Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Do CCDC officials cover up until they can't cover up any more?

The following story from Voice of San Diego contains an audio link.

Voice of San Diego

If you're following the Nancy Graham story, you should listen to her comments at an April board meeting of the Centre City Development Corp., the downtown redevelopment agency she once led. (Thanks to Ian Trowbridge and Pat Flannery for the audio.)

AUDIO: Nancy Graham's Statement
At the April 23 CCDC meeting, Graham read a statement into the record about concerns that had been raised that Graham may have had a conflict by participating in the negotiations of a proposed downtown skyscraper. CCDC's board defended Graham at the meeting.

(We later revealed that Graham had received money from an affiliate of the project's developer at the same time she was involved in those negotiations.)

In April, Graham said:

I can guarantee you and I think you all know me well enough to know right now that there's no truth to those allegations whatsoever. ...

Most importantly, I think what they were not aware of is that I did not negotiate this deal, but brought in two people that have impeccable credentials. ... I asked Jerry (Trimble) and Murray (Kane) to come in and negotiate this particular transaction. ... I personally think it would be an absolute insult to the members of the negotiating team to suggest that in any way they would not work to protect CCDC and the Redevelopment Agency's interests or that I could sway them to do something. These guys have incredible integrity. I did not negotiate this transaction. However, having said that, while I think the whole issue is a red herring like they say in law school, I nevertheless feel it's important for me to recuse myself from participating in any further action or discussions with regard to 7th and Market.

That statement and decision drew effusive praise from CCDC board member Jennifer LeSar:

I think it's incredibly unfortunate. I've always found Nancy to be incredibly transparent, very ethical, I've never been surprised by anything that she's done, she's an excellent communicator and has been always forthcoming about the things that have been going on in her life that could have any impact. And I just find this really, really unfortunate. For whoever's behind this behavior, I think it's atrocious. And I guess I just want to say that I think Nancy is taking the higher road here. ... Nancy, I guess I just want you to know, I'm very proud of you. I talk about you in places I do this kind of work. I think we're lucky to have you. In my mind, these going-ons don't taint my impression of you, your leadership here or the work you've done.

CCDC board chairman Fred Maas weighed in, too:

Some of the things that have been said and the tactics and conduct of people who have tried to impugn and indict Nancy has been outrageous. It's been upsetting to me as a person, let alone as chair, for the kind of tactics and untruths which have been circulated regarding this project. ... To make these accusations by whoever for whatever reasons I think is an outrage and it is worthy of scorn by this board and everybody in the community. She has my unqualified support.

Both Maas and LeSar have since been more contrite.

Monday, September 8, 2008

The Un-Refuted Claim

At an April board meeting, former Centre City Development Corp. President Nancy Graham addressed concerns about her potential conflict of interest with the affiliate of a business partner working to build a city-subsidized skyscraper downtown.

"I can guarantee you and I think you all know me well enough to know right now that there's no truth to those allegations whatsoever," she said. "... I did not negotiate this transaction."

But as we've since documented, Graham was in fact involved in negotiations -- at the same time she was receiving money from the developer's affiliate.

James Lough, an outside attorney CCDC hired to investigate Graham's involvement, drew the same conclusion. In a staff report for Wednesday's CCDC meeting, Lough wrote: "Ms. Graham was involved in the negotiations of the potential [development and disposition agreement]."

Lough's conclusion came after reviewing CCDC files and interviewing the agency's staff. But the CCDC staff -- many of whom also had been involved in the negotiations -- did not publicly raise any concerns about the obvious discrepancies in Graham's explanation.

I asked Fred Maas, the CCDC chairman, whether he was concerned by the lack of disclosure. He said:

Lots of mistakes and unfortunate circumstances happened during that period of time. In retrospect I think we all wish we had done things differently, but we didn't. We recognize the omissions and errors and are doing our best to correct them.

September 8, 2008

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