Despite repeated requests to do so, the Southeastern Economic Development Corp. has not produced any documents to prove that hidden bonus programs at the agency pre-date SEDC President Carolyn Y. Smith, as Smith has consistently claimed.
SEDC Corporate Counsel Regina Petty told me last week that the agency has produced all the documents it has on how, when and why the bonuses were introduced.
Since the scandal over the bonuses broke, Smith has argued that she was merely carrying on an existing policy at the agency by paying herself and her staff hundreds of thousands of dollars in bonuses each year that were not approved by SEDC’s board or the City Council.
For months, I’ve been asking SEDC to prove that’s the case. On July 9, I sent the agency a request under the California Public Records Act asking for, among other things:
- SEDC staff or board policies from the last 10 years regarding the bonuses.
- Formulas or documents from the last 10 years used to calculate the various bonuses.
- An accounting of the date each bonus program was introduced at SEDC, including any staff reports etc. pertaining to the introduction of each program.
My reasoning for the request was simple: If the bonus programs were introduced to the board at some point, and Smith was merely carrying on long-standing practices then I figured SEDC would have records showing that.
Similarly, if, as Smith has claimed, the bonuses are calculated according to long-standing methods used by the agency, SEDC should be able to produce records that show how the bonuses were calculated each year, along with any formulas staff used to calculate such bonuses.
And, last month, The San Diego Union-Tribune published this story showing that previous SEDC presidents deny all knowledge of the bonus programs.
An audit commissioned by the city that found the hidden bonuses to rise to the level of fraud states that the only one of the several bonus and extra compensation packages was found in the SEDC employee handbook.
After a protracted fight with SEDC, during which I have had to threaten litigation to get other public documents, the agency finally provided me with some of the information I asked for late last month. But no documents were provided pertaining to how, when and why the bonuses were introduced or how they were calculated.
The documents I did finally get allowed me to write this story, which explains how SEDC managed to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in bonuses to staff while staying within its budget.
But, as far as how or why the bonus programs got started in the first place, there’s been no word from SEDC apart from Smith’s claim that they’re long-standing.