Marlowe's Shade

Monday, October 09, 2006

Suit Against BRA Suggests Conflict of Interest in ISB Land Deal

In this press release the David Project announces it's lawsuit against the Boston Redevelopment Authority:

The David Project, a non-profit educational organization, filed a lawsuit against the Boston Redevelopment Authority ("BRA") today, asking a Superior Court Judge to order the BRA to produce public records relating to the BRA-Islamic Society of Boston land deal. These are documents that the BRA has refused to produce. The lawsuit, entitled The David Project v. Boston Redevelopment Authority, was filed earlier today in the Suffolk Superior Court.

Since 2004, the David Project and other citizens have called for governmental review of the land deal whereby the BRA transferred land which its own documents showed was valued at over $2,000,000 to the Islamic Society, in return for only $175,000 in funds.

That's been the unanswered question throughout this case. I think the next few paragraphs of the press release give us a strong hint to the answer:

Among the documents that have emerged are documents which show that shortly before the BRA and the Islamic Society reached this agreement, BRA Deputy Director Mohammad Ali-Salaam, the key BRA official who oversaw, coordinated and managed the deal on behalf of the BRA, was flown to the United Arab Emirates for a 10-day fundraising trip on behalf of the Islamic Society, paid for by the Islamic Society. Indeed, the Islamic Society has publicly identified Mr. Ali-Salaam as one of its principal fundraisers in the Middle East.

Other documents disclose that Mr. Ali-Salaam played what the evidence suggests was a dual role on behalf of the BRA and the Islamic Society for many years on this project. For instance, documents disclose that he used BRA stationery to convey $10,000 in Islamic Society funds to the President of the Roxbury Community College, asking the President to keep the donation "anonymous." Not only did Mr. Ali-Salaam sign the letter written on BRA stationery, but he had two officials of the Islamic Society, who did not work for the BRA, sign the BRA letter as well.

Still other documents disclose that at the same time that he was representing the BRA on the project, he was writing "confidential" memoranda to the Board of Directors of the Islamic Society, counseling them on how "we" can obtain favorable treatment from the BRA and the City of Boston, and using BRA stationery to negotiate favorable contractual arrangements on behalf of the Islamic Society.

In late 2004, the Boston City Council sought to hold hearings about this transaction, the circumstances in which it occurred, and the reasons it occurred as it did. The BRA and the Islamic Society were both asked to attend and provide answers to questions. Both the BRA and the Islamic Society refused to do so.

Earlier this year, the Boston City Council again sought to hold hearings about the transaction. Again the BRA and the Islamic Society were invited to attend and provide answers to questions. Once again the BRA and the Islamic Society refused to do so.

As far back as November, 2005, the David Project filed public records requests with the BRA under the Massachusetts Public Records statute, requesting all BRA documents relating to the valuation of the property, the arrangements leading to the special transaction and the BRA's oversight of it, including the due diligence performed by the BRA into the Islamic Society at the time that it conveyed public land to it at significantly below fair market value. However, the BRA has withheld numerous large categories of such documents. These include all of Mr. Ali-Salaam's e-mails to and from his BRA e-mail account. The BRA has declined to provide any explanation for withholding these or other documents.

Imaging the howls of protest from the ACLU if the beneficiary of the BRA's largesse had been a Christian Church or Jewish Temple.
papijoe 8:13 AM