Mesa has trashed a plan to raise money from private developers to relocate its incoming economic development director from the East Coast.
At least three real estate developers pledged thousands of dollars to move William Jabjiniak, who currently lives in Richmond, Va., the Tribune reported Saturday.
The East Valley Partnership, the group that had been leading the private fundraising efforts, has withdrawn from the project. The city will continue the effort but won’t accept money from developers, members of the City Council said Wednesday.
The decision was made to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest, said Steve Wright, a spokesman for the city. As the economic development chief, Jabjiniak would hold significant influence over deals that affect developers which had committed funds to help him move.
“I’m glad the decision not to take money from private developers was made. It’s cleaner that way,” Councilman Mike Whalen said. “I understand what the city manager (Chris Brady) was trying to do, but it just doesn’t pass the smell test.”
Jabjiniak, who is scheduled to become the city’s first permanent economic development director in two years, negotiated a deal with the city that will pay him $142,000 per year.
In a separate agreement, the East Valley Partnership had said it would collect money from local businesses to make his monthly mortgage payments on his $500,000 home in Richmond if he was unable to sell it quickly.
The group had secured pledges of from six business groups — three of which were from private development firms — and would only confirm two of the donors. The Mesa Cham- ber of Commerce committed $5,000 and DMB Associates had pledged $20,000.
Roc Arnett, president of the East Valley Partnership, said his group voluntarily removed itself from the effort and released the donors from their commitments.
“We are no longer part of this,” he said.
Likewise, representatives of DMB Associates said they were told their donation would not be accepted. Denise Resnick, a spokeswoman for the development group, said they were only looking to promote a better economic environment in Mesa.
DMB is a prominent home developer in the Valley that is looking to establish a foothold in Mesa. The firm is planning a massive mixed-use development on 3,200 acres it purchased from the General Motors Desert Proving Ground in east Mesa.
Another developer, Waveyard LLC., which has proposed construction of a $250 million resort, declined this week to give any money toward Jabjiniak’s moving costs.
Jerry Hug, a co-owner of Waveyard, said the company also wanted to avoid the appearance of a conflict. It is asking voters later this year to approve a plan to transform a city-owned golf course into a resort and recreation park, a deal that would give Waveyard a $20 million sales tax incentive.
“We felt that the fact we are in the middle of a campaign that it wouldn’t be appropriate,” he said.
In addition, city officials would not say how this would affect Jabjiniak’s hiring. During the contract negotiations, he made it clear to the city that he could not afford to move here without help selling his home.
“No contract for relocation services has been finalized or signed. The City is committed to hiring the best candidates for critical positions including the Economic Development Director position. The City made a commitment to Mr. Jabjiniak and will fulfill that commitment,” Wright said in a written statement.
A majority of council members said they understand the city manager was looking for creative ways to attract good job candidates but the agreement would raise more than a few eyebrows. However, one council member said he trusted Brady to make the right decision and hasn’t given it much thought.
“I don’t think this issue rises to the level for me to think about it,” Councilman Tom Rawles said.
Tribune writer Jason Massad contributed to this report.