By Len Ramirez

GILROY (KPIX 5) — A plan by Gilroy officials to chop down more than 200 trees has been uprooted because of a possible rule violation by city leaders.

No one knows which trees in the city were part of the 235 slated to be chopped down. 35 of them were supposed to be located in Christmas Hill Park, the home of the Gilroy Garlic Festival.

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But KPIX could not find any trees that appeared to be marked in any way, which is a big part of the problem.

Herman Garcia is one of several people in Gilroy concerned that the city may have violated state ethics codes and environmental regulations when it approved a $258,000 contract to remove the trees.

“At some point, somebody has to get it and stop the insanity,” said Garcia.

Rules call for community oversight and review, which hasn’t happened.

Garcia – who is the director of CHEER, which monitors and cleans up waterways like Uvas Creek — says Gilroy has a history of questionable environmental practices.

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“I suspect it’s a supervisor in one or two department heads that is just doing things on his own and not complying with state and federal laws in these environmental issues,” said Garcia.

A city spokesperson told KPIX that the trees identified for removal are dead or dying because of the drought or were damaged by the recent storms.

But no one was available for further comment.

One environmental activist hired a private arborist to review the city’s plan and found the contractor hired to identify the trees for cutting could profit if more trees are chopped down.

“That’s why we have checks and balances to make sure that trees are not unnecessarily removed,” said certified arborist Moki Smith. “And if you have a contractor setting up the work scope and they are profiting from the removals, there’s where we have the conflict of interest. These are the types of things that we’re going to check into.”

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One of the activists have hired an environmental attorney in San Francisco. The attorney has drafted a letter and sent it to the city, asking officials not to take any action until there is proper review. So far, that attorney told KPIX 5 the city has not responded.