Bill Miranda says people might not like the answers he gives when constituents ask him questions, “but you’re going to get a straight answer from me.”
Yet, for months Miranda has been unwilling – or unable – to answer numerous questions the Gazette has posed to him, including where Latino Chamber monies went, utterances he’s made on local radio, his being sued by a bank for nonpayment, and facts surrounding his appointment to the City Council last January.
So, when the Gazette learned Miranda would appear at last week’s Canyon Country Advisory Committee meeting, this reporter brought a list of questions for Miranda to answer. Of these, Miranda only answered the first three in the context of the meeting (the Gazette asked the second question and an attendee asked the first and third, denoted by asterisks). Miranda then went outside the Moose Lodge and patiently answered the remaining questions.
Following are the questions, in the order they were asked, and his responses.
*Your limited liability company, Our Valley Group, had been suspended by the Franchise Tax Board for failing to meet tax requirements. What is the status?
My organization and the Franchise Tax Board came to an agreement. We were short of funds at one point and contacted the Franchise Tax Board, told them we were short of funds, asked them to give us a payment plan. They were very cooperative. They gave us a wonderful payment plan. We’re paying the plan. I feel that I’ve been absolutely transparent, and whether you agree or not, I can’t dissuade you.
On April 28 on KHTS, a video showed you pounded your open right hand on some papers and said you have the proof of where the Latino Chamber money went. Yet, over the next week, the Gazette called you several times telling you to name the time and place to show those documents, which you never did.
Do you have the documents? Do you have the documents?
The only documentation the Gazette ever saw came not from you but from (former Latino Chamber treasurer) Marlon Roa. How do you explain your inability to produce the documentation that could have cleared you?
I produced the documentation. You have all the documentation. You’ve had the documentations (sic) for a long time. Thank you.
*The Latino Chamber failed to file tax forms when it merged with the main chamber. You were CEO at the time. Why did you not take responsibility to ensure the files were properly filed in a timely manner?
We had an independent review of both chambers. … It turns out, based on that review, that the Latino Chamber had more accurate bookkeeping than the (SCV) chamber. At the time of the merger, we provided the big chamber two checks for the amount that was left in the Latino Chamber. I think each check was $2,000 – round numbers, OK? Don’t hold me to the exact amount. … Right after the merger, within a month, we provided two checks. Copies of the checks are available. Get in touch with the big chamber. You’ll get all that information. It’s all there.
So, where you have, in my opinion, an honest argument with me is that, as CEO of the Latino Chamber, I should have stayed on top of making sure that my (Internal Revenue Service form) 990 got filed. For that, I accept responsibility. I should have stayed on top. However, it was not my responsibility to get it filed. The agreement was that the big chamber would file all the closing documents of the Latino Chamber. Why? Because the Latino Chamber had no staff. We had no people, and the big chamber had a staff of eight at the time. So, you could tell which chamber was running well and efficient and which chamber was running bad and inefficient. So, they were supposed to file the papers. They didn’t. That’s on them and not on me. But it’s on me that I didn’t check. You’re right on that.
The Latino Chamber’s 2014 Form 990 lists no membership dues or assessments, but the chamber’s own Statement of Financial Income and Expense (FIE) for July-December 2014 lists $2,050 in membership income. You were CEO of the chamber at the time. Can you explain why the forms don’t agree?
You’ve gotten a lot of press about that. When are you going to give it up?
When I get the answers. Under “Salaries, other compensation, and employee benefits,” the 2014 Form 990 shows the Latino Chamber paid $3,651. Yet, on the second page, none of the eight officers listed show having been paid. Plus the FIE from July-December 2014 says the chamber paid $6,000 in consulting fees/CEO. You were CEO of the chamber at the time. Can you explain?
I did explain them to you, but I will explain them to you again. I was paid $1,000 a month consulting fee. … We hired a part-time administrator and that probably is what we paid her.
Under “Occupancy, rent, utilities, and maintenance,” the Latino Chamber 2014 Form 990 shows it paid $15,549. But the Latino Chamber occupied no building. It existed as an entity without a physical space. What occupancy or rent could there be?
We shared the offices of Marlon Roa, Farmer’s Insurance, on Rye Canyon.
On May 12, on KHTS, you accused publisher Doug Sutton and me of racism, and you used the Rotary Four-Way Test to further insult Doug. Do you regret either of these actions and do you wish to apologize?
