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TACOMA, WA-The city council next week is expected to approve the disposition of the 90-year-old Carlton Building, a 36,000-sf Downtown office property the city acquired in 2002 for $3.7 million.

The city acquired the building at 1552 Jefferson Ave. for two reasons: First, they needed office space temporarily in order to house city staffers and an outside consulting firm charged with installing the city’s new computer system; second, the buildings attached parking garage sits on land the city needs for a planned expansion of its convention center.

City asset manager Rick Brush tells GlobeSt.com that on Nov.4 the city will consider three items related to the building: whether to maintain staff in the building, whether to refinance the buildings debt and whether to declare the building surplus and put it up for sale, minus the parking garage.

When the acquisition was occurred, it was envisioned that when the computer project was complete, those in the building would move out and the building would be offered for sale, says Brush. Now, there is a chance that if the city sells the building it would lease back some space and consolidate its Information systems staff into the building “until we have another place where we can move them all together.”

Meantime, the city’s initial purchase of the building was recently called into question by the FBI, which has been looking into corruption in the wake of the April shooting death of Tacoma police chief David Brame, who shot himself after shooting and killing and his estranged wife, Crystal. Investigators looking into corruption in Brame’s dealings as chief have lead to a wider inquiry that includes illegal business transactions by government officials in general.

The city’s purchase was spotlighted because the city paid $300,000 more for the property than its appraised market value and because former Tacoma city manager Ray Corpuz–who promoted Brame to chief and was fired after his death–was the driving force behind the acquisition of the Carlton Building, which occurred on short notice as an alternative to simply leasing space for the computer projects headquarters.

Brush tells GlobeSt.com that the questions related to the Carlton Building are simply a misunderstanding. He says federal regulations state that if a city is using federal funds to acquire something and decides to pay over fair market value, it must write a statement saying why it did so and place it into the official acquisition file.

“We didn’t know we needed to follow those regulations in this case and HUD didn’t make it a condition of our loan,” says Brush. “So we were just completely unaware of it; we had ordinary and open discussions about paying over fair market value during the normal city council approval process, we just didn’t put it in the right form in the right place.”

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