By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
Illustration by Bob AulGary Proctor, whose outspoken advocacy for an international airport at El Toro won him a seat on the Newport Beach City Council in November 2000, actually lives in San Jose.
Proctor is registered to vote in Newport, but property records indicate that he makes his home nearly 400 miles to the north. Santa Clara County property records show that in late July 1999, Proctor and his wife purchased a spacious San Jose home. Worth $820,000, the 3,900-square-foot house has four bedrooms and two and a half baths.
An official with the Santa Clara County assessor's office also confirmed to the Weekly that Proctor took the state's $7,000 homeowner's tax exemption on the San Jose house. This is key: as Santa Clara County tax laws make clear, the exemption is only available to "people who occupy a dwelling on the lien date, as their principal place of residence."
California secretary of state filings also show that Proctor owns a law firm in San Jose called Dependency Legal Services that assists families with child-dependency issues. That firm enjoys a yearly $1.3 million contract with Santa Clara County.
Proctor did not respond to the Weekly's call for comment. His secretary said he was out of town but she apprised him of the story.
Proctor spent the past 17 years sitting on the John Wayne Airport Commission and the past five as a member of the El Toro Citizens Advisory Commission. Running for the Newport Beach City Council on a one-issue platform—to get that mega-international airport built at El Toro as soon as possible —Proctor earned 65 percent of the vote in the Second District race. It was a remarkable outcome considering there were two other contenders for the same seat.
His own candidate's statement contained one curious remark: "I have lived in Orange County since 1966." Most city candidates are content to mention how long they've lived in that city, but Proctor couldn't do this since he spent virtually all of the past 34 years in Cowan Heights, near Tustin.
Look up Proctor's name in the latest White Pages, and you will see both a Santa Ana law office and a West Newport condo. The office is his, and has been for some time. As for the condo, which appears as his legal residence on his voter registration, Proctor apparently moved there just weeks before the election to satisfy that city's requirement that all elected officials be a "registered elector of the city."
Most amazing of all, Proctor never once dealt with the residency issue during his campaign. In fact, opposing candidates and reporters covering the race completely ignored a March 20, 1997, Los Angeles Timesstory detailing Proctor's decision to move to San Jose.
Proctor "decided [in late 1996] to move to Santa Clara County to supervise his expanding legal practice," wrote Times reporter Rene Lynch. "He said he will continue his local practice and divide his time between the two counties."
Lynch also quoted Proctor as saying he would resign from the county commission seats he then held when he moved. In fact, Proctor continued to sit on both the John Wayne Airport and El Toro commissions until November 2000, when he ran for the Newport Beach City Council.
Chronicling his move was the law journal The Recorder. In a Dec. 12, 1997, story, the magazine said Proctor "jetted in from Orange County in a storm of controversy a little more than a year ago to take over Santa Clara's dependency caseload in exchange for $1.3 million per year." The journal further described Proctor this way: "With a taste for monogrammed shirts, expensive cars and his own plane—a six-passenger Piper Malibu he flies weekly between his San Jose and Santa Ana offices—it's not hard to see why he might be seen by dependency lawyers as different."
Whether Proctor actually broke residency laws is debatable. As attorney-to-the-rich-and-powerful Dana Reed once observed, the law in this case "hinges on intent, and intent is almost impossible to prove."
The issue of carpetbagging elected officials is nothing new, but recent cases provide little help. In mid-February, a local activist exposed Anaheim Unified School District board member Donald L. Garcia as actually residing in Corona del Mar, but the district attorney's office did nothing. There was also minimal investigation following the August 2000 exposure of Fullerton City Councilwoman Julie Sa as a Chino Hills resident, although Sa did choose not to run for reelection following the publicity. Similarly, the exposure of both current 46th Congressional District Representative Loretta Sanchez (D-Garden Grove) and former 46th District congressman Bob Dornan (R-Garden Grove) as carpetbaggers also brought no legal challenges.