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Put the words India, landfill, investment, rogue administrator, lawsuit, city of San Diego and $922 million into a story and you’re likely to come up with more questions than answers.

I did.

There’s still plenty I want to know about the city’s involvement in bids for two landfill projects in India. To recap, city officials are blaming a former high-level city administrator, Elmer Heap, for signing at least three agreements with a private Indian company without authority to do so. The agreements would have bound the city to provide technical support for two landfill projects in Mumbai. In return the city would have received a 26 percent stake in the potentially lucrative deals.

The agreements, city officials said, never were valid because Heap wasn’t authorized to sign them.

So here are the outstanding questions we still have that we’ll be trying to answer:

  • How did Heap get connected with the Indian company, Ramky Group? The best related info we have is that Heap spent time in Hyderabad, the Indian city where Ramky is headquartered, as part of what he called a federal grant. 
  • How does a high-level city administrator and attorney with decades of experience apparently sign nine documents binding the city to invest in two Indian landfill projects without telling anyone in the city about it? I have attempted to contact Heap, including going to his law office, but haven’t heard from him.
  • Who else, if anyone, at the city knew about this? 
  • What would the city have gotten out of the deals? The agreements say the city would receive a 26 percent stake in the company that would build the landfills. And one landfill contract was awarded to a different company for $922 million. Does that mean the city’s return, had it won the bid, been $240 million?
  • Is it common for municipalities to make these kinds of international business partnerships? 
  • Could the city have invested in an Indian landfill even if it wanted to? City COO Jay Goldstone had mentioned that he didn’t even know if the city was allowed to make such investments. What laws or city policies speak to these types of situations?
  • What is the reaction in India to the opinion expressed by San Diego leaders that the deals never were valid? I’ve attempted to reach city of Mumbai officials and representatives of Ramky Group but haven’t been successful so far. The deals in question are a key part of a lawsuit that involves one of the contracts.
  • What type of contact did Heap and other city officials have with Mumbai or Ramky Group? I reported on an e-mail the city received in 2008 from someone who said they were from Mumbai asking about the city’s involvement in the bids, but don’t know if there was a response.

Please feel free to add your own questions in our comments section or e-mail me.

— LIAM DILLON

Dagny Salas

Dagny Salas was web editor at Voice of San Diego from 2010 to 2013. She was an investigative fellow at VOSD from 2009 to 2010.

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