Hughes Marino office / Photo by Brittany Cruz-Fejeran

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This post originally appeared in the Feb. 12 Politics Report. Subscribe here.

The planned deposition of a purported volunteer city real estate guru who walked away with more than $9 million for his work on 101 Ash St. and another city lease didn’t go forward Friday following a request that a Superior Court judge appoint a referee to oversee the discovery process.

An attorney for commercial real estate broker Jason Hughes notified lawyers representing a taxpayer challenging the 101 Ash lease that he wanted to postpone Hughes’ deposition until after a Tuesday hearing where Superior Court Judge Joel Wohlfeil is expected to rule on whether a referee should step in. That referee, if appointed, would attend depositions.

An attorney for the lenders behind the Ash deal filed the request Wednesday, arguing that recent depositions have been “unnecessarily lengthy and unproductive.”

A spokeswoman for City Attorney Mara Elliott’s office said city lawyers also pursuing separate lawsuits seeking to void the 101 Ash and Civic Center Plaza leases agree that referee should be appointed.

Former city attorneys Mike Aguirre and Maria Severson, who had been set to depose Hughes on Friday, argued the appointment is unnecessary and that the sitdowns would be less contentious absent scheduling challenges and alleged attempts by other attorneys to block their questioning.

The request for a referee follows a dispute over scheduling a deposition with Chris Wahl, a prominent lobbyist working with city landlord Cisterra Development. Wahl sat for hours-long depositions with Aguirre and Severson two days last week and Hughes’ attorney on Wednesday deposed Stephen Puetz, onetime chief of staff to former Mayor Kevin Faulconer.

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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