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A deal is near in the criminal case filed by former City Attorney Mike Aguirre against Nancy Graham, the Centre City Development Corp.’s former president.
Graham faces five misdemeanor ethics and conflict-of-interest charges alleging that she improperly used her position and failed to disclose her potential conflicts while at CCDC, the city’s nonprofit downtown redevelopment agency.
Michael Rivo, a deputy city attorney, said he and Graham’s attorney, Paul Pfingst, were “discussing a possible resolution.” The case was heard this morning in San Diego Superior Court and was continued until May 1.
Before moving to San Diego in 2005, Graham worked as a developer in Florida, where she had a business relationship with Lennar Corp. and the Related Group, a large Florida development company. Together, they built a mixed-use condominium project, a partnership that Graham estimated had paid her almost $3 million as of 2007 — including a $125,000 payment that came in mid-2007, while she was at CCDC.
Graham did not report that income on the annual conflict-of-interest form that public officials are required to submit to the city. CCDC’s conflict-of-interest code requires the agency’s president to disclose all income from companies doing development downtown.
While at CCDC, Graham participated in numerous negotiations about Ballpark Village, a $1.4 billion development proposed adjacent to Petco Park. Lennar partly owns the underlying 7.1 acres on which development would occur.
She also participated in negotiations about a $409 million condo and hotel project proposed by the Related Cos., which is a minority owner of The Related Group, Graham’s business partner. That project was subsequently killed after a CCDC investigation found that Graham had acted with a conflict of interest and tainted the developer-selection process.
Rivo said proving the criminal case would require the city to connect the dots between the companies working locally and Graham’s partners in the Florida development deal.
“It’s not a simple case,” he said. “There’s a reason these cases don’t get filed all that often. They are difficult to prove.”
The link between Graham and Lennar is clearer than her connection with Related. The privately owned Related Companies, which is based in New York and has a California-based affiliate working in downtown San Diego, is a minority owner of the Florida-based Related Group.
Lennar, though, is a publicly traded company. Its California subsidiary, Lennar Homes of California, lists the same Miami headquarters as the Florida subsidiary with which Graham struck her deal.
Rivo is new to the case. The charges were lodged during Aguirre’s tenure. The attorney who was leading the prosecution, Chris Morris, left the city after Aguirre’s November loss to Jan Goldsmith.
Pfingst said the “city attorney has brought some fresh eyes to this.”