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Monday, January 26, 2015

Wallace Bajjali audit target in Joplin - Special council meeting there tonight - UPDATE

By Sarah Okeson
For The Amarillo Independent

The state auditor for Missouri is examining the relationship between Joplin, the Missouri city devastated by a 2011 tornado, and Wallace Bajjali Development Partners,  the firm both Joplin and Amarillo have turned to as master developer. Contracts between the Sugar Land, Texas-based firm and each city came despite the firm’s history of legal problems.
“I can confirm that we are conducting an audit of the city of Joplin and that we have looked at the relationship between the city and Wallace Bajjali,” Spence Jackson, a spokesman for the Missouri state auditor said in an email to The Amarillo Independent.

Jackson would not comment on whether the auditor has subpoenaed anyone from Wallace Bajjali in its investigation.
Joplin hired the firm to help redevelop the city after the May 22, 2011 tornado, but the company moved out of the space it had leased in a historic downtown Joplin building about a week ago, according to a property manager.
“They had told us a few months before that they were going to be moving closer to the project site,” said Ginger Sweet, the project manager.
She would not comment on whether the firm owed back rent. The phone in the company’s main office in Sugar Land, Texas, has been disconnected. Company officials did not respond to a message left on their website.
The Joplin City Council has scheduled a special meeting for 5:45 p.m. Monday to talk about legal action or litigation.
Lynn Onstot, a spokeswoman for Joplin, said she expected the City Council will talk about Wallace Bajjali. “I’m sure there will be options discussed,” Onstot said. “I’m not sure if a decision will be made.”
Joplin Mayor Mike Seibert would not comment to the Independent about Wallace Bajjali.
“The city does not have legal confirmation of the status of WB,” he emailed the Independent this morning.
Wallace Bajjali and three of its limited partnerships were ordered to pay $1.2 million in 2012 to settle a federal case brought by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Wallace Bajjali didn’t admit to any wrongdoing in the case.