Like ‘I Love Lucy,’ but with Wal-Mart


Atascadero City Manager Wade McKinney may have some explaining to do, especially since city officials have leaked secretive documents to the public that appear to reveal that he was aware of negotiations with Wal-Mart and was actively involved in orchestrating the arrival of the box store to the intersection of Del Rio Road and El Camino Real.
On May 18, McKinney denied that he had met or negotiated with anyone from Wal-Mart and the existence of any communications mentioning the retail giant. Then, on May 31—after New Times informed McKinney of memos detailing staff meetings with Wal-Mart officials—he admitted that he had spoken briefly with a Wal-Mart official after a chance meeting in a hotel lobby, though he denied that the city was involved in any negotiations.
In a Sept. 7, 2005, e-mail—leaked last week—McKinney says, “Wal-Mart is expected to deal with the Del Rio interchange and pay impact fees.�
McKinney’s e-mail is a response to a Sept. 6, 2005, e-mail from Councilman George Luna: “What will be the impact fees charged Wal-Mart to upgrade the Del Rio interchange.�
Though Luna admitted in May that the possibility of a Wal-Mart for Atascadero had been mentioned as early as the summer of 2005, he failed to reveal the depth of negotiations. The city’s remaining council members denied any previous negotiations with the retail giant.
During the July 11 city council meeting, local activist David Broadwater accused the city of failing to reply to a request he had made asking for records of any communications city officials and staff made in regard to the possibility of Wal-Mart’s presence, stating that the e-mails demonstrated communication existed.
“My laptop crashed in April,� Luna responded. “I had forgotten about the e-mail and then found them. I apologize for being a month late.�
City Manager McKinney repeated his claim that the city has had no direct contact with Wal-Mart and explained the lack of documentation as a city policy—reportedly enacted in 2003—of purging all city e-mails.

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