FBI investigation leaves redevelopment intact | TahoeDailyTribune.com

FBI investigation leaves redevelopment intact

Claire Fortier

The Tribune has known about the FBI investigation into redevelopment for more than a year, even obtaining recorded conversations that the FBI wasn’t aware we had.

We didn’t publish the information because we didn’t believe in sullying reputations and ruining lives without having all the facts.

So we waited, trusting the whole story would eventually emerge. But, in some ways, it didn’t.

Not that the FBI didn’t do its job. The bureau did an exhaustive investigation, cutting away the petty and focusing on law breakers.

While the line between a felony and bad behavior is clearly defined by the law, it is not as clearly defined by the rest of us who believe good behavior is not defined by a penal code.

The entire four-year investigation boiled down to a slap on the wrist for three businessmen – two of whom were praised for their contribution to redevelopment on the Tribune’s front page. These were men who schemed to break the law – not once but on several occasions. These were men to whom money became more important than self-respect or the best interest of the community. Consider that one such man became the chairman of an important local board after he pleaded guilty to felony charges.

What didn’t come to light in the FBI investigation were the many others in town who may not have had their hands in the cookie jar, but certainly had their hands on the lid and were sizing up the goodies inside. That includes private and public officials.

As one veteran cop told me recently, there is felony is everyone’s heart at one time or another. Acting on it is entirely a different matter.

The fact is no one in the city crossed the line into felony territory, or even appeared to break the law. That’s good news for the city and should be a source of comfort and pride for the community.

It means the redevelopment process is intact. The citizens of this city are not paying millions to enrich a few.

That should give us confidence to go forward with redevelopment, secure that whatever constituted bad decisions was not what constituted corruption or fraud.

That doesn’t mean, however, that a few city officials didn’t show poor judgment.

Is it good business or poor judgment that would inspire one former city official, who had been inside the redevelopment process, to then sell that expertise to those looking to make the best deal possible with the city? One could argue that former staff members of public agencies, such as the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, do that frequently. On the other hand, one could argue that such blatant conflict of interest is reprehensible.

Is it good public relations or questionable policy for a city official to be offered a bribe and not take it, only to offer future help to the one that offered the bribe? Surely the letter of the law was upheld, but was the trustworthiness of the official?

The fact is there is no widescale corruption of redevelopment, according to the FBI. Most of those intimately connected to redevelopment were no where near the mess that brought three men down.

However, poor judgment on the part of a few, well, that’s another story.

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