The lawyer for Christopher Wahl, the lobbyist who has been meeting with public officials to try and resolve litigation over the city’s lease of the Ash Street high rise, says his client contracted COVID-19 and will not attend a deposition scheduled for Thursday.
“Please note that Mr. Wahl tested positive today for COVID, and thus, he is no longer available for his Jan. 6, 2022 deposition,” attorney Neal Panish wrote to the lawyers representing John Gordon, a San Diego resident suing the city over the controversial 101 Ash St. lease.
Panish suggested tentative alternative dates late next week, “provided that Mr. Wahl’s quarantine and recovery are sufficient to allow the deposition to proceed safely and provided that you and the other counsel are available.”
The announcement, which came in an email late Monday, was met with some skepticism. Gordon’s attorneys have been trying to place Wahl under oath since they first subpoenaed him in October.
In November, they went to court to try to compel Wahl to appear after he declined to attend a scheduled deposition.
“If your representation is correct, we wish Mr. Wahl a speedy recovery,” lawyer Maria Severson replied to Panish. “However, it is of concern that you are using the same delay tactics as before referring to other counsel’s schedule as a basis for further postponement.
“Our request is simple: provide a date specific for Mr. Wahl’s deposition,” she added.
Wahl lobbies on behalf of Cisterra Development, the middleman company that acquired the 19-story tower at 101 Ash St. from its longtime former owner and immediately entered a long-term lease-to-own deal with the city. Cisterra now is being sued by the city.
According to Wahl’s disclosures, he has been meeting with City Attorney Mara Elliott and Jay Goldstone, Mayor Todd Gloria’s chief operating officer, among others, to try and settle the litigation.
Attorney Michael Riney, who represents Cisterra Development in the legal proceedings, said he also would not be available to attend any Wahl deposition between late next week and much of the rest of January or during most of the first half of next month.
“In rescheduling the deposition, please respect my previously mentioned unavailability from January 14 through 23, as well as February 2 though 9,” Riney said in an email to other lawyers Tuesday.
Wahl is a key figure in the Ash Street controversy, having worked for the former and current building owners. He also helped connect former San Diego Mayor Bob Filner to Jason Hughes, the city’s supposed volunteer real estate broker who secretly made $4.4 million on the transaction.
Gordon’s lawyers say they want to ask Wahl about his discussions with Elliott and others. Wahl and his firm have disclosed making 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 in a 20-year lease, but it has been unsafe to occupy due to asbestos and other issues for all but a few weeks since 2017. The city has spent $60 million-plus on lease payments, building upgrades and maintenance.
The city faces dozens of legal claims from employees and contractors who allege they were wrongly exposed to asbestos. It has filed separate lawsuits against Cisterra and Hughes that 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-purchase deal.
Source: This post first appeared on sandiegouniontribune.com