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101 Ash broker Jason Hughes blocks license revocation

A Superior Court judge blocked the California Department of Real Estate from revoking the license of the broker who advised San Diego city officials to lease a downtown skyscraper and then pocketed proceeds. million thanks to this transaction.

Real estate consultant Jason Hughes won a stay of that planned sanction at a hearing Thursday, after state regulators upheld an earlier ruling that he acted inappropriately when he recommended the city lease the former Sempra Energy headquarters at 101 Ash St.

Judge Carolyn M. Caietti said Hughes successfully completed his probation, repaid millions of dollars to the city and stayed out of trouble since pleading guilty to a misdemeanor conflict of interest charge last year .

“This is an urgent situation,” she said. “I think it’s important to maintain the status quo at this point. I do not believe that the public interest would be harmed by continuing to suspend the license.”

Hughes sued the state Department of Real Estate and its commissioner earlier this week, after regulators said his license would be revoked effective noon Friday.

The ruling means Hughes will be allowed to keep his license while his Superior Court appeal progresses.

Assistant Attorney General Andrea Schoor-West urged the judge to uphold the license revocation, saying Hughes continues to downplay his role in what has become one of the biggest political scandals in San Diego history.

“A suspension is absolutely contrary to the public interest,” Schoor-West argued in court. “To this day, he has not accepted responsibility for his actions.”

Even the request to block the revocation downplayed Hughes’ role in the Ash Street lease, she added.

“His ex parte motion is replete with attempts to impeach his conviction,” the state’s attorney said. “His persistent claims that he had done nothing wrong and was the scapegoat are exactly what led the commissioner to conclude that he has not been rehabilitated. »

Hughes’ lawyers said in a statement that the revocation would not affect the business operations of Hughes Marino, the real estate consulting firm co-founded by Hughes more than a decade ago.

“Mr. Hughes continues to serve in a senior management role overseeing the firm’s 11 offices across the country as it continues to expand with the opening of four new offices,” they wrote. Hughes Marino real estate license is not in Mr. Hughes’ name.”

According to his attorneys, Hughes is seeking to keep his license in the interest of justice.

“The appeal is based on principle and fairness and Mr Hughes’ belief that this is an unprecedented and grossly unfair decision against him,” the statement said.

State regulators sought to revoke Hughes’ broker’s license after he admitted collecting $9.4 million in fees while advising former Mayor Kevin Faulconer to accept long-term leases for the Ash Street property and another nearby high-rise.

Hughes, the high-profile founder of Hughes Marino, paid a $400 fine and served a year of summary probation after pleading guilty in March 2023. He also repaid the city money he received from both transactions.

A few months later, the Department of Real Estate filed a complaint against him, saying he violated state regulations by representing the city and the building’s owner in the same transaction.

He contested the decision and testified for the first time publicly in August, telling an administrative judge that he had done nothing wrong. He testified that he told six San Diego officials that he expected to be paid for his work on the Ash Street and Civic Center Plaza leases.

“They searched my granddaughter’s playhouse,” Hughes said in a cracking voice as he dabbed his eyes with a tissue during his testimony. “This has all been very, very hard on the whole family.”

The judge overseeing the regulatory proceeding ruled late last year that Hughes should not lose his license, but rather pay a $4,000 civil penalty.

But the department head reversed that decision and imposed a license revocation that would take effect Friday. This is the order Hughes sought to delay by seeking a ruling from the Superior Court.

Hughes was one of the key figures in the Ash Street scandal, helping the city negotiate 20-year lease-to-own agreements for 101 Ash St. and Civic Center Plaza in 2016 and 2015, respectively.

The Civic Center Plaza served as municipal offices for decades, but the old Sempra Building required extensive renovations. The deal Hughes helped negotiate was “as is” and the property proved uninhabitable due to asbestos, mechanical and other problems.

Years later, amid a wave of litigation over the unusable property that was still costing the city $18,000 a day, Hughes admitted that he had received $4.4 million for his help on the lease of ‘Ash Street and just over $5 million for its work on the Civic Center Plaza. .

Hughes’ legal team insisted the broker acted correctly.

“As Mr. Hughes has always been categorical, he did nothing wrong and acted transparently and in good faith to support the City of San Diego during a time of significant uncertainty and urgent need,” his lawyers said.

Hughes was the only person charged after a two-year criminal investigation by District Attorney Summer Stephen.

The county attorney said last year that his case was compromised by Mayor Todd Gloria’s decision – with the approval of the majority of the City Council – to buy back the lease for 100 cents on the dollar.

The 101 Ash St. office tower remains vacant to this day, despite public spending of more than $200 million. A project to transform the building into hundreds of affordable housing units collapsed earlier this year.

Hughes could get his license revocation overturned if his current appeal is successful. The case was scheduled for a status conference on August 16.

California Daily Newspapers

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