The City Council today is scheduled to decide whether help a group of developers secure $15 million in tax-free financing in order to buy and refurbish Sorrento Tower, an affordable housing project in Clairemont Mesa.

The two men spearheading the Sorrento Tower development team, Colin Rice and Casey Haeling, used to be senior executives at troubled local company The Amerland Group. Five executives at Amerland and one of the company’s subsidiaries were recently charged with manslaughter in connection to a deadly 2008 fire at a property in Vallejo, and the company has previously been sued and fined several times for poor management of affordable housing projects

Rice and Haeling founded their new company, C&C Development, in the wake of the manslaughter charges. The two men’s connection to Amerland has sparked concern among the residents of Sorrento Tower.

According to a Housing Commission report, Rice and Haeling have essentially no development experience apart from working at Amerland. Yet, the documents that detail the developers’ suitability to take over the Sorrento Tower project make no mention of Amerland’s troubled past.

The report, which the council members will peruse as they decide the fate of the Sorrento Tower, does make a quick reference to Amerland, pointing out Rice and Haeling used to work there and stating that Amerland will not have any ownership of, or involvement in, the project.

In an interview in September, Rice told me that he and Haeling never actually worked at Amerland. They were independent consultants, he said, who helped Amerland on certain deals. The consultant claim is repeated in the two men’s resumes, which appear in the Housing Commission’s report.

But, for years both Rice and Haeling were listed on Amerland’s website as two of the company’s six top executives. Rice was listed as the Amerland’s vice president of acquisitions and Haeling was listed as director of acquisitions. Both men worked out of the Amerland office and both used Amerland email addresses until recently.

Indeed, when C&C Development initially filed documents with the Housing Commission, the company listed the Amerland Group’s office and phone number.

I just called that number.

The lady who answered told me neither Rice nor Haeling works out of that office any more.

The meeting is scheduled for this afternoon’s City Council session. The council members formally make the decision as the city’s Housing Authority.

Please contact Will Carless at will.carless@gmail.com.

Will Carless

Will Carless was formerly the head of investigations at Voice of San Diego.

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