A church group competing to develop the Valencia Business Park has written to the Southeastern Economic Development Corp. board taking issue with the fact that SEDC staff did not include a legal opinion issued by City Attorney Mike Aguirre in its report on the project.

The Aguirre opinion declared a development agreement between SEDC and Los Angeles developer Pacific Development Partners LLC null and void because of an alleged conflict of interest violation by the former SEDC board chairman.

However, the staff report to be considered at tonight’s SEDC meeting recommends reconfirming the PDP development agreement and makes no mention of Aguirre’s opinion.

A letter delivered this morning to SEDC by an attorney for St. Stephen’s Cathedral Church of God in Christ Ministries, which is contesting the awarding of the project to PDP, states:

In reviewing Staff Report No. 08-039 it is obvious that your President and Staff are still not providing the Board with all of the information that is critical to a proper and appropriate decision.

The letter cites several letters St. Stephens has written to SEDC that have not been provided to the board. And it says SEDC staff has ignored Aguirre’s legal opinion.

The letter reads:

As you will note there have been significant and numerous errors within the staff recommendation (which still to this date have not been corrected). In addition to the Staff’s blatant disregard for information which has been provided, the Staff still has not included in its’ packet to you a letter from City Attorney Michael Aguirre, dated July 17, 2008, addressed to Mr. Artie M. Chip Owen. In this letter, the City Attorney opines that SEDC has conducted business in direct violation of Government Code Section 1090.

As I reported yesterday, the SEDC board will be asked at tonight’s meeting, for the third time, to approve awarding the development rights for the Valencia Business Park to PDP.

The board’s former Chairman, Artie M. “Chip” Owen has a continuing business relationship with PDP and had reported receiving between $10,000 and $100,000 a year for the last four years from the company. He recused himself from board votes involving the deal while he was SEDC’s chairman, but Aguirre opined that mere recusal was not enough. He was replaced on the board earlier this month by the mayor and City Council.

SEDC Spokesman Alexis Dixon said he doesn’t have the capacity to address the questions raised in the letter from St. Stephens. Dixon said the SEDC board is fully aware of all the circumstances surrounding the project, and will act accordingly.

It’s unclear why the SEDC board is being asked to approve the agreement with PDP again. Its board in June re-awarded the project to PDP, months after SEDC was forced to put the project back out to bid because of questions about irregularities in the zoning process.

Since then, a scandal over a hidden bonuses program has brought greater scrutiny to SEDC’s affairs, prompting the ouster of President Carolyn Y. Smith and the replacement of a majority of board members.

Dixon said Smith wasn’t in the building and therefore the organization couldn’t answer why the item had been placed before the SEDC board again.


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