The Southeastern Economic Development Corp. is here to stay, and should be able to get back on track under new leadership, Mayor Jerry Sanders told the board meeting of the Coalition of Neighborhood Councils this evening.
Sanders addressed the meeting in an attempt to assuage community concerns about the future of SEDC, whose president, Carolyn Y. Smith, was fired Wednesday in the wake of a scandal over $1 million that was paid to SEDC staff in bonuses and extra compensation over the last five years without SEDC board or City Council knowledge.
Sanders also took the opportunity to talk about the future of redevelopment in San Diego more broadly and about the structures of the city’s two nonprofit redevelopment corporations, SEDC and the Centre City Development Corp., whose President Nancy Graham resigned last week.
Sanders said it is clear that oversight of SEDC and CCDC has been steadily waning over the years, and said he wants to implement similar strategies at the two nonprofits as he has installed at the city.
“We knew at some point we would have to address our quasi-city agencies,” Sanders said. “I think the events of the last few months, or really the last month, has really highlighted that.”
Sanders said he respects what SEDC has done for the community, and that he respects Smith, but that it has become clear that there is a need for greater transparency and greater oversight of both SEDC and CCDC.
Noting that the terms of eight of the nine SEDC board members have expired, Sanders said he has already asked all of the members of the City Council to recommend new board members to him, and said he is also asking for recommendations from the public.
Sanders also answered questions from members of the public. Dwayne Crenshaw, the CNC’s executive director, urged the mayor to hire someone from within the community to run SEDC. Sanders said he would consider that, but that he will also be advertising around San Diego and possibly nationally for a new president for the organization.
As Sanders left the meeting, I asked him if SEDC’s board deserves all the criticism for allowing Smith to pay herself and her staff the above-budget bonuses. After all, I said, the Mayor’s Office has its own controls and the city’s comptroller was receiving invoices detailing Smith and other employees’ paychecks.
“Perhaps we have not been as vigilant as we should have been in putting in those internal controls,” he said.