SFR has learned that one of the principals in the company that wants taxpayers to help build a cinema in the Railyard has been charged several times with writing bad checks. Railyard Co LLC principal Richard J Jaramillo was also sued last year by his ex-wife and the New Mexico Human Services Department for child support, and has had the police called to his house more than once regarding domestic violence.
A resolution coming before the Santa Fe City Council's Finance Committee tonight would begin the process of issuing a $35.4 million bond to build a movie theater in the Railyard, and authorize the city manager to negotiate with Railyard Co.
Why would the taxpayers entrust millions to a company whose leadership includes a man repeatedly charged with failing to meet his financial obligations? Incredibly, despite all the controversy that has surrounded the idea of a Railyard cinema, no one has asked this question.
And it was a question Jaramillo himself was unprepared to answer when SFR reached him by phone on Oct. 16.
"Please put the comment in writing," Jaramillo said. "I'm an individual that's part of a company, OK?...I'm only part of the company."
According to Jaramillo and Marco Gonzales, an attorney and "member" of the Railyard Co partnership, both the Journal Santa Fe and the Santa Fe New Mexican agreed to conduct interviews by email, ostensibly so that the other principals, including Allen Branch and Steve Duran, could agree on a response.
"We took a vote that we will answer any media responsively and quickly so everybody has a chance to comment," Jaramillo says.
Of course, Jaramillo's partners may not know all the answers.
Four times between 2003 and 2006, Jaramillo was charged with violations under the New Mexico Worthless Check Act—sometimes with multiple counts. In each case, Jaramillo avoided judicial penalties because, court dockets indicate, prosecutors withdrew the charges because restitution was paid in full (or for unstated reasons).
Asked why the police were sent to his house earlier this year, Jaramillo stammered: "There's nothing—I don't know...I wasn't there."
Indeed, the SFPD report from the evening of April 20—which SFR uncovered during its investigation into domestic violence among Santa Fe's upper classes—says: "Officers were dispatched to a domestic disturbance at [Jaramillo's $480,000 home on Calle Roble]. Upon officers arrival they made contact with the calling party. The caller reported a verbal argument that occurred at the residence. The other party involved left prior to police arrival. No further action taken."
In a section of the report asking whether the incident was "drug related," Officer Philip Fernandez wrote, "YES." It's unclear who made the call, but unrelated court documents indicate Jaramillo lives with a girlfriend.
Jaramillo was involved in at least one previous domestic violence incident with his ex-wife, Julie D Perez, while they lived together in 2007. In that incident, Perez was arrested and booked at the Santa Fe County jail. The responding officer's report was based on Jaramillo's account; according to Officer Rudy Gallegos, Jaramillo said "his wife became upset at him after he would not give her the key to where her prescription medications were kept. She then got a knife and stated 'She would cut the life out of her.'
"Jaramillo got the knife from her but Perez started to physically attack him. The altercation ended up in the den of the residence. Perez grabbed a glass vase and broke it on the floor, then hit Jaramillo over the head with a plaster Kleenex box holder leaving a bump on his head. She also left several visible scratch marks on Jaramillo's neck. It should be noted that Perez had no physical injuries."
Apparently, basic background checks are not a prerequisite to seeking millions in public funds. But Jaramillo's background is not the only suspicious thing about Railyard Co LLC, which built the underground parking garage in its namesake development, and which has been dogged by subcontractors for nonpayment.
In its corporate registration with the Public Regulation Commission, the company lists its physical address as 228 East Palace Ave., third floor. That address belongs to the old St. Vincent's Hospital Building downtown. The building is mostly vacant, and the third floor is most definitely unsuitable for doing business, as these pictures indicate.
Not in here.
Not here, either.
Jaramillo tells SFR "it's not weird" for the company to use this vacant site as its address of record.
"We own the property—they sold it, Steve still manages it," Jaramillo says.
"Steve" refers to Railyard Co principal Steve Duran, a plumbing contractor who was part-owner of the $17.5 million property until it was sold to DSW Santa Fe LLC for eventual redevelopment into a hotel, according to Santa Fe County property records. Jaramillo says Duran still maintains an office on the first floor of the building, which is being used by a film production company. Railyard Co also uses 500 Market Street—also known as Market Station, the big red building with REI and Flying Star Cafe—as an address, though its offices are actually in a construction trailer nearby.
Asked it he ever thought it odd that Railyard Co's principals insisted on communication using Yahoo email accounts and did business out of a construction trailer, Santa Fe Railyard Community Corporation Richard Czoski says those questions should be asked, but "you know, this is Santa Fe, and not everybody wears a coat and tie and has an office in an office building."
"You have to balance that with what they've accomplished, which is building a 400-space parking garage and putting up a 100,000-square-foot building. They're four local guys who have got together to execute this project and what I will say is that I'm sure whatever deal gets cut, the city will build in adequate safeguards to protect themselves," Czoski says. "Worst case, say they went broke: The lender would step in...and operate it, just like any bank would on a real estate loan."
Czoski says Railyard Co is current on its obligations to the SFRCC, which manages the Railyard on behalf of the city.
Councilor Matt Ortiz, chief sponsor of the new bond resolution regarding the cinema project, has not returned SFR's email. Neither has Mayor David Coss, a cosponsor of the resolution. Councilor Rebecca Wurzburger tells SFR she's unfamiliar with the principals involved, but cosponsored Ortiz' resolution because she's "looking at possibilities for the city, in terms of economic development, and having that big hole in the ground [at the Railyard] is a big negative in the city."