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The Southeastern Economic Development Corp. has, for almost two months, refused to provide documents and information that would shed light on when and how its various clandestine bonus programs were introduced.

SEDC President Carolyn Y. Smith has consistently claimed that the bonus programs pre-date her arrival at SEDC, and that she was merely following agency protocol when she approved hundreds of thousands of dollars in bonuses for herself and her staff.

But the agency has repeatedly declined to provide any documentation that would prove such claims. And a story in The San Diego Union-Tribune earlier this month quoted Smith’s three predecessors at the agency as saying that they do not remember any such bonus programs being in place during their tenure.

On July 9, the day after my first story on the bonuses was published, my colleague Andrew Donohue and I sent the agency a comprehensive public records act request that asked SEDC to produce, among other things:

An accounting of the date each of the following extra compensation payments was introduced as a program administered by SEDC and any staff or board memos, documents, staff reports etc. pertaining to the introduction of each of the following extra compensation programs:

  • Cost of living;
  • Sick pay and holiday pay in lieu;
  • Acknowledgment;
  • Holiday bonus;
  • Any other compensation programs that provide employees with compensation that is not included in that employee’s base salary.

Almost a month later, after producing no records in response to our request, SEDC was put on notice by the City Attorney’s Office. Huston Carlyle, the deputy city attorney responsible for redevelopment in San Diego, sent a letter to Smith.

I have reviewed the attached request and respectfully but strongly urge your organization to use all efforts forthwith to make all public documents available for inspection and review by Mr. Carless. Failure to comply will subject SEDC to possible legal action which, if filed and pursued to its logical conclusion, will result in an unfavorable result for SEDC.

The next day, Carlyle received an e-mail from SEDC’s executive assistant, Kimberly King, stating that the agency was awaiting an opinion from its corporate counsel before answering my records request.

A few days went by. I waited and waited. Then I got a call. The documents I wanted would be available for me to view in a room at SEDC’s officer, I was told.

On previous occasions, when I have gone to view records requests at SEDC, I have been confronted with documents that have had nothing to do with what I’ve actually asked to view. Instead, SEDC provides me with, literally, thousands of pages of irrelevant documents.

I told SEDC I didn’t want to go through that again, but they told me the documents would be available, and to come to the office.

But, again, the agency did not make most of the documents I had asked for available. I had to sift through dozens of binders full of largely irrelevant information. The following day, another deputy city attorney, Glen Spitzer, sent SEDC a letter again putting the agency on notice:

“Please produce the documents no later than next week,” Spitzer wrote.

Almost two weeks later, I was told a package was available at SEDC headquarters for me to pick up. The documents SEDC provided did not include any of the records I had asked for regarding when and why the bonus programs were introduced.

I’m still waiting for those.

WILL CARLESS

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