I did not. Oh, my goodness. I did not, and how dare you say that. How dare you say that. When you listen to the video, you see the video, not once did I use the word “racism” against Doug, much less you. I would never do that. I understand what the word “racism” means, and I would never do that. And by the way, for (Signal publisher) Chuck Champion to come to the City Council meeting and accuse me of having accused Doug of racism is laughable. … (Sutton) took the Four-Way Test. I took the Four-Way Test. If it’s true, OK. It’s called a truth test and if you’re saying something that you know is not accurate then you need to look at the Four-Way Test and ask yourself, “Is this true? Does it benefit all concerned?”
On May 12 on KHTS, you said, “Even if the $2,000 were thrown down the sewer, it doesn’t amount to anything.” What did you mean by that and do you regret saying it?
That was probably not a good choice of words. Every dollar counts, and whether it’s $2,000 or $1, if it’s misplaced, misappropriated, not accounted for, it’s a bad thing.
On July 11, Synchrony Bank filed suit against you for breach of contract and failing to pay back a credit card debt. The bank seeks $5,002.98. What update can you provide in this matter?
In business, every company that does $1 million and up is susceptible to being sued. There are supplier and buyer differences. For instance, I buy something from you and it costs $5,000 and you bill me for $5,000. I get the goods and after three months – and by the way, I’m just giving you an example. I can’t talk directly about the case – for whatever reason, I feel I didn’t get my money’s worth. I want part of my $5,000 back. And you say, “No I gave you the product as sold and, no, you’re not entitled to get anything back.” So, now we’re in a disagreement and I can’t get any action from you, so I go to the court to sue you. Why? Because I’m trying to scare you into paying me something back. So, the courts take a look at that and they go, “Hmm. These guys are going to settle, so why are we going to take up court time? They’ll settle.” So, they put the court date out as far as possible because they know we’re going to settle. They don’t want to have to take us to court and go through that whole rigmarole. I don’t know if you noticed, but the court date is 2019. That’s why.
How are you coming on the settlement talks, or aren’t there any, since the trial date is so far away?
There aren’t any talks right now because need is the mother of invention. As you get closer to where you start paying attorneys, you go, “Whoa! Let’s settle.”
On July 26, the state Attorney General’s office sent a notice of delinquency to the Santa Clarita Education, Inc., in which you are listed as CEO, and threatened fines for failing to file tax returns for 2013-15 and failing to file renewal fees with the Registry of Charitable Trusts. The IRS also revoked the nonprofit status. Any explanation?
That’s a foundation that we were going to use to give out scholarships, a 501(c)(3). I asked to have it closed and Marlon Roa, who’s also one of the founders of the foundation, wanted to keep it opened because at some point in time we will be able to give scholarships, but since I’ve been on the City Council, I kind of demanded he close it. … We gave two checks. What you came out with, that there was, give or take, $1,500 that was unaccounted for. That was money that was used to start the foundation. So, that was legal fees, and we paid that to Carl Kanowsky, who’s an attorney who set up the foundation for us. You can check with him and he’ll give you the exact amount.
Other councilmembers were effusive in their praise of you when they appointed you. Even Bob Kellar, who didn’t back you, called you “a fine man.” More recently, they declined comment, and some council watchers have told me that you are starting to embarrass the council. Are you concerned the councilmembers are embarrassed by your behavior this past year?
No. Not at all. We get along very well. That’s how come we’re getting so much done. I think we’re getting so much done. The council, they didn’t want a yes person, but they wanted someone that they could get along with, that could have civil differences of opinion. But I have voted against the majority a number of times. … I’m independent, but what they were looking for was someone that could be civil in their argument and move things forward.
You used your title of councilmember in an ad for Nola Aronson’s Advanced Audiology, possibly violating the Political Reform Act of 1974 that prohibits an elected or appointed official from using his office for personal gain. Nola has placed ads and contributes to Our Valley Magazine.
What was the mistake was I didn’t check the ad before it went out. Had I seen the ad, I would have said, “Whoa, you can’t do that.”
How do you defend yourself against those who say this is a conflict of interest?
What I’ve said before, I’ll say again. Nola is a good friend of mine. She supports a lot of causes I support, and she’s been an advertiser for years. She called me up and she asked me for a favor. I said, “Sure, of course.” She said, “Can you do an endorsement?” I’ve endorsed her hearing aids before. I’ve been on video. I’ve got video endorsing her hearing aids. I’ve got print endorsing her hearing aids. So, I said, “Yeah.” She says, “Great,” so I called her marketing person, and her marketing person produced the ad, and I didn’t think to ask her to show me the ad before. That was my mistake. Live and learn, never let it happen again.
