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Home > Publications > Quill > SDX Awards: Online Investigative Reporting: Independent


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Tuesday, July 3, 2007
SDX Awards: Online Investigative Reporting: Independent

Winner: Andrew Donohue, voiceofsandiego.org

by Jim Poyser

Like so many other homes in the red-hot San Diego real estate market, 571 Drew View Lane rode the boom to the maximum. The brand-new home sold for $181,000 in 2000. Five years and four owners later, it went for $499,000.

It wasn’t supposed to.

Built with the help of public funds and with the aim of bringing new, affordable homes to San Diego’s southeastern neighborhoods, 571 Drew View Lane was to stay in the hands of low- and moderate-income residents for the first 10 years of its existence.

But [it] instead became a perfect tool for the get-rich-quick spirit…

The Southeastern Economic Development Corp., the public agency responsible for redeveloping one of San Diego’s poorest neighborhoods, had long been ignored by the press, politicians and power brokers — until Andrew Donohue began his investigation.

Donohue said he wasn’t the only one to get a list of allegations from a tipster. It had been sent to TV and print reporters around town. Donohue, however, was the only one to dig in and find the real story.

His examination found an affordable housing program that had been abused by participants and contractors.

Among Donohue’s findings:

• The developer of one housing program was allowed to sell homes for up to $243,000 more than was authorized by contract.

• Homes changed hands without any agency oversight, riding the wave of the red-hot housing market.

• A Southeastern Economic Development Corp. employee who tried to draw attention to problems was ignored and then finally terminated.

Judges said the story showed “the value of cultivating sources and displaying integrity. Goes beyond just good reporting in dimension, documentation and results.”

Said Donohue: “A criminal investigation and audit have now been launched and real change has come to the organization, as has increased public scrutiny.”

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