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City Attorney: Ex-City COO Ordered Deletion of 101 Ash Records Before Resignation

City Attorney Mara Elliott has indicted former city chief operating officer Kris Michell for ordering the deletion of the city’s acquisition records and managing 101 Ash St. and Civic Center Plaza on its final day at City Hall.

In a letter Wednesday Voice of San Diego found, Elliott’s office informed Michell that the destruction of any documents would violate the city’s municipal code and state law.

“We recently learned that on your last day of work with the City of San Diego, you asked the City Department of Information Technology staff to delete from your cell phone and public computer files found in emails, text messages and other chats. tools related to this litigation, ”City Assistant Attorney Travis Phelps and Elliott wrote.

Phelps and Elliott also wrote that destruction of public records could lead to penalties for the city including court-ordered sanctions and attorney’s fees if the city “cannot produce public records a third party is legally entitled to.”

Phelps and Elliott wrote: “My office is seeking your cooperation in recovering the destroyed files and returning them to the city. Please contact me before Monday, May 16, 2022, to begin the process of identifying and recovering all city records.”

The City Attorney’s Office confirmed that Michell received the letter.

Arriving on Thursday afternoon, Michell said he could not speak because he was busy dealing with a personal issue. He did not respond by 5 p.m.

As chief operating officer, Michell oversaw the city’s IT department and was in a position to lead its staff. In the form of a strong city mayor, Michell was the highest-ranking unelected city official until his sudden resignation in September 2020.

101 Ash St. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

The City Attorney’s Office did not immediately say whether it confirmed that the documents Michell had allegedly ordered to be destroyed were kept elsewhere by the city or were copies of the originals.

The bombing charge is the latest in a many revelations in the year following the city’s lease in 2017 for 101 Ash St., a building he occupied only for a few weeks before he ran to evacuate city employees in January 2020 following a series of asbestos violations. Urgent evacuation of city staff began a fact-finding mission and later, a series of lawsuits. The litigation also revealed last year that as part of the city’s acquisition of 101 Ash and a similar deal for nearby Civic Center Plaza, its owner. Jason Hughes, real estate advisor volunteers to pay $ 9.4 million for his work on the two rents – and he won secret agreement with city owners. City attorneys argued the payments to Hughes violated state interest conflict law and that the two leases should be canceled.

In response to requests from Hughes ‘attorneys, former city real estate chief Cybele Thompson recently handed over hundreds of documents that Hughes’ lawyers say they had not received before in response to the city’s discovery request, a problem they have had since. arose in the High Court. A judge recently ordered the city to return documents it had promised to produce but had not already handed in by Friday.

Elliott spokeswoman Leslie Wolf Branscomb said Thursday the city would meet Friday’s deadline, but the city’s attorney is still reviewing documents Thompson issued and could not say immediately if they were already in the city’s possession. In an April 15 statement, Thompson said he left City Hall with documents related to 101 Ash in fear his actions could be misrepresented by “after all involved,” according to a draft transcript found by Voice.

Then, in an April 28 statement, Thompson testified under oath that Michell had provided at least some of the documents – and not on Thompson’s request, according to another transcript obtained by Voice.

“I just remember he gave me a lot of documents and he said,‘ You might want to keep these and other documents you’re holding, ’” Thompson recalled.

Thompson said he does not remember discussing with Michell why he brought the documents for him.

In a letter to Michell regarding the alleged deletion of the files, the City Attorney’s Office questioned Michell’s decision to return the documents to a former city employee.

“We would like to understand your actions: what records were shared, why and did the city keep copies or originals of these records?” Phelps and Elliott asked.

In his testimony, Thompson said he understood that Michell had obtained the records he had provided as part of the city’s process of reviewing documents required under the state’s Public Records Act. He did not clarify whether he understood that the documents were copies of the originals.

Thompson resigned from the city in August 2020, less than a week after the publication of a devastating review of the city’s acquisition of 101 Ash St.

Michell abruptly left City Hall himself less than two months later – and less than three months before a new mayor was appointed to take office.

Michell, a City Hall veteran who has overseen city operations and staff for nearly three years, said at the time that he planned to pursue opportunities in the private sector and considered moving on “for some time.”

He told Voice scandal 101 Ash St. there was no reason for his departure.

“My resignation has nothing to do with 101 Ash,” Michell said on September 21, 2020, the day he revealed his plan to leave City Hall.

City Attorney: Ex-City COO Ordered Deletion of 101 Ash Records Before Resignation Source link City Attorney: Ex-City COO Ordered Deletion of 101 Ash Records Before Resignation

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