The IRS forms for Our Valley Group and the Latino Chamber list you as CEO, yet you have stated that you are merely a consultant. What is your definition of “CEO” versus “consultant”?
I started as a consultant for Our Valley Group. I was a consultant for them for years, and then we formed an LLC, and then I was no longer the consultant. I became the publisher. … I want to clarify that sometimes companies, especially nonprofits, will give you a title just because you need that title to go out and raise funds, OK? But you’re still a consultant, as opposed to being a real CEO. So, having prefaced it with that, the CEO is in charge, responsible for everything that happens in that company. A CEO is a commanding officer and if … the kids at UCLA got themselves into trouble, you know who people are going to go to? The chancellor of UCLA. “What kind of kids are you accepting into this college?” Now, he’s the furthest guy from there, right? You can blame the coach, you can blame the kids, you can blame the assistant coach, you can blame a lot of people. … Guess what? They’re going to blame the chancellor. He’s the CEO of the university. When I was a CEO, my company in Mexico – Scanmex, it still exists and doing very, very well – the government of Mexico would call me up and say, “You’re responsible.” “What happened” “Such-and-such equipment didn’t work.” “I got three levels of managers you could contact down there, and they’ll get it fixed.” But they call me, and they call me because they know the next phone call is me calling them saying, “What the hell is this guy calling me for?” So, CEO, and you’re absolutely right, he’s the man, or woman, in charge of everything, responsible for everything and needs to be on top of everything. But I prefaced it chamber-wise.
Sen. Wilk wrote a letter of recommendation for your appointment; have you reached out to him to help with your campaign?
No. Sen. Wilk, I think I mentioned it on the radio show that he was one, he fell off his chair when I called him and asked for his endorsement. He said no. Doug knows this; whether he wants to remember it or not, that’s up to him. I supported Buck McKeon against Sen. Wilk. I am not part of the “Wilk Mafia,” if there is such a thing. Now, Chuck Champion can turn around and create whatever he wants, but Buck McKeon was just here a week or so ago, and he and I spent time together. For anyone who knows the politics of Santa Clarita knows that the Wilks and the McKeons, well, I don’t want to say anything. You’re going to quote me and then … and so I did not contact Wilk before the appointment, other than that one phone call where he said no and then called me back and said, “OK, yeah, I’ll do it.” He’s not involved in my campaign at all. Now, do I hope to get his endorsement? Absolutely. But right now, I don’t have a campaign manager. I have a treasurer, and probably won’t have a campaign manager until sometime next year, when I make a more formal announcement. All I’ve been doing is testing the waters.
The Gazette has called for your resignation. Do you have a response?
No (laughs). You know, not necessarily to that, but just to things in general. There are things that I take very seriously and there are things that make me smile, and that was one of the things that made me smile. It was fun. I liked it. I actually enjoyed reading it.
You say you were the last person to apply for the appointment, but documentation shows you were 36th out of 50. How do you explain that?
I got in on the last day; I think it was 3:15. I have no idea (what number I was). The city clerk would be the one to give you that number. But I have a hard time believing that 14, 15 people brought in their applications between 3:15 and 5 o’clock. When I got there, there was nobody there. I asked, “How many people have come in today?” She said, “It’s been very slow.” “How many do you expect?” “I don’t know. Very slow.” So, I don’t know.
You had told me that you wanted to wait for somebody else to apply and when they didn’t, you applied. In the interim, though, were you getting those letters of endorsement? The date of Scott Wilk’s recommendation would have been a few days before the Jan. 6 deadline.
No. It was the day before. All my endorsement letters were either the day before or that day. I picked up one the day before and I picked up two that last day. … At some point in time, I waited and I waited and I waited, and I will tell you – I have to be careful around you, but I will tell you – I’m trying to be as transparent as I can. I don’t think I’ve ever avoided you (reporter laughs). I think sometimes I need to listen to your message, and I don’t really want to talk to you. … I don’t remember the exact timeline, but the person I was waiting to hear from was posting on Facebook stuff that led me to believe that person was not going to apply.
And that person didn’t apply?
They did! But they had a surrogate come and put in the application. When I applied, that person had not applied. I don’t know if someone applied in the morning and it didn’t get posted until the end of the day. Yeah, the person applied; didn’t get selected.