No wonder Mayor Jerry Sanders refuses to reappoint Gil Cabrera to the Ethics Commission. Cabrera is actually investigating!
Case of CCDC's Graham set for ethics hearing
Commission also fines lobbyists
By Craig Gustafson
Union-Tribune Staff Writer
August 13, 2009
Position: Former CCDC president
Tenure: Hired at CCDC in December 2005, resigned in July 2008
Salary: Was paid $248,000
Background: Lawyer; former partner in N-K Ventures LLC, which was involved in the development of urban in-fill projects; former mayor of West Palm Beach, Fla. Faced conflict-of-interest charges due to her development ties.
The San Diego Ethics Commission on Thursday called for a special hearing against former Centre City Development Corp. president Nancy Graham over conflict-of-interest issues.
The commission generally reaches settlements with its investigation targets before reaching the hearing stage that Graham's case has now reached.
The investigation began a year ago, shortly after Graham resigned from the nonprofit city agency amid criticism over undisclosed business ties to developers Related Cos. and Lennar Corp. Both had business before the agency.
The probe focuses on her relationship with Lennar, which was one of several developers trying to build a 1,929-room Marriott hotel at Ballpark Village, just east of Petco Park. Lennar eventually pulled out of the project, but not before Graham became involved.
At issue is the Florida development business Graham owned with her former husband. Their company partnered with Related and Lennar on a Florida condo project, which netted the couple's company more than $7 million before expenses and taxes. Graham never reported income from the venture on her San Diego economic-interest forms.
Graham's lawyer, former District Attorney Paul Pfingst, said the dispute with the Ethics Commission is whether Graham should have participated in decisions about the hotel project when Lennar was still involved in it.
“We believe her connection to Lennar is very, very tenuous,” he said. “No one has ever claimed that Nancy Graham has profited in any way from the actions that she took.”
The commission does not discuss or release details of its investigations until they are completed.
A probable-cause hearing – which has only occurred twice in the panel's eight-year history – has been set Nov. 6 to examine the evidence in Graham's case. It is closed to the public unless Graham asks for it to be opened. After reviewing the evidence, the commission would decide whether to dismiss the case or move forward with a second hearing, after which a fine could be levied.
Graham pleaded no contest earlier this year to a separate misdemeanor charge of failing to disclose financial interests on a form that city officials fill out annually. That had to do with her connection to the Florida arm of Related, which won a $409 million urban-renewal project from CCDC in 2007.
In other action, the commission levied $5,200 in fines against 19 registered lobbyists who failed to disclose their activities in a timely fashion. New lobbying laws went into effect Jan. 1, 2008, and the fines show that some are struggling to adjust to broad disclosures of their activities and fundraising.
Among those fined were Ace Parking and Gerding Edlen, the Portland, Ore.-based firm heading up the proposal for a new City Hall complex. They received fines of $700 and $400, respectively.
Commissioner Gil Cabrera said those fined represent a fraction of the city's more than 500 registered lobbyists.
“Overall, though, I think that we should be happy with the number of disclosures that are coming out,” Cabrera said.
The panel also cited the International Association of Firefighters for failing to timely report $25,000 in radio advertising it paid for on behalf of Jan Goldsmith in his successful bid to unseat City Attorney Michael Aguirre. The group was required to report the expense within 24 hours because it was so close to the Nov. 4 election, but didn't disclose it until a week later. The fine was $1,500.