The business belonging to Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido’s family – which was at the center of an eminent domain proceeding in the 1980s that turned into a local cause célèbre and launched Pulido’s political career – is once again under threat of seizure by the government.
Except this time, it’s for not paying taxes.
The Orange County Treasurer-Tax Collector last month issued a notice to Miguel Armando Pulido – the mayor’s father -- saying it has assumed the power to auction off the Ace Auto Care building because the Pulidos are five years behind on their property taxes.
To keep the property, the Pulidos will have to pay $17,390.12, according to an official at the tax collector’s office. That amount will increase by $258.68 per month until the debt is paid, the official said. The building and others are tentatively scheduled for a public auction sometime in March 2015 at the county Hall of Administration.
The Pulido family has until the day before the sale to pay the debt and save the building, according to a public notice published in the Orange County Register.
Miguel Pulido’s brother, Jose Pulido, asserted in 2011 that nonpayment of property taxes was his way of protesting a special property assessment that was used to fund a downtown promotional organization. Jose Pulido and dozens of other businesses fought the tax until the City Council overturned it.
However, even with the special tax dismantled, the Pulidos continue to default on the shop’s property taxes, one of many financial and tax troubles that have dogged the family for years.
The Mayor’s consulting business, The LaFarga Group, is listed as located in Orange but hasn’t paid the business license tax there. Although the business continues to operate, its articles of incorporation are suspended for nonpayment of at least $2,487.75 in state income taxes.
Meanwhile, Pulido’s 1.7-acre estate in the city’s Floral Park neighborhood has been under tax liens over the years for nonpayment of state income taxes.
The mayor’s father has also been the target of tax liens and recently had a judgment in the tens of thousands of dollars against him for not paying his ex-wife’s spousal support.
In a 2012 statement filed with the court, Pulido’s father says his son supports him and that he has no adequate income source to make the payments. The court filing also included a notice from Wells Fargo Bank saying that the auto care business was in default on a $59,551.94 debt and would be referred to a collection agency.
When reached for comment, Pulido hung up on a reporter. Jose Pulido, who is the current operator of the shop, could not be immediately reached for comment.
Springboard Into Politics
In the 1980s, Miguel Pulido Sr. fought a grassroots battle against the city, which was planning to take the business in a redevelopment plan for the downtown shopping center where the shop is located.
A broad coalition in the community rallied to Miguel Pulido Sr.’s side, and the issue was heavily covered by local media. Their efforts prevailed -- city leaders backed off their plan to seize the business -- and the Pulido name became synonymous with the little guy standing up to City Hall.
The notoriety was Pulido’s springboard into politics. He was elected to City Council in 1986, and then first elected mayor in 1994. He is now running for his 11th mayoral term.
In addition to financial problems, Pulido is also the subject of state and Orange County District Attorney’s office investigations into a questionable real estate transaction between the mayor and a city contractor.
This also has its roots in the eminent domain battle.
As part of its negotiations with the Pulido family the city granted them a parking lot in exchange for taking a small building that was attached to the auto care facility.
More than 20 years later, the Pulido family traded that lot with Rupen James Akoubian – owner of NAPA Orange County Auto Parts – for a house in Westminster. According to public records, the house was worth more than twice the fair market value of the lot.
The mayor later sold the house for nearly $400,000, and Akoubian received a $1.35 million no-bid contract to supply auto parts to the city. Good government experts have questioned whether the series of transactions amount to bribery.