Lawyer Says Ash Street Lobbyist Has COVID; deposit still delayed

Attorney for Christopher Wahl, the lobbyist who has met with officials to try to resolve the dispute over the city’s lease for the Ash Street skyscraper, said his client had contracted COVID-19 and would not attend a deposition scheduled for Thursday.

“Please note that Mr Wahl tested positive today for COVID and is therefore no longer available for his Jan. 6, 2022 deposition,” lawyer Neal Panish wrote to lawyers representing John Gordon, a resident of San Diego suing the city. the controversial 101 Ash Street lease.

Panish suggested tentative alternate dates at the end of next week, “provided that Mr. Wahl’s quarantine and recovery is sufficient to allow the filing to proceed safely and provided that you and the other attorneys are available “.

The announcement, which was emailed Monday evening, sparked some skepticism. Gordon’s lawyers have been trying to get Wahl sworn in since they first subpoenaed him in October.
In November, they went to court to try to compel Wahl to appear after refusing to attend a scheduled deposition.

“If your statement is correct, we wish Mr. Wahl a speedy recovery,” lawyer Maria Severson replied to Panish. “However, it is concerning that you are using the same delay tactics as before referring to other attorneys’ schedules as the basis for a further delay.

“Our request is simple: provide a specific date for Mr. Wahl’s testimony,” she added.

Wahl is lobbying on behalf of Cisterra Development, the middleman that acquired the 19-story tower at 101 Ash Street from its long-time former owner and immediately entered into a long-term capital lease with the city. Cisterra is now being pursued by the city.

According to Wahl’s revelations, he met with City Attorney Mara Elliott and Jay Goldstone, Mayor Todd Gloria’s director of operations, among others, to try to settle the dispute.

Attorney Michael Riney, who represents Cisterra Development in the court proceedings, said he would also not be available to attend a deposition from Wahl between the end of next week and much of the rest of January or during most of the first half of next month.

“In postponing the deposition, please respect my previously mentioned unavailability of Jan. 14-23, as well as Feb. 2-9,” Riney said in an email to other attorneys on Tuesday.

Wahl is a key figure in the Ash Street controversy, having worked for past and current building owners. He also helped connect former San Diego Mayor Bob Filner with Jason Hughes, the city’s supposed volunteer real estate broker who secretly made $ 4.4 million on the deal.

Gordon’s attorneys say they want to question Wahl about his discussions with Elliott and others. Wahl and his cabinet have revealed that they have made thousands of dollars in political contributions to local elected officials over the years.

San Diego acquired the Ash Street property “as is” for $ 128 million under a 20-year lease, but its occupancy is dangerous due to asbestos and other issues for a few years. weeks since 2017. The city has spent $ 60 million. -more on lease payments, building upgrades and maintenance.

The city faces dozens of legal claims from employees and contractors who claim they have been wrongly exposed to asbestos. She has filed separate lawsuits against Cisterra and Hughes which are pending in San Diego Superior Court, and the city is a defendant in the Gordon case. Meanwhile, District Attorney Summer Stephan has opened a criminal investigation into the lease-to-buy agreement.

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