San Gabriel City Councilwoman Juli Costanzo is up for re-election this year. She has been on the City Council for 17 years and is a Sales Director for the Hilton San Gabriel.
By Sean McMorris
ColoradoBoulevard.net recently published an article identifying the sources of the campaign cash of San Gabriel City Council candidates. As of February 18, 2020, Councilwoman Costanzo has raised $13,978 for her re-election campaign. Of that money, $10,500 has come from eight donations of $999 or more from a handful of business interests and from the City trash and street sweeping contractor, Athens Services.
San Gabriel City Hall currently is in negotiations with Athens Services for new contracts for both trash and street sweeping services. Athens is undoubtedly hoping that the City Council will approve those new contracts rather than send them out to bid; the contracts have been renewed and amended numerous times over the decades.
Also notable is the relationship between the City, the San Gabriel Chamber of Commerce (SGCC), and the Hilton Hotel where Councilwoman Costanzo works as Director of Sales. The SGCC receives tens of thousands of dollars each year in uncontracted taxpayer funds from City Hall. The SGCC also hosts and promotes numerous events at the Hilton San Gabriel.
City contractor money
Certain campaign contributions immediately raise red flags. At the top of that list are developers and city contractors—and for good reason. Their bottom lines are reliant upon favorable votes from city councilmembers.
Athens Services’ $2,500 contribution to Councilwoman Costanzo’s reelection campaign is especially noteworthy given their current negotiations with City Hall. If re-elected, Councilwoman Costanzo eventually will have to vote on whether or not to approve these new contracts.
In 2000, the City of San Gabriel entered into an eleven-year Amended and Restated Agreement with Athens Services for trash services throughout the City. That contract was amended in 2006, 2008, 2014, and is in the process of being amended again in 2020. In addition, San Gabriel entered into a contract with Athens Services in 2009 for street sweeping services, renewed that contract in 2015 and exercised two optional renewals in 2018 and 2019. Athens’ current street sweeping contract with San Gabriel will expire on June 30, 2020. Because no more optional extensions exist, a whole new contract must be negotiated or the City must send the contract out for bid.
Trash services contracts with cities can be worth millions of dollars and are often amended regularly for rate adjustments. Thus, a large campaign donation from Athens to a San Gabriel City Councilmember should be duly scrutinized.
According to the candidates’ campaign finance reports, which are posted on the City’s website, only Councilwoman Costanzo has accepted a campaign contribution from Athens Services—or any city contractor for that matter.
ColoradoBoulevard.net reached out to Councilwoman Costanzo for comment on the appropriateness of accepting the Athens contribution for her campaign, but she declined to comment.
Chamber of Commerce connection
Another area of potential conflict of interest appears present with the San Gabriel Chamber of Commerce (SGCC,) which receives $31,680 annually from City Hall, and the Hilton San Gabriel where Councilwoman Costanzo works as the Director of Sales.
Although often controversial, some cities (not most) will subsidize their local chambers of commerce. However, San Gabriel’s subsidization of the SGCC is highly unusual in that no actual contract exists, even though the City’s budget implies that one does.
The SGCC has already held or promoted three events at the Hilton San Gabriel this year and currently has five more scheduled on its 2020 calendar.
It is unclear if Councilwoman Costanzo, as Director of Sales for the Hilton San Gabriel, is receiving a commission or bonus for any of the SGCC sponsored or promoted events. Councilwoman Costanzo declined to comment on the matter for this article. Until she does, the conflict of interest question will likely persist given the subsidized relationship between San Gabriel City Hall and the SGCC.
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