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Thursday, Jan. 22, 2009 | A federal grand jury is investigating former Centre City Development Corp. President Nancy Graham’s relationship with the developers of two major downtown projects.
Federal prosecutors from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Public Integrity Section in Washington, D.C. requested extensive records from CCDC relating to Graham’s employment and involvement in two developments: Ballpark Village, a $1.4 billion project adjacent to Petco Park, and 7th and Market, a $409-million downtown skyscraper that has since been canceled.
The federal investigation broadens the scope of law enforcement inquiries into Graham’s business past and undisclosed financial relationships at CCDC. Graham, who resigned July 24, didn’t report her business ties with the projects’ developers in required financial disclosure forms. While at CCDC, she did not recuse herself from negotiations with the developers and their affiliates. She faces five ethics and conflict-of-interest charges lodged by former City Attorney Mike Aguirre.
The federal subpoena CCDC received Jan. 15 commands the agency to produce “any and all records relating to Nancy Graham’s employment with CCDC and her involvement with the 7th and Market development and/or the Ballpark Village project, to include any contact or reference to contact between Nancy Graham and development companies associated with those projects.”
While Graham publicly denied any ongoing financial relationship with the developers of the projects, court records show she acknowledged receiving almost $3 million in income from them and their affiliates during a deposition given under oath in 2007. Payments continued while she was at CCDC; the last was received in mid-2007.
The federal subpoena seeks “personnel files, calendars, e-mail communications, contracts, agendas, meeting minutes, staff reports, project files, expense reports, and audit reports.” In lieu of delivering the records to the grand jury, which met Wednesday morning, the subpoena says CCDC could give them to FBI Special Agent Michael Peters, who is based in San Diego.
The federal prosecutor who sought the records, Daniel Schwager, has also subpoenaed the Southeastern Economic Development Corp., the city’s other redevelopment agency. That subpoena, issued in October, sought SEDC’s computers.
While federal investigators have questioned SEDC board members, CCDC Chairman Fred Maas said he has had no contact with the FBI or the grand jury.
CCDC spokesman Derek Danziger said the agency was complying with the subpoena. Danziger and Maas both said investigators provided assurances that CCDC was not a target of the inquiry.
Paul Pfingst, Graham’s attorney, was not familiar with the details of the subpoena.
“I think if the federal government looks at this, they’ll find that everything that was done was proper,” Pfingst said.
Pfingst criticized media reports for questioning the circumstances surrounding Graham’s July resignation. She cited her mother’s declining health, the same reason she’d given in 2004 for leaving a Florida redevelopment post. Graham’s 83-year-old mother, Virginia Roskam, died Jan. 20 in Tennessee.
CCDC’s board canceled the 7th and Market development in September. A CCDC internal investigation, prompted by a voiceofsandiego.org series, concluded that Graham had a conflict of interest and should not have been involved in selecting the New York-based Related Cos. as the project’s preferred developer. The skyscraper was supposed to be built on city-owned land and benefit from an $8.7 million city subsidy.