David Mendez

Montgomery’s ethics called into question by councilman

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Manhattan Beach City Council Candidate Richard Montgomery. File photo

by David Mendez

Manhattan Beach City Council candidate Richard Montgomery has come under fire after a Facebook posting by a sitting member of the City Council revealed a misdemeanor conviction and the loss of Montgomery’s appraisers license.

On Jan. 27, Councilman Wayne Powell posted a collection of links leading to orders by California Department of Consumer Affairs’ Bureau of Real Estate Appraisers. The orders described three occasions, from 2006 to 2008, when Montgomery — then an appraiser under his company, RichMont Appraisals — was found to have provided “misleading and inaccurate appraisal reports” in and around Rancho Cucamonga and Fontana.

Errors cited in the reports ranged from failing to describe a property’s surrounding neighborhood, including failures to describe earthquake fault and fire danger risks, to failing to discuss and analyze legal and development constraints on the properties.

There was also a mis-valuation of a 36 acre property, indicating it was available for high-density development, when neither Rancho Cucamonga nor San Bernardino County allowed for such development.

In August 2013, Montgomery agreed to pay $20,000 in fines and investigation costs and to surrender his Real Estate Appraiser License.

“I performed about 300 appraisals in my 17 year appraisal career; three of them, from 2006 to 2007 were flawed,” Montgomery said in an interview.

The reason for the flaw, Montgomery said, was due to the work of a contractor, and that he “didn’t check [the contractor’s] work closely enough.”

“If your name’s on there, you’re the last signature, you’re the name to look for,” Montgomery said. The contracting appraiser, Montgomery said, was due to be disciplined as well — however, he died before action could be taken against him.

Montgomery chose not to spend the time or money fighting a “costly administrative trial,” he said, deciding instead to surrender his license as he “didn’t need it anymore.”

“At that point, my career took a turn toward corporate life,” Montgomery said. “You don’t want to fight the state; the state can drag you out for money and time…my attorney was telling me it was going to cost about $250,000 or more, so I went back to corporate life and let it go.”

Though Montgomery leans on his City Council record, he acknowledges that voters may be critical of the fact that major violations occurred under his watch.

“I think it’s exactly fair, and I’m owning up to it…I’m not absolving myself for what happened,” Montgomery said.

The violations took place during Montgomery’s first Council tenure, when he held office for eight years, from 2005 to 2013. It’s during that time, he said, Powell grew to dislike him.

During his tenure on Council, Montgomery chose not to support Powell during his initial applications for city commission appointments or during his run for City Council.

Powell said he brought the matter forward as a matter of civic importance.

“When you get your license, any professional license suspended, that’s a serious matter; when you get it revoked, or you have to surrender it, that’s on an even greater level,” Powell said.

Powell, he said, came into the information when it was dropped off on his doorstep, and the decision to post electronic versions of the information was “agonizing.” A turning point came when the anonymous tipster called Powell, saying that “as an elected, [he] has an obligation to make information that matters public, because people have a right to an informed decision.”

Powell then chose to publish links to the documents and let people decide for themselves.

“I don’t want to be accused of running a smear campaign — of course, I’m not even a candidate,” Powell said. “When I ran, it was about qualifications and ethical standards, integrity and fitness to serve. The public, when they’re filling out their ballot, should have all of the information.”

As for Montgomery, Powell says it’s nothing personal.

“I would do this whoever the candidate was. Richard and I…we disagreed, but there’s no animosity,” Powell said. “Although now it may be different on the other side.” ER

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