BRA Deal - Contempt for Public Inquiry

Contempt for Public Inquiry and Oversight

After revelations regarding the egregious malfeasance by the BRA and its Deputy Director Muhammad Ali Salaam in the sale of public land to the ISB, the BRA continually refused to provide a transparent account of the circumstances surrounding the deal in spite of requests from members of government and court orders.

In 2005, press reports regarding the BRA-ISB deal attracted the attention of City Councilor Jerry McDermott, Chair of the Committee on Financial Services and Community Investment. When McDermott asked questions of the ISB regarding the deal, the ISB refused to answer them, with ISB attorney Albert Farrah stating that, “his committee has no jurisdiction over the BRA or the transaction. On March 7, 2006, McDermott issued an order calling for a committee hearing to examine the ISB-BRA deal. On May 12, 2006, the BRA was formally requested by McDermott to attend the hearing. On May 15, 2006, BRA General Counsel Kevin Morrison replied to McDermott request by refusing to appear at the meeting, claiming that, “due to ongoing litigation, representatives of the Authority will be unable to make any formal comments at the time.”

During the course of the ISB defamation lawsuit, The David Project lawyers repeatedly attempted to access information regarding the BRA-ISB deal under the Freedom of Information Act. The BRA repeatedly refused to provide it. When the BRA General Counsel was deposed by The David Project lawyers, it became obvious that the BRA failed to look for documents relating to the BRA-ISB deal, even though they were requested over a year prior. The BRA counsel also claimed that he didn’t know if some documents were destroyed. Both the David Project and the Citizens for Peace and Tolerance filed emergency motions with the court calling for preservation and release of records from the BRA and demanding the BRA stop refusing to allow their attorneys to depose Ali Salaam. In response, BRA attorney Saul Schapiro attempted to intimidate David Project attorneys with accusations of ethical misconduct in order to prevent records discovery.

The David Project filed a separate lawsuit against the BRA calling for the release of records under the Freedom of Information Act.  The judge in The David Project v. BRA case had initially issued a partial summary judgment order insisting that BRA comply with requests for documents and for the deposition of Ali Salaam. However, the David Project lost the case on the grounds that although the BRA willfully destroyed documents by deleting computer files, the cost of recovering those files would be prohibitively too high to force the BRA to comply.

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