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Housing development opponents want to subpoena Supervisor Bill Horn

Housing development opponents want to subpoena Supervisor Bill Horn

SAN DIEGO, Calif. (CBS 8) - The county Board of Supervisors will cast a final vote Wednesday on the controversial Merriam Mountains housing project. If the 2,700 home development passes, opponents say they'll start handing out subpoenas.

The Board of Supervisors is widely expected to vote in favor of the proposed Merriam Mountains project Wednesday. It comes as no surprise to opponents who say developer money has sealed the deal.

Byron Blount is the spokesperson for the neighboring Golden Door Spa, which is fighting the development.

"It's a lot of money," Blount said. "And one would expect there might have been an expectation of a quid pro quo."

The proposed development would sit on top of Merriam Mountain west of Interstate 15 at Deer Springs Road.

Orange county based Stonegate Development, Newland Communities and their associates have contributed heavily to politicians on the County Board, including $60,000 for a Bill Horn campaign mailer in 2006.

In fact, Bill Horn has benefited from more than $72,000 in money related to the Merriam Mountains development.

Supervisor Ron Roberts collected $8,500 in contributions from the group.

A big chunk of money – $20,000 – came from the developer's own front man, consultant Steve Sheldon.

"He is a political consultant, definitely a mover and shaker," Blount said.

Cell phone records show Supervisor Horn spoke with Sheldon two times days before the last board vote on the project in December.

County law forbids direct contact been supervisors and developers with projects before the Board of Supervisors.

"We believe Bill Horn is biased in favor of the project," Blount told News 8. "And these two calls indicate he did make a call to the applicant."

Horn admits he made the calls but told the Union Tribune he did not discuss the housing project with the Merriam Mountains consultant.

If the development does pass, opponents are ready to go to court.

"Then, the judge could say, 'I'm going to give you the ability to subpoena certain individuals under oath'," Blount said. "That could be Supervisor Horn, could be Ms. Wonsley (Horn's chief of staff), could be Steve Sheldon."

If that happens, opponents are hoping the whole truth will come out.

"There's no law against lying to the press I guess," Blount said. "But there certainly are laws against lying under oath."

News 8 wanted interview Supervisor Bill Horn on camera.  He issued a written statement instead. It says in part:

"I vote based on the merits of the issue, and nothing else... The suggestion that I would compromise my integrity for a few small campaign contributions is offensive... I spoke with Mr. Sheldon because he works with a water advocacy group, not because he's involved with Merriam Mountains."

Supervisor Horn's entire statement is posted on this page, as is a letter to the county written by project opponents. Wednesday's Board of Supervisor's meeting begins at 9 a.m.

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