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Reese Jarrett
Reese Jarrett is the president of Civic San Diego. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

The head of the city’s embattled downtown development agency is unlikely to return to Civic San Diego after abruptly announcing his retirement.

Civic president Reese Jarrett told board members of his plan to retire last month amid a swirl of chaos surrounding the agency’s future. At the time, it wasn’t clear when he’d retire or on what terms.

Jarrett has since been placed on paid administrative leave while Civic hashes out next steps.

Lisa Greeson, a Civic assistant vice president, said his final day in the office was last Friday.

“Right now, we are working together to ensure a smooth transition,” Greeson wrote in an email. “(Jarrett) is currently on paid leave of absence, and is available to assist as we transfer executive responsibilities within the organization.”

Jarrett did not return a messages from Voice of San Diego on Friday.

The former developer had been at the center of controversies surrounding Civic San Diego after taking the agency’s top post in 2014.

Unions and left-leaning advocates have criticized the agency’s approach and the steps it’s taken to fast-track downtown development projects ever since it was born from the shell of two scandal-plagued redevelopment agencies in 2012.

The turmoil surrounding the agency has only increased since.

A 2015 lawsuit filed by a former Civic board member affiliated with the county’s largest construction workers union helped unearth a series of complaints from four current and former Civic San Diego employees. Ex-board member Murtaza Baxamusa’s lawsuit has also inspired ongoing negotiations between city and union officials about the agency’s future. It faces the prospect of restructuring and reforms once those talks are through.

Civic has denied allegations that it failed to properly follow contracting policies, but it hired an outside investigator to probe a series of concerns raised by the agency’s asset and contract manager.

Civic board chair Phil Rath, a lobbyist who took the helm earlier this year, said Friday that investigation continues. He’s hopeful it will be completed by the end of the month.

Rath said Jarrett’s retirement announcement was unrelated to the investigation.

Jarrett told board members he planned to retire last month before a scheduled performance review behind closed doors.

“I think he was frustrated and tired with the job, which I think is perfectly understandable,” Rath said. “It’s a difficult environment.”

Rath said he and other board members expect to hash out the terms of Jarrett’s departure in coming weeks.

Rath has acknowledged it’s uncertain whether Civic will replace Jarrett.

The agency may consider — or be forced to consider — reforms that eliminate the president’s position.

For now, Rath said, Civic Chief Operating and Financial Officer Andrew Phillips is leading the organization.

Attorneys for the city and Baxamusa agreed Friday to another stay on their lawsuit in hopes of reaching a settlement, extending ongoing negotiations for 30 days.

Attorney Philippa Grumbley, one of the attorneys representing Baxamusa, told Superior Court Judge Richard Strauss, the hold could extend for a longer period as the attorneys seek “preliminary approvals.”

Grumbley and attorneys for Civic and the city declined to comment after the hearing.

Lisa Halverstadt

Lisa is a senior investigative reporter who digs into some of San Diego's biggest challenges including homelessness, city real estate debacles, the region's...

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