The News and Observer’s Dan Kane, an investigative journalist that gained notoriety with his coverage of the UNC-Football/Academic Scandal, has turned his compass South. He’s begun digging into Prince Charles Holdings, the “business partner” of the City of Fayetteville in its downtown development project. Read Kane’s full article with this link:
The focus of Kane’s piece is two former UNC School of Government employees, Michael Lemanski and Jordan Jones. Each worked at the school’s Development Finance Initiative (DFI) before leaving to make money in the world of private development.
Fayetteville has been on their radar for some time:
The most prominent example is Fayetteville, which in May 2014 paid DFI $50,000 to review three areas city officials sought to redevelop. One was a residential area, the second the dilapidated Prince Charles Hotel in downtown and the third a commercial area near the Airborne and Special Operations Museum. The city envisioned landing a minor league baseball park on the third site.
About a month after the contract’s completion date, Lemanski joined Prince Charles Holdings, a group redeveloping the vacant hotel into apartments. Jordan Jones, a DFI employee who had also worked on the Fayetteville project, is also working for the hotel group.
In 2016, the city shifted the proposed ballpark next to the hotel, as part of a much larger redevelopment that includes a parking deck and a new hotel. The redevelopment included the city purchasing for $2.5 million in 2017 a parcel from Prince Charles Holdings. The business had bought the parcel for $2.07 million two years earlier.
Apparently, the Fayetteville Observer investigated the potential conflict of interest but dropped the story when UNC would not provide requested documents:
In early 2018, Monica Vendituoli, then a reporter for The Fayetteville Observer, inquired about Lemanski and Jones’ work for DFI and the Prince Charles group. In an email to UNC, she raised concerns that their dual roles had created a conflict of interest and sought related records.
UNC did not provide her a copy of the audit. UNC gave her a statement that said some details regarding potential conflicts of interest were “confidential personnel file information” that couldn’t be disclosed.
What it means…
Readers of this site know I’ve been critical of the parking deck deal with Prince Charles Holdings for well over a year. I don’t believe it is a good allocation of tax payer resources, and it arguably violates the public purpose requirement of the North Carolina Constitution. In short, it’s an economic windfall for Prince Charles Holdings. But should we be surprised??? These guys literally wrote the book on how to do these deals. Of course they’re going to come out on top.
Today, the massive crane kept lifting steel in the air as construction continued downtown. The stadium should be done in a few months with the parking deck to follow. We seem to be stuck in this deal, despite the cost overruns. It’s going to happen.
In the last analysis, it’s a sad day for the City of Fayetteville when our downtown “business partners” are being exposed in “sunshine week” at the News and Observer.