Time to Shine a Harsh Spotlight on Civic San Diego

Civic San Diego

Time to Shine a Harsh Spotlight on Civic San Diego

It’s time for San Diegans to start paying much closer attention to Civic – especially as it’s seeking to expand its authority around the city. That more oversight is needed has been driven home by the events of the past week.

For a brief moment earlier this year, it looked like Civic San Diego, the city-owned nonprofit agency that took over many of the development and permitting functions from the defunct redevelopment agency, was going to be getting a healthy dose of scrutiny.

But now, two key people at Civic have resigned within days of each other, and nothing much has been written about it.

It’s time for San Diegans to start paying much closer attention to Civic – especially as it’s seeking to expand its authority around the city, and may be coming to a neighborhood near you if it succeeds.

That more oversight is needed has been driven home by the events of the past week.

On April 10, Murtaza Baxamusa, one of Civic’s board members, along with the San Diego County Building & Construction Trades Council, filed a lawsuit to clarify “CivicSD’s responsibilities and potential conflicts of interest.”

That same day, according to a notice posted by the city clerk later in the week, Cynthia Morgan, Civic’s treasurer, resigned from the Board of Directors. It is not clear, however, what day her resignation became official, because she attended numerous Civic meetings on April 15.

One was a special board meeting to discuss the litigation brought by Baxamusa. Another was a meeting of the Economic Growth & Neighborhood Investment Fund, where it was noted on the agenda that CFO/COO Andrew Phillips “has resigned from CivicSD effective May 1, 2015.”

Civic’s Real Estate Committee also met on April 15, and convened as the Design Review SubCommittee. This is typically the committee where most of the downtown projects are reviewed. Morgan was present at the start of the meeting, but as soon as the subcommittee convened, she left and did not return. It is unclear why she left, but that information will be available once the audio recording of the meeting is posted.  No actions were taken by the two remaining subcommittee members on any of the agenda items, due to the lack of a quorum.

I’m not sure what prompted the resignations of Phillips and Morgan, but it can’t be a good sign. It will be interesting to see who the mayor appoints, and the City Council confirms, to fill the vacancy left by Morgan, and who the new CFO/COO will be and how quickly that happens.

In the meantime, in the absence of information from Civic or anyone else, we could all sit and speculate about what is going on. Or we could start asking our elected officials to explain to us how this city-owned nonprofit works and also provide us with the documents showing that the structure they created is legal.

Donna Frye is a former City Council member and serves as president for Californians Aware. Frye’s letter has been edited for style and clarity. See anything in there we should fact check? Tell us what to check out here.

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