Fred Maas, the chairman of the Centre City Development Corp.’s board of directors, said today he will seek a “fact-finding mission” to examine the circumstances surrounding former CCDC President Nancy Graham’s involvement in the development project at 7th Avenue and Market Street downtown.
“Enough questions have been raised that we should engage in some fact finding, determine who was involved with who and determine what is fact and what is conspiracy theory,” Maas said. “I want to get to the bottom of it, because the integrity of the process demands it.”
Graham, who resigned Thursday, had previously been a business partner with a sister company of the 7th and Market developer, Related of California. The company, along with CityLink Investment Corp., is leading efforts to build the 41-story, $409-million downtown skyscraper. Under the current terms of the deal, which has not been finalized, the city of San Diego via CCDC will give the developers an $8.7 million subsidy to construct affordable housing in the building.
When Graham was first questioned about her involvement in the project’s negotiations in May, she said she had no connection to Related’s current effort and said she’d acknowledged her previous relationship when the company was selected. Because of that prior relationship, she said she had kept away from the project. “I did not negotiate this thing on purpose,” she said.
After a memo about the project signed by Graham surfaced in late June, she acknowledged having been involved in “some minor things.” But she still maintained she had not been involved in any substantive issues related to the skyscraper proposal. “As far as the significant negotiations or terms or deals I was not (involved),” she said.
Maas said he wanted a timeline of Graham’s involvement and wanted to know its extent. Maas, who had recused himself from the selection process because of a potential conflict, said he was unaware that Graham had met with the project’s developers until he was contacted by a voiceofsandiego.org reporter.
Maas initially suggested having a CCDC attorney lead the inquiry, but later said he may seek the assistance of someone independent from the organization. The board will consider whether to hire outside counsel when it meets Wednesday.
“There are a number of things we could do,” Maas said. “It may not be CCDC, it may be someone else.”
City Attorney Mike Aguirre’s office will not likely be used, Maas said. “They’re probably doing their own thing, I suspect,” he said.
CCDC’s board had been scheduled Wednesday to make a recommendation on the development agreement that would formally hand the project’s reins to Related and CityLink. (CCDC’s decision is advisory; the City Council has the final say.) Maas said the board would postpone its consideration of the development agreement.
Maas said the inquiry should happen “expeditiously,” though he did not commit to a specific timeframe.
Graham’s resignation comes eight months after signing a three-year contract with CCDC. She does not get a severance and walks away from more than $496,000 in salary, as the contract set her annual pay at $248,000.