For more from Jon Fleischman, visit his Flash Report Web site.

Usually when I take the time to write a more in-depth piece about someone, I put up their photo so that you can see what he or she looks like.  Except in the case of Robert Stryk I couldn’t find a photo anywhere online. 

So instead of looking at Stryk’s photo, you have to allow me to paint you a picture of a young, single 34-year old Washington, D.C., lobbyist with a transient and questionable background, who one day decided he would throw his hat into the ring to be the next Mayor of the small Napa County town of Yountville, population approximately 3,000.

Those who have spent time reading my columns over the years know that second to politics, my second passion in life is wine.  I’ve been a “wine enthusiast” for many years, and love when I can to visit the Bay Area wine regions, and often times stay at a favorite bed and breakfast with a vineyard view right in the town of Yountville.  So when I heard from a longtime FR reader in Napa County that something strange – or rather someone strange – had surfaced in my wine country home away from home, I figured it was worth looking into, as I am known to do…

Robert Stryk apparently touts being a former Hill staffer turned big-time Washington, D.C., lobbyist (let’s not tell him that “lobbyist” is probably not the best ballot title for a candidate), with about ten obscure clients, such as the “Rio Rico Fire District” and the “Tabac Fire District” (both in Arizona, where Stryk seems to spend a lot of his time when he’s not in Washington, D.C.).

The thing is that I have friends who do this kind of work on Capitol Hill – and I know that it is labor intensive and relationship driven.  It’s the kind of work that doesn’t lend itself to emails and phone calls.  The kind of work that would be very difficult to do if you were also, say, the Mayor of a small town 3,000 miles away from where all of the taxpayer dollars are doled out.  Lobbying Capitol Hill simply requires spending a LOT of time…on Capitol Hill!

So now I’m really curious about Stryk and I decide to take it upon myself to do the Flash “on the cheap” background check on this guy (you know, a couple of hours with Google, Lexis Nexis, and a couple of inexpensive document search services to which I subscribe). 

Good grief, you wouldn’t believe all of the stuff that came back.  We’re talking about lots of corporations founded and terminated, lawsuits, liens on property, and even an apparent eviction and a foreclosure (I say apparent because I’m looking at online websites, not actually looking at the original, physical documents).  

On top of that I find that in the last ten plus years the guy has lived at the better part of a half-dozen addresses all around the Phoenix and Scottsdale, but he has also lived at addresses all around California, specifically Orange County, Los Angeles County and San Francisco – and Washington, D.C., of course.  Sounds like Stryk is living up to the reputation of his business.

But wait, while I found a number of archived newspaper stories that reference Stryk, one really fell into the category of, “You can’t make this stuff up.”  An article from the Arizona Republic (in Phoenix) entitled, Ex-Senate Chief Sues His Partner; Claims Expense Account Fraud.

The article opens:

Spa treatments and manicures in New York City, $300 food and bar tabs in Scottsdale and Washington, D.C., hot spots and shopping sprees for clothes, furniture and computers.

Citing such expenditures, John Greene, former state Senate president and attorney general candidate, says business partner Robert Stryk’s expense account billing in their start-up lobbying firm represented more than simple excess.

In a civil suit, Greene accuses Stryk, his one-time political adviser, of fraudulently spending more than $40,000 from their company over a 90-day period last spring to show himself and his friends a good time.

Further down in the story, are more details…

Greene’s complaint, which also names Stryk’s former partner and SPG’s accountant Brandt Perry, lists some of the 130 allegedly unauthorized transactions:

  • A trip to Washington with friends for a soccer match.
  • Restaurant tabs at Scottsdale nightspots such as Sanctuary on Camelback ($356) and Kona Grill ($289), the Venetian in Las Vegas ($293) and Novita in New York City ($755).
  • A $278 shopping spree at Guess? in New York City, spa and nail salon visits in Washington and New York and purchases of new furniture and computer equipment that reportedly were not used for the office.

In all, Greene and his partners allege, Stryk spent $17,557 on the credit card and kept using it even after he was told to stop.

The suit also claims that Stryk and Perry transferred $24,410 from company accounts for personal use, including $3,800 to purchase a steer at an auction.

The complaint says Stryk did not share the meat from the steer with Greene and his partners.

A steer?  Whatever.

Given the fact that from looking online it’s hard to even tell where this guy lives now, I went ahead and called the Registrar of Voters office in Napa County yesterday and asked the woman who answered if she could look up a “Robert Stryk in Yountville” so I could see how long Stryk had been registered in Napa County.   Believe it or not, the clerk told me that no one by the last name of Stryk was registered to vote in the town of Yountville.  Unbelievable.  I hope Stryk knows he’s running out of time to register to vote for himself, when he runs.  It would appear, though, that Stryk has never voted in a Yountville election.

I wonder what the locals must think of this guy, coming out of nowhere with such a bizarre and questionable life, occupation and background – and letting them know he wants to be elected to the town’s top elective office.  Especially since Yountville tends to be a pretty conservative little town — heavily heavily influenced thusly by the fact that over a third of the town’s population of residents of the large Yountville California Veteran’s Home (pictured).  According to an article in the Napa Valley Register, Stryk says that if he gets elected, he’ll donate his $400/mo Council stipend to the Veterans home…  (Guess we can figure out that play.)  Stryk also says that he wants to make Yountville into a “year-round tourist destination similar to Aspen or the Hamptons” – and hire a new city employee to do this.  I wonder how much the residents want Styrk’s version of SimYountville?

I care about Yountville – and what happens there. 

As I said, it’s always been a home away from home for me when traveling to the Wine Country.  It’s clear to me that the town has prospered because it has had good stewardship.  I’m not prepared to advocate for any particular people to run the town, but I can certainly tell you someone that shouldn’t…