Opponents of a controversial Wilton Rancheria gaming casino and resort in Elk Grove are now paying for signatures to force a public vote on the issue next spring.
The opposition came face-to-face with supporters Thursday outside the Walmart on Elk Grove Boulevard. The groups screamed at each other, making sure passing shoppers heard their point of view.
-- Mysterious client paying for signatures
-- Elk Grove mayor fighting back with Robo calls
-- Deadline for signatures is Nov. 28
Casino opponents want to force a public vote that could shut down the proposed resort and gaming site, which is shuttered up now after years of inactivity.
Ezekiel Raygoza said he gathered 300 signatures in four days. But when asked to identify his boss, he said, “I really wish I knew to say who's in charge, but I'm not too sure who's in charge.”
“Whenever they tell me to go somewhere, there's someone who will take my papers from me," Raygoza added. "They check them, make sure they're registered to vote, make sure it's all good and then they pay me.”
Raygoza said the person who actually signs his paycheck is a different person in a different city.
That’s why Region Business, a pro-construction group that supports the casino, is paying supporters to urge people in Elk Grove not to sign the petition.
“A project at this site is going to create 5,300 jobs,” Region Business CEO Joshua Wood said. “Our question to them is: What do you have to hide? Why won't you disclose who's funding you?”
Wood’s group is also paying for 22,000 Robo calls from the city’s mayor to residents of Elk Grove.
In those pre-recorded calls, the voice declares: “Hello this is Elk Grove Mayor Gary Davis, calling to warn you about paid petitioners coming to your door asking you to sign a petition.” The mayor goes on to say, ”Please don’t sign. Whatever they may tell you, this is a campaign to kill the new Outlet Collection Mall."
There are potentially millions of dollars at stake as the Wilton Rancheria Tribe waits for state and federal approval of the casino project.
Signature gatherers said they have close to 12,000 names to force a special election. Elk Grove city officials said approximately 8,900 valid names from registered voters are needed to qualify the petition for a special election. That election would most likely be held in the spring, perhaps as early as April.
“With this casino being built, it's going to bring prostitution here,” signature gatherer Chris Angomo said.
Angomo added he was being paid $10 for every name he collected –- a rate considered to be three to five times above industry average.
Still many Elk Grove residents want the casino.
“The community needs jobs you know," Peggy Shelly said. "And I think, the casino and the mall is going to do us really good.”
“I think it's a good thing. It's going to bring us some jobs," Elk Grove resident Stan Sala said. "We need jobs for Elk Grove.”
KCRA 3 has learned that the group that hired the signature gatherers is called Discovery Petition Management. Owner Eileen Ray said her firm is working for Arno Petition Consultants.
Arno has a Rancho Cordova mailing address, and KCRA 3 tried contacting principal Michael Arno, who did not return repeated phone calls. KCRA 3 also contacted his son, Kellen Arno, and asked him to identify the client paying for the petitions. Kellen Arno said he would have someone call back -- but no one ever did.
The deadline for turning in the petition signatures is Monday, Nov. 28.