Judge orders Ash Street lobbyist to be deposed a second time — this time with a referee on hand

A lobbyist involved in a mediation effort to try to resolve a dispute over a downtown San Diego apartment building must answer questions he raised during a filing last month, a judge has ruled.

In a final order released Monday, Judge Joel Wohlfeil said Southwest Strategies judge Chris Wahl would have to be fired a second time to answer questions his lawyer initially said were subject to exemption. not to answer.

Wahl began working for Cisterra in early 2020 to respond to a request from then-consultant Barbara Bry for an independent inquiry into the Ash Street transaction.

At the same time, Wahl was raising thousands of dollars in political contributions for then-mayoral candidate Todd Gloria and informally advocating for his campaign.

When ousted last month, Wahl declined to answer questions about Ash Street, citing mediation. Wohlfeil ruled that Wahl did not need to testify about the mediation work that began early last year, when the mediation agreement was signed.

“The court upholds the claim of the mediation privilege, the commencement date of which the court deems to be January 21, 2021,” Wohlfeil wrote.

The lawyer for Cisterra Development, the brokerage firm that sold the property in the city under the 2016 lease agreement, had argued that the privilege period should have started months earlier, but the judge disagreed.

Defendants had argued that the exemption should be recognized from October 2020, when Cisterra and city attorneys agreed to mediation, not when they signed an agreement in January 2021.

Wohlfeil also ordered parties to the lawsuit filed by taxpayer John Gordon to hire a third arbitrator to monitor all future deposits to ensure the interviews would remain civil.

The referee was initially sought by Cisterra’s lender in the Ash Street transaction, CGA Capital.

Previous deposits in the case seeking to cancel the lease of the city of the former headquarters of Sempra Energy at 101 Ash St. have been characterized by brand names, fingerprints and a host of objections.

“Unless otherwise agreed by the parties, the resumption of the deposit (Wahl) will take place within 20 days of the appointment of the discovery arbitrator,” Wohlfeil decided.

The arbitrator will be paid by the defendants – the city of San Diego, its subsidiary Cisterra 101 Ash LLC and CGA Capital – although this expense may be reallocated in the future.

Gordon’s legal team and the defendants’s lawyers were called in to work together to find a referee.

“If the parties cannot agree on a discovery arbitrator, the parties are invited to appear ex parte to present a candidate to serve as a discovery arbitrator,” the judge wrote. “The court will select one of the candidates after hearing the lawyer.”

The Gordon case is separate from a pair of lawsuits filed by city attorney Mara Elliott against Cisterra and CGA Capital.

The allegations allege that the Ash Street deal and another lease on the nearby Civic Center Plaza violated state anti-corruption laws because a “volunteer” adviser to former mayor Kevin Faulconer was paid millions of dollars for contract work.

The mediation effort in question is between the city and Cisterra and its creditor – and does not include the Gordon lawsuit.

Wohlfeil’s decision was not about the revelation he made at the beginning of the hearing last Thursday, when the judge said that the mediator in the city’s lawsuits had contacted him to discuss the cases.

Wohlfeil told parties in the Gordon case that retired federal Judge Jan Adler called him that morning but quickly ended the conversation because he did not feel comfortable discussing the matter privately.

Adler has not responded to numerous emails and phone calls asking for clarity about the purpose of his call to Wohlfeil.

But attorney Michael Aguirre, who represents Gordon, wrote to Adler’s ombudsman, Judicate West, urging the retired judge to refrain from interfering in his client’s case.

“The attempt to ex parte contact with the judge in the Gordon case has attracted media coverage and created an immoral cloud over Judicate West,” Aguirre said in a letter.

“We urge Judicate West to stop its ombudsman from any other attempt at immoral, inappropriate ex parte communication with the Gordon judge,” he wrote.

The city attorney’s office did not say whether Elliott knew or requested Adler’s call to Wohlfeil.

“We have no reason to comment on an interaction between the two judges,” Elliott’s spokeswoman Leslie Wolf Branscomb said in a statement.

Cisterra’s lawyer Michael Riney said he did not ask Adler to contact the judge in the Gordon case.

“That said, it is very common for mediators to communicate with presiding judges and I am absolutely certain that both Judge Adler and Judge Wohlfeil would have acted only in the right way,” Riney said in an email.

Faulconer advised City Council to agree to a 20-year lease on the Ash Street property in 2016. But the 19-story building was unsafe for years due to asbestos and other issues.

Prosecutor Summer Stephan opened a criminal investigation into the Ash Street and Civic Center Plaza land deals last year after downtown real estate agent Jason Hughes publicly acknowledged that he had received $ 9.4 million for his lease work.

Hughes and his lawyers say he told city officials he expected to be paid for the project, but Faulconer and others said they did not know about the payments.

Judge orders Ash Street lobbyist to be deposed a second time — this time with a referee on hand Source link Judge orders Ash Street lobbyist to be deposed a second time — this time with a referee on hand

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