs), so Councilmember Heystek was offered the unit and accepted the opportunity to purchase it."
Finally, it was requested that the city determine if Mr. Heystek had any conflicts of interest as the result of this purchase. The City Attorney's Office determined that Mr. Heystek would have the same conflicts of interest of any property owner--thus he could not take actions on items that were located within 500 feet of his property.

However, they found it unlikely he would have a conflict with future CHOC items:
" The City Attorney's Office is researching further whether Councilmember Heystek will be conflicted on future items related to the city's Right of First Refusal Contract with CHOC. At this point, it's unlikely since he does not have a financial interest in CHOC’s role running the program. Future changes to the city’s affordable housing program would not be retroactive to his unit and would not likely present a conflict. No other potential conflicts have been identified by the City Attorney's Office at this time."
The Vanguard fully appreciates transparency in government. It is necessary for full trust in the operations of government and the conduct of public officials.

While we applaud this transparency, it should also be mentioned that this document and investigation were produced at the request of one of Mr. Heystek's colleagues on the city council and it was done unbeknownst to him at the time. We find that implication somewhat troubling as though this were done in a manner to uncover improprieties on the part of the councilmember rather than to ensure transparency.

It has been our experience with Mr. Heystek that he has always taken steps to operate above the board in all respects. In fact, he told the Vanguard that he went out of his way to follow all due process in the purchase of his home. The air of suspicion cast by a member of his own council toward him casts a chilling impact that threatens the civility by which Mr. Heystek generally operates on the council. In short, it appears that Councilmember Heystek would have happily divulged the full process by which he acquired him home had he been asked and would have himself submitted to the council the investigation that proceeded behind his back.

---David M. Greenwald reporting