Following nearly a decade out of the limelight, mayoral candidate David Ortega re-emerged on the local political scene in 2019 to oppose two high profile downtown developments before the City Council.
The former councilman was a vocal critic of the proposed Sunday Goods medical marijuana dispensary and the controversial Southbridge Two development, making appearances before Council and writing a dozen letters to the editor during the second half of 2019.
But some critics have questioned Ortega’s motives, noting he was paid to oppose the dispensary and allegations that he sought similar payments for his role opposing Southbridge Two.
Ortega said he was never paid to oppose Southbridge Two and never sought payment for his opposition.
“I was not paid a dime; I did not ask for anything,” Ortega said.
But individuals close to the opposition contradicted that claim, alleging Ortega asked to be hired by a group of local property owners leading the opposition against Southbridge Two.
“And then the marijuana thing; we did pay him and then we let him go,” said Janet Wilson, a downtown property owner involved in opposition to both the dispensary and Southbridge Two.
“And then he came to another group I was involved in and wanted us to hire him and then we declined,” Wilson said, referring to a group of property owners opposed to Southbridge Two.
Wilson said the conversation took place before the referendum campaign was organized.
Ortega said that those conversations on Southbridge Two did not occur.
“I never had direct communications with anybody,” Ortega said when asked if there were any discussions about him representing Southbridge opposition groups.
In the case of Sunday Goods, Ortega argued the applicant was seeking to “spot zone” the site just east of Scottsdale Road