City Attorney: Ex-City COO Purchased Deletion of 101 Ash Records Right before Resignation

City Attorney Mara Elliott’s office is accusing former city Main Functioning Officer Kris Michell of ordering the deletion of documents about the city’s acquisition and dealing with of 101 Ash St. and Civic Centre Plaza in her last days at City Corridor. 

In a Wednesday letter received by Voice of San Diego, Elliott’s workplace educated Michell that the destruction of any paperwork would violate the city’s municipal code and state law. 

“We recently learned that in the final days of your work with the town of San Diego, you directed metropolis team in the Data Technological innovation Office to erase from your mobile mobile phone(s) and computer general public records identified in e mail, text messages and other chat resources relating to this litigation,” Assistant City Legal professional Travis Phelps and Elliott wrote. 

Phelps and Elliott also wrote that the destruction of community documents could direct to penalties for the city which include court-ordered sanctions and attorney’s service fees if the city is “unable to generate community documents to which a 3rd get together is lawfully entitled.” 

“My workplace seeks your cooperation in recovering the data that have been ruined and their return to the metropolis,” Phelps and Elliott wrote. “Please speak to me by Monday, Could 16, 2022, to start out the method of identifying and recovering all the city data.” 

The Metropolis Attorney’s Office confirmed that Michell gained the letter.  

Reached Thursday afternoon, Michell stated she could not discuss because she was fast paced dealing with a particular make any difference. She did not react by a 5 p.m. deadline. 

As main running officer, Michell oversaw the city’s IT department and was in the position to immediate its workers. Under the city’s robust mayor variety of governing administration, Michell was the city’s top unelected formal until finally she abruptly resigned in September 2020. 

101 Ash St. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

The Town Attorney’s Office did not promptly say whether or not it had verified that the documents Michell allegedly ordered to be wrecked were being maintained in other places by the city or were being authentic copies. 

The bombshell allegation is the most up-to-date in a slew of revelations in the many years just after the city’s 2017 lease-to-have deal for 101 Ash St., a building it only occupied for a few months in advance of hurrying to evacuate metropolis workforce in January 2020 next a sequence of asbestos violations. The hurry to evacuate town staff set off a actuality-acquiring mission and afterwards, a collection of lawsuits. The litigation also exposed past year that as portion of the city’s acquisition of 101 Ash and a equivalent offer for nearby Civic Middle Plaza, its landlord compensated volunteer city true estate adviser Jason Hughes $9.4 million for his perform on the two leases – and experienced top secret agreements with the city’s landlord. Attorneys for the metropolis have argued the payments to Hughes violated condition conflict-of -curiosity regulation and that the two leases should be voided. 

In response to requests from Hughes’ lawyers, previous town serious estate chief Cybele Thompson recently turned about hundreds of paperwork that Hughes’ attorneys say they did not earlier receive in reaction to their discovery requests of the town, an concern they have due to the fact brought up in Excellent Court docket. A decide lately ordered the town to convert above files it pledged to generate but hadn’t previously turned about by Friday. 

Elliott spokeswoman Leslie Wolf Branscomb mentioned Thursday the town would comply with the Friday deadline, but that attorneys for the metropolis are nonetheless reviewing documents Thompson furnished and could not promptly say regardless of whether they had previously been in the city’s possession. In an April 15 deposition, Thompson explained she left Town Corridor with files similar to the 101 Ash out of fear her actions could be mispresented by “pretty substantially absolutely everyone included,” in accordance to a draft transcript attained by Voice. 

Then, in an April 28 deposition, Thompson testified less than oath that Michell provided at least some of those people paperwork – and not at Thompson’s ask for, in accordance to one more draft transcript acquired by Voice. 

“I just recall she gave me pretty a number of documents and stated, ‘You may want to maintain these with the other ones that you’re holding,’” Thompson recalled. 

Thompson stated she didn’t recall discussing with Michell why she brought her the files. 

In its letter to Michell about the allegedly ordered deletion of information, the Town Attorney’s Business office also had pointed questions about Michell’s decision to hand in excess of files to a former town staff. 

“We would like to fully grasp your steps: which records ended up shared, for what cause and were being copies or originals of individuals data managed by the town?” Phelps and Elliott questioned. 

In her deposition, Thompson explained she comprehended that Michell experienced attained the documents she offered as portion of the city’s procedure for reviewing files requested under the condition Public Information Act. She did not explain whether she recognized the documents to be unique copies. 

Thompson resigned from the metropolis in August 2020, a lot less than a week immediately after the launch of a devastating critique of the city’s acquisition of 101 Ash St. 

Michell abruptly departed City Hall herself considerably less than two months later – and significantly less than 3 months prior to a new mayor was established to acquire business office. 

Michell, a City Corridor veteran who experienced overseen city functions and staff for approximately 3 many years, mentioned at the time that she prepared to pursue personal-sector prospects and had regarded relocating on “for fairly some time.” 

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

“My resignation has nothing at all to do with 101 Ash,” Michell claimed on Sept. 21, 2020, the day she unveiled her options to leave Metropolis Hall.