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Delaney testifies in look at Shipyards

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Delaney testifies in look at Shipyards

Development in grand jury review

By MARY KELLI PALKA, The Times-Union

Former Jacksonville Mayor John Delaney appeared Thursday before a Duval County grand jury investigating a downtown development that stalled last year after questions arose about how public money was spent.

The 21 grand jurors have been hearing evidence since November about The Shipyards, billed in 2001 as the largest private development in downtown's history.

State Attorney Harry Shorstein said he hopes to complete the investigation by the end of April. The FBI and IRS have also been reviewing documents involving The Shipyards.

Also appearing before the grand jury Thursday was former TriLegacy executive Ham Traylor and Ron Foster Jr., the president of the Stellar Group, a construction company that worked on The Shipyards.

All of Thursday's witnesses appeared voluntarily. None could talk about what was said inside the grand jury room because the proceedings are secret.

After he testified, Delaney repeated comments he's made that The Shipyards project was a good deal for the city, and the contract was solid.

"You had some people doing some fraudulent things on the other side," he said. "The whole reason we're here is because of conduct of TriLegacy. The city didn't do anything wrong."

Delaney, president of the University of North Florida, was mayor when the TriLegacy deal was made.

The city gave TriLegacy $36.5 million in incentives for a park, riverwalk extension and other public improvements to the property next to Berkman Plaza.

City officials said TriLegacy defaulted when the money was pooled with private money and some was spent on travel, food and a National Football League skybox. TriLegacy officials have said they did nothing wrong, and all the money was spent on business expenses.

Traylor said he didn't want to discuss the deal anymore but said he had great faith the grand jury was listening to what he had to say. He appeared with an attorney.

City and TriLegacy officials signed a settlement agreement last year that required TriLegacy to give the city the deed to the property and pay up to $14 million if another developer didn't take over TriLegacy's role. The City Council is expected to vote this month on whether to enter into a deal with the LandMar Group.

While city attorneys were working on the settlement with TriLegacy, the attorneys were also drafting a federal complaint that was never filed.

City officials claimed in the complaint the Stellar Group helped produce "phony, false or misleading" documents to convince City Hall the project was moving ahead. City General Counsel Rick Mullaney later said portions of the draft complaint could have been changed or withdrawn if it had ever been filed.

Foster's attorney, Robert Willis, said Thursday the allegations were "absolutely not" true. Foster made no comment.

Others who have appeared before the grand jury in five months are TriLegacy attorney Greg Dawson, Mike Weinstein and Kirk Weinstein, the former heads of the Jacksonville Economic Development Commission, Mullaney and Dan Livermore, who works as the bond counsel for the city.

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I hope the city will clean all of this up ASAP and strike a deal with LandMar to get this project moving.

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Surprise,surprise,surprise

A report released this afternoon says a grand jury concluded its six-month investigation into the Shipyard development without finding any criminal wrongdoing.

However, the report criticizes the city of Jacksonville for what it said was failure to exercise due diligence in entering into an agreement for the development and also in overseeing its progress.

The document was released Thursday but was sealed until those named in it had a chance to review it and file any objections or comments.

The 42-page report details the grand jury's investigation into the Shipyards, a planned development on the Northbank Riverwalk that was to include $40 million of publicly financed improvements. Jacksonville officials gave $36.5 million to TriLegacy Group and then claimed the company defaulted by spending some of the money on other things. TriLegacy officials have said they did not default.

The grand jury began meeting in November. Since then, officials from the city and TriLegacy have provided testimony, which is closed to the public. Among those summoned to testify was former Mayor John Delaney, who is president of the University of North Florida.

Former TriLegacy executive Ham Traylor and Ron Foster Jr., the president of the Stellar Group, a construction company that worked on the Shipyards, also appeared before the grand jury, along with former heads of the Jacksonville Economic Development Commission and city general counsel Rick Mullaney.

The FBI and IRS also are reviewing documents involving the Shipyards.

For complete details, see Wednesday's Times-Union

:lol::lol:

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Here is a rendering of the old Shipyards plan: 36630_400.jpg

I wish the city could find a developer who would simply complete this. It would be a beautiful development. And, much better than the LandMar pier released thus far.

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Im beginning to have the feeling that LandMar will shock all of us with an amazing plan for the shipyards property. After the long battle with the city and the long wait, I dont think LandMar would go through all of this just to build a bunch of crappola. I believe theyre keeping all the renderings and plans private so that they can wow us with what they plan to do. And keep in mind that LandMar knows what theyre up against with the serious competiton across the water, so Im sure they will attempt to wow us all and buyers with the new design. Lets keep our fingers crossed though :blush:

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Personally, I love LandMar's pier idea. I am also optimistic that the their proposal will...

shock all of us with an amazing plan for the shipyards property.

.. as La Florida said.

Just show us the flippin' renderings already!!! They can't wow us unless they show us what they plan to do!! :D

.... I'm waiting patiently

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I'm waiting....impatiently, lol.

OK, I like LaFlorida's positive thinking, and I'm trying to be optimistic about what they can do. After these long-awaited renderings, we can make judgements, but right now, it's just annoying, and make me nervous.

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Here is a rendering of the old Shipyards plan:  36630_400.jpg

I wish the city could find a developer who would simply complete this.  It would be a beautiful development.  And, much better than the LandMar pier released thus far.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

AMEN to that. The pier is a nice idea, but I just fear that Landmar is going to build something gated and off limits, with little public interaction. Has Landmar done a project of this type before? I know they have the resources, but do they truly understand the city's desired end-result?

Also, Ed Barr comes across in the media reports as being another "I want it all"-type like Wayne Weaver. Jacksonville can't afford another one.

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Vic: I have never met Ed Burr and dont know him at all, but he does seem a bit megolomaniacal. Still, if he delivered a better product (starting with the pier), I would not complain. But, what I really want to know is is he related to Aaron Burr??

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