Friday, July 11, 2008 | The revelation this week that the chairman of a city of San Diego redevelopment department, Artie M. “Chip” Owen, is unilaterally in charge of setting the salary of a top city of San Diego redevelopment official has fueled further concerns regarding Owen’s business ties to a developer and the potential conflicts it creates.
After a voiceofsandiego.org story Tuesday revealed a clandestine system of bonuses and extra compensation for the top officials at the Southeastern Economic Development Corp., Owen and SEDC President Carolyn Y. Smith said in a memo that Owen alone, as board chairman, is responsible for setting Smith’s compensation. The officials said that, in the future, the president’s salary will be discussed by the entire board.
At the same time he has controlled Smith’s salary, Owen has had financial ties to a company that has won several development deals from SEDC and is currently embroiled in a struggle over Valencia Business Park, a troubled project spearheaded by the agency.
That company, Pacific Development Partners, has been paying Owen between $10,000 and $100,000 a year for the last four years that Owen has sat on the SEDC board, according to Owen’s statements of economic interest on file with the City Clerk’s Office.
Although Owen has recused himself from voting on Valencia Business Park, his relationship with the developer has become a point of contention in the long-running struggle over who will build atop the land local government has spent millions of dollars preparing. SEDC President Carolyn Y. Smith has also been sued for fraud in relation to the project.
A local legal expert said Owen’s financial links to the developer raise troubling questions about his power to decide the salary of SEDC’s president, who oversees the agency’s redevelopment projects and whose staff has supported and recommended PDP twice in the last three years for a redevelopment project.