Rick Caruso (left) and Salud Carbajal

Paul Wellman

Rick Caruso (left) and Salud Carbajal

Are Carbajal and Caruso Too Cozy?

Supervisor Accused of Taking Bribes from Hotel Developer

This fall’s congressional race spilled into the county supervisors’ meeting on Tuesday as three members of the public availed themselves of the open-mike portion of the meeting to accuse county supervisor and Democratic congressional candidate Salud Carbajal of accepting bribes from Miramar hotel owner and developer Rick Caruso. A film crew working on behalf of Carbajal’s Republican opponent Justin Fareed was present to record the exchange. Carbajal asked County Counsel Mike Ghizzoni whether the line separating free speech from defamation had been crossed. Ghizzoni replied that so long as matters of legislative action were targeted, speakers are given wide latitude.

Carbajal has received $10,800 in congressional campaign donations from Caruso and his wife. In 2011, Caruso donated $15,000 to Carbajal’s reelection campaign. Supervisor Doreen Farr disputed that any process had been expedited for Caruso, noting that each of his multiple permits had been vetted and approved by the Planning Commission as well as the Board of Supervisors. She added that the Miramar has been a project of intense community concern for at least 15 years and predated Carbajal’s tenure on the board.

Caruso’s hotel efforts have come under scrutiny recently as members of the Montecito Association have suggested the developer might be dragging his feet. Caruso currently has all discretionary permits to begin construction, they noted, yet ground breaking has not begun. In 2012, Carbajal took up Caruso’s proposal for the county to waive transient occupancy taxes ​— ​worth an estimated $18 million ​— ​in order to expedite construction of what was then, and remains, a long-dormant hotel development plan. Caruso complained he needed relief from the crushing costs of construction.

Ultimately, Caruso declined to pursue the benefits, citing requirements he deemed objectionable. Reports about the proposed deal feature prominently in the opposition research dossier compiled by the National Republican Congressional Committee on Carbajal.

To submit a comment on this article, email or visit our Facebook page. To submit information to a reporter, email

Be succinct, constructive, and relevant to the story. Leaving a comment means you agree to our Discussion Guidelines. We like civilized discourse. We don't like spam, lying, profanity, harassment or personal attacks.

comments powered by Disqus
event calendar sponsored by:

Body of Los Angeles Firefighter Found in Montecito Mountains

Captain Wayne Habell had been reported missing on August 13.

Natural Disaster Federal Loan Update

The U.S. Small Business Administration offers low rates.

Laura’s Law Program Praised by County 

The Assisted Outpatient Treatment program tackles serious mental-health issues.

Front Fire Tops 1,000 Acres in Los Padres National Forest

Containment was estimated at 5% on Monday morning.

Runner-Up Protests City Pot Pick

SGSB says retail selection result was "manifestly unfair."