Voice of San Diego
by Rob Davis
November 25, 2008
E-mailWatch has ended. The Centre City Development Corp. recently turned over one final batch of e-mails sent or received by its former president, Nancy Graham.
We sought all of her e-mails after April 1, looking to determine what Graham had communicated as questions began being raised about her financial relationship with developers with business pending downtown. As my investigation continued, what did she tell people around her?
Turns out, not much. Or at least not much that was disclosed in the e-mails I fought for months to obtain.
Here's how the e-mails look by the numbers:
5,205: E-mails Graham sent or received between April 1 and her July 24 resignation.
0: E-mails that CCDC's attorneys from the Los Angeles-based law firm Kane Ballmer Berkman said were public records before our fight began in September.
4,388: E-mails that CCDC's attorneys ended up turning over after two months of back-and-forth.
413: E-mails that were spam or duplicates.
404: E-mails that were withheld and kept secret.
CCDC attorney Murray Kane offered this breakdown of why the 404 e-mails were withheld: 260 were attorney-client privileged; 35 were part of the deliberative process; 40 were confidential or related to on-going negotiations; 40 contained personnel, medical or "similar privacy matters"; 30 were preliminary notes or drafts not kept in the regular course of business.
CCDC withheld some responses to e-mails it disclosed. For example, Richard Ledford, a local lobbyist, sent Graham a May 13 e-mail entitled "Love That Press". It was written four days after our initial story documenting Graham's past business relationship with the affiliate of a developer with business pending downtown. The story was the first in that led to Graham's resignation and misdemeanor criminal charges being filed against her.
"I leave the country for a couple of weeks and you hit the press..." Ledford wrote. "you just gotta stay out of trouble! Ok, now don't shout, but my St. Paul client wanted to know if there are any fully entitled condo projects for sale in the redevelopment area. Yeah yeah yeah... don't start on me!"
Graham replied the same day. CCDC never provided her reply or the specific legal reason it was withheld.
For those who have been following E-mailWatch, at least two changes have resulted from our pursuit of Graham's e-mails.
Fred Maas, the CCDC board chairman, discovered from the e-mails that Graham had bought $18,000 in office furniture for CCDC's move to new offices earlier this year. That furniture is now supposed to be returned and replaced with less-costly furniture.
Maas said that CCDC is also taking steps to streamline the disclosure of e-mails requested in the future. Maas said CCDC's policy starting in 2009 will be to disclose all e-mails sent to staff members. Any e-mails containing confidential information will be directed to a special e-mail account; everything will be released otherwise, Maas said.
-- ROB DAVIS