101 Ash St.
101 Ash St. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

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Attorneys for the city this week issued a subpoena to question former city Chief Operating Officer Kris Michell under oath in the wake of allegations by the City Attorney’s Office that the former city bureaucrat ordered records to be purged.  

City Attorney Mara Elliott’s office in May accused Michell of ordering the deletion of records about the city’s acquisition and handling of 101 Ash St. and Civic Center Plaza in her final days at City Hall. The letter followed the revelation that Michell had given city documents about 101 Ash to former city real estate chief Cybele Thompson. Thompson arrived at an April deposition with documents that attorneys for former city real estate adviser Jason Hughes at the time said they had not received in response to their discovery requests of the city.  

Kris Michell / Photo by Sam Hodgson

Pamela Naughton, an attorney representing Michell, noted that her client was not working at the city when it acquired 101 Ash St., a building that has sat vacant for all but a few weeks since the city began leasing it in 2017. 

“(Michell) has complied with the law and will continue to do so,” Naughton wrote in an email to Voice of San Diego. 

In a subpoena dated Tuesday, the city requested to have Michell sit for a deposition later this month. Attorneys also called for the city’s former top unelected official to provide any documents in her possession related to 101 Ash, Civic Center Plaza and payments Hughes received for his work on city lease deals. It was publicly revealed last year that the city’s landlord at both buildings paid Hughes $9.4 million for his work on the two leases, a revelation that triggered city legal efforts to void both deals.  Hughes, who in 2013 volunteered to advise then-mayor Bob Filner on real estate issues, later told multiple city officials he wanted to be paid. Hughes has produced a letter he says the city’s former real estate director signed giving him the go-ahead to seek compensation for complex city lease deals. Yet the former real estate official and other former city officials have said that they didn’t know the city’s landlord paid Hughes.

Hughes’ attorney Michael Attanasio said he has also been in touch with Michell’s attorney to schedule a deposition where he hopes to get more information on “the city’s handling of documents and emails it was legally required to preserve.” 

Elliott spokesman Richard Jackoway confirmed Thursday that the city’s subpoena had been served but that a city deposition date has yet to be confirmed. 

Attorneys for Hughes also separately directed a subpoena at the city on Tuesday for a deposition with a yet-to-be-named official who could provide details on the accusations raised in the city’s May 11 letter to Michell and related city actions. 

Attanasio said Hughes’ attorneys are working with the city to settle on a date. 

Jackoway declined to comment further on the city’s response or next steps. 

Clarification: This story has been updated to be make clear Jason Hughes told city officials he wanted to be paid for his work on complex lease deals

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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