City Lawyer: Ex-Metropolis COO Purchased Deletion of 101 Ash Records In advance of Resignation

City Lawyer Mara Elliott’s workplace is accusing previous metropolis Main Working Officer Kris Michell of buying the deletion of data about the city’s acquisition and handling of 101 Ash St. and Civic Center Plaza in her final times at Metropolis Corridor. 

In a Wednesday letter obtained by Voice of San Diego, Elliott’s office informed Michell that the destruction of any paperwork would violate the city’s municipal code and point out legislation. 

“We a short while ago acquired that in the ultimate days of your employment with the city of San Diego, you directed city personnel in the Details Technologies Division to erase from your cell mobile phone(s) and laptop community information found in e mail, textual content messages and other chat equipment relating to this litigation,” Assistant Metropolis Lawyer Travis Phelps and Elliott wrote. 

Phelps and Elliott also wrote that the destruction of community records could lead to penalties for the town such as courtroom-purchased sanctions and attorney’s expenses if the city is “unable to make public data to which a third social gathering is legally entitled.” 

“My business seeks your cooperation in recovering the information that were destroyed and their return to the city,” Phelps and Elliott wrote. “Please get in touch with me by Monday, May perhaps 16, 2022, to commence the course of action of identifying and recovering all the town data.” 

The Town Attorney’s Workplace confirmed that Michell received the letter.  

Achieved Thursday afternoon, Michell said she could not speak for the reason that she was active dealing with a private matter. She did not answer by a 5 p.m. deadline. 

As main running officer, Michell oversaw the city’s IT department and was in the position to direct its staff members. Under the city’s strong mayor sort of government, Michell was the city’s top rated unelected official right until she abruptly resigned in September 2020. 

101 Ash St. / Photograph by Adriana Heldiz

The Metropolis Attorney’s Business office did not promptly say no matter if it had verified that the documents Michell allegedly requested to be destroyed were being preserved in other places by the metropolis or ended up original copies. 

The bombshell allegation is the latest in a slew of revelations in the decades immediately after the city’s 2017 lease-to-personal deal for 101 Ash St., a building it only occupied for a couple of weeks in advance of speeding to evacuate town workers in January 2020 subsequent a sequence of asbestos violations. The hurry to evacuate town personnel established off a simple fact-discovering mission and later, a collection of lawsuits. The litigation also exposed very last 12 months that as component of the city’s acquisition of 101 Ash and a very similar offer for close by Civic Heart Plaza, its landlord paid out volunteer metropolis serious estate adviser Jason Hughes $9.4 million for his do the job on the two leases – and experienced key agreements with the city’s landlord. Attorneys for the town have argued the payments to Hughes violated condition conflict-of -curiosity law and that the two leases should really be voided. 

In reaction to requests from Hughes’ lawyers, previous town genuine estate chief Cybele Thompson just lately turned around hundreds of files that Hughes’ attorneys say they did not beforehand receive in reaction to their discovery requests of the metropolis, an problem they have because introduced up in Remarkable Court. A decide not too long ago purchased the city to transform around files it pledged to deliver but hadn’t by now turned around by Friday. 

Elliott spokeswoman Leslie Wolf Branscomb stated Thursday the town would comply with the Friday deadline, but that attorneys for the city are even now reviewing files Thompson presented and could not right away say regardless of whether they had previously been in the city’s possession. In an April 15 deposition, Thompson mentioned she left Metropolis Corridor with documents connected to the 101 Ash out of panic her steps could be mispresented by “pretty much all people associated,” according to a draft transcript acquired by Voice. 

Then, in an April 28 deposition, Thompson testified underneath oath that Michell supplied at minimum some of those people paperwork – and not at Thompson’s ask for, in accordance to a further draft transcript attained by Voice. 

“I just keep in mind she gave me pretty a couple files and claimed, ‘You may well want to preserve these with the other types that you’re holding,’” Thompson recalled. 

Thompson said she didn’t remember talking about with Michell why she introduced her the paperwork. 

In its letter to Michell about the allegedly requested deletion of records, the City Attorney’s Office also experienced pointed queries about Michell’s choice to hand more than documents to a former town staff. 

“We would like to fully grasp your steps: which documents had been shared, for what reason and were copies or originals of people documents preserved by the metropolis?” Phelps and Elliott requested. 

In her deposition, Thompson claimed she understood that Michell had obtained the records she provided as part of the city’s procedure for reviewing documents requested beneath the state Public Information Act. She did not explain no matter whether she understood the files to be unique copies. 

Thompson resigned from the city in August 2020, fewer than a 7 days right after the release of a devastating evaluation of the city’s acquisition of 101 Ash St. 

Michell abruptly departed Metropolis Hall herself a lot less than two months later on – and significantly less than a few months ahead of a new mayor was set to just take business office. 

Michell, a Metropolis Hall veteran who had overseen town functions and workers for just about 3 decades, reported at the time that she prepared to go after non-public-sector chances and had viewed as going on “for rather some time.” 

She advised Voice the 101 Ash St. scandal was not the cause for her departure.  

“My resignation has very little to do with 101 Ash,” Michell said on Sept. 21, 2020, the day she exposed her programs to go away City Hall.