A local Santee environmental group sent a letter to San Diego Councilmember Sherri Lightner last week that claimed campaign contributions made to the councilmember by employees of a company vying to build a housing development on the Santee-San Diego border was an "inappropriate attempt to purchase [her] vote."
Campaign contribution forms included in the letter by Preserve Wild Santee show that 12 employees of Pardee Homes made $4,300 in contributions to Lightner's campaign on the same day. Lightner sits on the San Diego City Council, which will consider approving the construction of Pardee Home's Castlerock housing development at the council meeting Monday.
In an email to Santee Patch, Pardee Homes said the contributions were organized by Pardee Homes but not reimbursed by the company.
"Contributions made by Pardee Homes’ employees were well within the legal parameters of campaign contributions and were reported as such," wrote Pardee Homes.
This is a portion of the letter sent to Lightner by Preserve Wild Santee on September 11:
"It has been brought to our attention that 12 Pardee employees made contributions on June 29, 2012 during your primary challenge. If Pardee reimbursed its employees, the contributions would be illegal. Regardless of the contributions legality, we believe Pardee's contributions are an inappropriate attempt to purchase your vote for a quadruple up-zone on Castlerock Project #10046.
"We know you have fought for neighborhoods and open space protections. Perhaps this is a reason why Pardee felt the need to contribute so heavily at a critical time for you… Please continue to fight for neighborhoods, open space, sustainable development and assert your independence from inappropriate campaign contributions by voting no on Castlerock Project #10046."Pardee Homes described the contributions as support for Lightner's vision of San Diego.
"As a company with a significant stake in the future of San Diego, Pardee Homes has a long-history of civic engagement. We believe it is part of our company’s civic responsibility to support candidates and ideas that will better the region. As such, Pardee Homes supports candidates whose vision for the City is one that our company believes and supports."
The office of Sherri Lightner did not respond to a request for comment.
Concerns about the project have been raised by Preserve Wild Santee and other opponents, including fire risks, traffic impacts, affects on threatened species, inadequate police and fire services, flawed water drainage and impacts on the San Diego River.
Pardee Homes contends that the studies conducted for the Castlerock project concluded that the project will not result in significant impacts to traffic, biological resources, public services (including fire and police), water quality or utilities.