Apparently “Bob” was some sort of Planning Commission groupie.
That was my initial impression of the caller when I answered my desk phone on March 20 at 4:43 p.m. from an unidentifiable out-of-area number.
I usually would ignore what was likely a long-distance PR call and go home; after all, my kid had a Little League game that evening.
But the game was a rain out. So I picked up.
“Hi,” the voice on the line said. “I’m wondering if you could give me some information on the Sonoma Planning Commission.”
“What kind of information?” I asked.
He said he’d been following the Planning Commission and was wondering if I knew anything about the commissioners being “biased” against certain development proposals.
That’s not a typical question I field at closing time on the last day of winter. So I asked his name.
“(I’d) prefer not to give a name,” he said, adding that he only wanted information on why the Planning Commission kept postponing its review of certain project proposals.
I told him I’d like to know with whom I was speaking before discussing the newspaper’s possible coverage of a city commission.
“You can call me ‘Bob,’” he said.
Bob explained that he was wondering if the Index-Tribune was working on any stories about Planning Commission bias prior to the commission’s meeting that Thursday.
He said he’d read a story we had recently published (“City Officials Endure Barrage of Legal Threats,” Feb. 20) about how Sonoma development company Caymus Capital had threatened litigation against a Sonoma City Council member and several members of the Planning Commission for their alleged biases against the firm’s projects – demanding those city officials recuse themselves from any decision making on Caymus projects.
Bob said he’d read that story and was wondering if I could share any additional information about the Sonoma planning commissioners.
I asked Bob what proposal he was interested in, and to which commissioners did he refer?
“You sure ask a lot of questions,” Bob responded.
I could see that Bob was calling from a 310 area code, so I asked him if he lived in Sonoma.
He said, no, but that he did live in Sonoma County and liked keeping tabs on local planning commissions.
“Name another city in Sonoma County,” I challenged.
I rephrased it as a question: “Can you name another city in the county in which you live?”
Pause, for about the length of time it takes to google “towns in Sonoma County.”
“Petaluma,” said Bob. “I live in Petaluma.”
Bob reiterated his interest in Sonoma Planning Commission bias.
Along with Bob’s Los Angeles-area-code phone number, my computer screen also displayed the name of a real-estate-development company from which his phone was calling.
I asked him about the company on the phone display.
I asked him if he was working on behalf of a project coming before the Sonoma Planning Commission.
No, he assured.
I told Bob I had no information to share about the planning commission, and we ended the call.
Based on the return phone number displayed, a quick web search showed that Bob had called from the phone of a real estate consultant in Los Angeles who, out of deference to his wish to be anonymous, I’ll refer to as Edward Madsen, which isn’t his real name. According to his blog, Madsen does “a significant amount of consulting around dead and dying malls.”