Mayor Jerry Sanders will ask the City Council on Sept. 2 to approve the replacement of four members of the board of directors of the Southeastern Economic Development Corp., including controversial board Chairman Artie M. “Chip” Owen.

The terms of eight of the nine members of SEDC’s board have expired. The mayor has publicly stated that he intends to replace all eight of those board members as soon as possible. Pressure has built on Sanders to reform the agency’s board after it was revealed that SEDC President Carolyn Y. Smith has for years been paying herself and her staff hundreds of thousands of dollars in bonuses and extra compensation unbeknownst to the board.

Controversy has also surrounded Owen. He has come under fire for his ongoing business relationship with a developer, Pacific Development Partners, was awarded a development deals with the agency while he served on the board.

City Attorney Mike Aguirre opined last month that Owen’s relationship violated the state’s conflict of interest law and that any deals the agency had inked with PDP are null and void.

The four incoming board members are:

  • Gina Champion Cain, president and CEO of American National Investments, a real estate services company, who would replace Kea Hagen.
  • Vernon Evans, vice president, finance/treasurer of the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority who will replace Randy Jones, the current SEDC board vice-chair.
  • Richard Lawrence, managing coordinator of San Diego Works for Better Health, who will replace Charles Simpson, the SEDC board’s current treasurer.
  • Simon Wong, founder and president of Simon Wong Engineering, a local construction and engineering firm, who will replace Owen.

(The mayor’s memo contains more information about the nominees.)

The initial replacements will oust some of Owen and Smith’s most ardent supporters on the board.

At the agency’s last board meeting, the board voted on a motion to oust Owen as board chairman because of the controversy that has been swirling around him. Simpson spoke against the motion and voted against it. Jones, Hagen and Owen also voted against the motion, which failed to gain the needed two-thirds majority vote needed to pass.

The four board members who voted for Owen to step down will remain on the board for the time being, though the terms of three of the four have expired.


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