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Wichita city hall: more evidence of lax procedures

Wichita Eagle reporting from yesterday (Past client: Developer admitted embezzling) provides more evidence of the need for improved procedures and greater accountability at Wichita city hall. In this story, investigative journalist Dion Lefler reports that Grant Gaudreau admitted stealing money from a business partner. This comes to light just after the City of Wichita nearly became a business partner with Gaudreau.

Past articles on this website and in the Wichita Eagle (Wichita’s Faulty Due Diligence, Sharon Fearey Doesn’t Appreciate the Wichita Eagle, Wichita TIF Developer’s Ownership Restructuring not Very Reassuring, and Wichita City Council: Put Better Procedures in Place Before Proceeding) document the specifics. But a few new developments and questions have arisen.

First, it’s been reported that Gaudreau has a warrant for failure to pay $12,332 in income tax. I asked Wichita police chief Norman Williams if Gaudreau was subject to arrest because of this warrant. He said yes, he is.

Second, it’s unclear whether Joe Kramer and Len Marotte of the real estate firm Joel LLC were aware of the entire scope of Gaudreau’s problems when they teamed with him to develop the Renaissance Square project. It’s clear, however, that they knew a lot. Their business judgment must be questioned.

Mayor Carl Brewer asked city staff to develop new procedures for vetting potential partners. The problem is that city hall is occupied with some transitions. A new city manager will start work in just about a month. The assistant city manager (now the interim manager) has been looking elsewhere for jobs, and given the mayor’s public treatment of him, I think he’s smart to do so. Three council seats are up for election in the March primary. The city botched a public hearing, but calls it “leadership.”

My recommendation is that the City of Wichita stop participating in public/private partnerships. Instead, work on improving the business climate for everyone, across the entire city. But when the city considers partnering with someone, I recommend that the city hire an outside firm to conduct an independent investigation of potential partners. This is how we can have confidence in the procedures the city is developing.

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5 Comments

  1. Rod M. Stewart December 29, 2008

    The owners of Joel Associates, Len Marrotte and Joe Kramer are respected Wichita businessmen with varied interests all about the Wichita area. In 30 years of dealing with them, I have learned to respect their business acumen and appreciate their wide and varied talents. To attempt to smear them because of a failed negociation of a very complex and large real estate redevelopment transaction is at the least irresponsible.
    No one, was aware of the problems existing with Mr. Guadreau. At least he was removed from ownership in the project when the extent became known. Your knee jerk reaction to any public participation in large and complicated redevelopment is tiresome. The public benefit to redevlop the area south of St Francis Hospital is obvious and the law of the land allows for such public help to take place. Does anyone really believe that projects of this complexity and size really happen anywhere in this country without municipal support? Rather than attempting to question their business judgement, you should applaud them for their willingnes to attempt to clean up something that is less than desirable in our city and make something new, better, more healthy, user friendly and crime free.

  2. Rothbard December 29, 2008

    What is tiresome is watching the council and their “crony capitalist” friends continually pick the pockets of Wichitans to line their own.

    Just because the law allows for something doesn’t make it right. Taxes are lawful, but one can make the case that they are equivalent to theft and therefore immoral.

    It isn’t a few blocks in midtown that needs to be cleaned up. What really needs to be cleaned up is local government and the socialist, utopian, visioneers that feed off of it.

  3. Cybex December 30, 2008

    What Mr. Stewart doesn’t know is that Councilwoman Fearey knew of the problems months before the Council vote, but she told the realtors that alerted her to the problems to mind their own business. Mr Marrotte and Kramer knew of the probems too so at this point they are just collateral damage. I understand you Mr Stewart knew of the problems too!

  4. Benjamin December 31, 2008

    We need another vote on a casino here in Wichita. This city keeps trying all this crap and it ends up being funded by the taxpayer in it’s own “bailout”. get the hint Wichita….try new things instead of rehashing the bible thumping ideas. Sick of the city handing out tax breaks to businesses that just can’t hack it.

  5. […] Lefler of the Eagle uncovered very troubling facts about the developer’s past dealings. See Wichita city hall: more evidence of lax procedures for a […]

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