The City Council just voted unanimously to approve the appointment of four new members to the board of directors of the Southeastern Economic Development Corp.

City Councilman Tony Young spoke emotionally about a new era for SEDC. The redevelopment authority has recently been wracked by scandal highlighted by a investigation in July that uncovered a hidden system of bonuses and extra compensation at the agency that inflated the total compensation of SEDC staff, particularly the agency’s president, Carolyn Y. Smith, who has since been fired by SEDC’s board.

“We want to make SEDC into a functional, viable entity that really serves the community,” Young said.

The councilman, whose district is the most affected by the work of SEDC, said he has much faith in the four new board members for the troubled agency. But he said the re-shaping of the board is just one step in reforming SEDC.

Young said he and the City Council must work diligently into the future to help SEDC realize the same sort of success that has been seen by its sister agency, the Center City Development Corp. He said in that effort the City Council, and the public, should not just look to the council member that represents his district, District Four.

“This is not a District Four fiefdom,” Young said. “It’s not a kingdom for the representative from District Four to be in charge of.”

Councilman Ben Hueso echoed Young’s comments. He added that, no matter what the public perception of SEDC, he and other members of the City Council have strived to ensure that every penny of taxes that goes for redevelopment within SEDC’s sphere of influence gets ploughed back into that community.

But Hueso chided SEDC for being unsuccessful in bringing in revenue from sources outside the city. The agency has failed in grabbing revenue from state and federal sources that could be used to further its redevelopment goals, the councilman said. In doing so, he said, it has failed in achieving one of the key benefits of being a corporate, rather than municipal, agency.

Council members Donna Frye and Brian Maienschein also pledged their commitment to the agency and to an ongoing effort to improve transparency and openness at SEDC.

The four new board members replace a group of former board members that had been supportive of Smith both before and after her termination. That group includes former SEDC Chairman Artie M. “Chip” Owen, who had become the center of controversy himself for maintaining an ongoing financial relationship with a developer who’d received an SEDC development deal.

The new board members are:

  • Gina Champion-Cain, president and CEO of American National Investments and a familiar face to the local political scene.
  • Vernon Evans, vice president of finance and treasurer, San Diego County Regional Airport Authority.
  • Richard Lawrence, managing coordinator of San Diego Works for Better Health. His is also president of Lawrence Enterprises, which, according to the Mayor’s Office is an “investment and consulting company that operates photography/video, roofing, trophy, and pool maintenance and repair businesses.”
  • Simon Wong, founder and president of Simon Wong Engineering, a local construction management and engineering firm.

The new board will have a slew of important business before it, including the hiring of a new leader, a number of pending lawsuits against SEDC and Smith, and the receipt of an ongoing audit expected to be released later this month.


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