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Councilman Denies Interest in Land Deal

Photo credit: AZBEX

By Dustin Gardiner for The Arizona Republic

Asserting that he has no personal financial interest in the deal, Phoenix City Councilman Michael Nowakowski on Oct. 6 responded to a developer’s allegation that he failed to disclose a conflict of interest related to a downtown land sale worth $8.5M.

Nowakowski, standing before journalists at a news conference, denied any wrongdoing. He said that on 25 occasions, he has recused himself from council votes involving his employer, the non-profit Cesar Chavez Foundation, which is part of a development team poised to win the bid to buy a prime piece of city-owned real estate in Nowakowski’s council district.

“I have always treated the Cesar Chavez Foundation as a conflict when the vote is before me,” Nowakowski said, adding that his office will release e-mails and phone records related to the deal.

“Maintaining the trust of the Phoenix taxpayers is very important to me, so I am releasing all documents in my control that relates to this.”

Nowakowski’s appearance came after The Arizona Republic published a story detailing complaints that he met with a team of developers about the project but didn’t reveal that his employer also would be bidding for the land on Fillmore Street.

Earlier this year, Phoenix sought bids from developers interested in buying and redeveloping 7.6 acres of mostly vacant land on Fillmore Street between Fourth and Sixth avenues, one of the largest unclaimed pieces of downtown real estate. The councilman called a news conference to address the allegations Tuesday. Although a city press release said he would take questions, Nowakowski made only a brief statement and left without taking any questions from reporters.

The Chavez Foundation and its business partner, Trammell Crow Co., are now the city’s recommended team for the project. Their plan envisions transforming gravel lots into a roughly $112M project with apartment units, shops, sidewalk cafes and pedestrian spaces.

City Council members were expected to vote on the deal in November, but City Manager Ed Zuercher announced Monday that he is putting the deal on hold. Zuercher said the city won’t move forward until a private law firm hired by the city, Sanders & Parks, completes an investigation of the bid process.

Read more at The Arizona Republic

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