Whittier Daily News - Whittier Ca, USA
Rep. Gary Miller asked for and received two letters from Fontana officials saying that eminent domain might be used if he didn't enter into negotiations to sell his properties.
The March 22, 2005, and March 1, 2006, letters signed by City Manager Kenneth Hunt both said that with eminent domain, the redevelopment agency could acquire Miller's properties with or without his consent.
But Hunt said Thursday that Fontana did not force Miller to sell, or use eminent domain, to buy 10 parcels and a building from the Brea Republican.
Calls to the Miller's spokesman, Kevin McKee, were not returned Thursday.
Miller's 42nd Congressional District includes Diamond Bar, Rowland Heights, La Habra Heights and Whittier. He previously said that he was forced to sell the Fontana properties, and 165acres of hillside land in Monrovia, under threat of condemnation.
That justified his use of Internal Revenue Code 1033, which gives a taxpayer up to two years to reinvest in replacement property any capital gains from a forced sale.
"We make it clear. It's up to them and their tax people what they do with it," Hunt said of the letters.
Also Thursday, a government watchdog group filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service urging that Miller be investigated for allegedly failing to report or pay capital gains taxes on the sale of his properties in Monrovia and Fontana.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) alleges that Miller violated federal law by fraudulently invoking Internal Revenue Code 1033. CREW cited a Los Angeles Times story Sunday that reported Miller invoked the provision three times for the Monrovia and Fontana properties that city officials say he wasn't forced to sell.
"We filed \ because three times is beyond egregious," said Naomi Seligman Steiner, deputy director for CREW. "We think Rep. Miller should be held accountable for his actions."
IRS spokesman Bill Steiner said the agency couldn't confirm or deny if it had received the complaint.
He said the IRS receives complaints all the time.
"We take all complaints seriously and we look into all of them," Steiner said.
In 2002, Miller sold 165 hillside acres in Monrovia to the city for $11.7 million. The city wanted the land to be part of a wilderness preserve.
Two years later, Miller used the proceeds to buy the Fontana properties and land in Rancho Cucamonga.
Fontana officials said Miller purchased 10 parcels totaling about 8.5 acres near the Foothill (210) Freeway and Citrus Avenue, as well as a building at 16860 Valencia Ave.
City officials said the Fontana Redevelopment Agency bought the properties near the freeway for $5 million in 2005. Hunt said the agency also bought the Valencia Avenue building this year for about $1.3 million.
"It was a simple real estate transaction," said Ray Bragg, Fontana's redevelopment and special projects director.
CREW officials say they aren't so sure.
"We read about it, decided he broke laws and filed against him," said Seligman Steiner.
Her Washington, D.C.-based organization calls itself a non-profit group that "targets government officials who sacrifice the common good to special interests."
It has been criticized by some Republicans as left-leaning. Seligman Steiner denied that, saying her group has filed complaints against Democrats and Republicans.
"We are a non-partisan organization. We target corruption. We don't target a party," she said.
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