The Centre City Development Corp. will examine whether former President Nancy Graham influenced the landmark Ballpark Village project, CCDC board Chairman Fred Maas said. Such influence would be inappropriate given the financial relationship she admitted having with one of the project’s developers.

“We need to ensure there was no undue influence in any event in this transaction,” Maas said. “The board needs full assurances of the absence of even the appearance of a conflict of interest.”

CCDC said in a news release that it will have an outside law firm review every downtown development that is planned or in negotiations to look for potential conflicts of interest on Graham’s behalf.

Graham, who resigned July 24, acknowledged under oath in 2007 that she received money from a business deal she did with Lennar Corp., which is a part owner of the 7 acres near Petco Park that will house Ballpark Village.

Graham testified under oath about her Florida real-estate development deal with The Related Group and Lennar Corp. during a 2007 deposition. She specifically referenced a 2007 payment of $125,000 from the developers as “just mine.”

While at CCDC, Graham was extensively involved in modifications to the Ballpark Village project, which was approved before she took office. Her calendars show repeated meetings with the project’s developers, a team that includes Padres owner John Moores.

Steve Peace, special advisor to Moores, said CCDC needs to invalidate any potential contracts that Graham may have influenced, so the project can advance. The City Council is set in October to consider modifications to the project, which is planning to add a 1,929-room Marriott hotel, slated to be the largest on the West Coast.

State law forbids officials from having any financial connection to a contract they participate in. The law is fundamentally underpinned by the expectation that government officials must serve the public interest, not their own.

Peace said he did not believe CCDC approved any contracts under Graham’s watch.

“We want them to take an abundance of caution,” he said. “Obviously, we don’t want to go forward with a contract that’s potentially challengeable downstream.”

We’ll have more soon.


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