S. E. Williams, Staff Writer
In the wake of last week’s historic approval of Moreno Valley’s controversial World Logistics Center warehouse development, rumors of impropriety continued to abound.
One such rumor involves expressed concerns regarding an alleged conflict of interest about a possible contractual relationship between the area’s most prominent economist, Dr. John Husing and World Logistics Center (WLC) developer, Iddo Benzeevi.
Critics assert the inappropriateness of Husing being able to provide economic advice to municipal partners in support of the development because it is asserted he was simultaneously under contract with Benzeevi— an assertion he adamantly denies.
Husing is a research economist who, according to his biography, has specialized in Southern California’s economic growth since 1964. Renowned for his fiscal expertise, Husing has been called upon to produce economic development strategies for a number of local municipalities. He also serves as the Chief Economist for the Inland Empire Economic Partnership (IEEP).
The Inland Empire Economic Partnership is described as the area’s largest development agency whose goal is to enhance the economic climate of the region and grow job creation in both Riverside and San Bernardino Counties.
The organization’s Economic Center is led by Husing who not only serves as Chief Economist; but, also develops strategic projects for the Inland Empire Business Council. According to the IEEP, “Husing leads strategic projects with many prominent organizations. His work includes designing innovative programs , strategies and policy solutions for private industries, government and private foundations.”
Owed to his economic proficiency and respected position with the IEEP it was no surprise his positive insight and analysis regarding the economic potential of the World Logistics Center carried a lot of weight with local politicians, staff and the public-at-large. However, others were aghast at what they perceived as a clear conflict of interest in regards to his advocacy for the project in light of the rumors of an alleged contractual arrangement between Husing and Benzeevi.
Seen through the prism of alleged conflict, Husing’s frequent, supportive media interviews and own opinion pieces on the World Logistics Center were viewed by critics with skepticism.
This week in an exclusive interview with The Voice, Husing responded openly to questions about the rumored conflict of interest. When asked directly whether it was true a contractual relationship existed between him and WLC developer Iddo Benzeevi and/or any of his business entities; Husing replied the rumors were, “Absolutely untrue.” He did, however admit to a past contractual relationship with Benzeevi. “I did some work for Iddo about five years ago,” he admitted before concluding emphatically, “And, none since.”
According to Husing, he does occasionally do contract work for developers. Such efforts include economic impact reports, etc. In those instances, he affirmed, he is clear about his involvement. “My name is printed all over the document—always,” he explained emphatically and added, “When I do a report for a developer on a project in a city, it is clearly disclosed to the city in the work I do.”
When asked how he would respond directly to critics who believe such a conflict of interest exists between him and Benzeevi he replied, “They make up the world as they want to believe it.” He added, “There is no conflict of interest as there is no financial relationship.”
During the interview Husing confirmed he is a board member of the Inland Empire Economic Partnership as well as its Chief Economist—both positions are voluntary and uncompensated. However, Husing also admitted at times, “I do contractual work on specific projects, the last being on the Launch Initiative Poverty Project.”
In another attempt to put the conflict of interest rumors to rest, Husing explained his support of the World Logistcs Center development, “I like Iddo’s project,” he said, “because it offers routes to the middle class for marginally educated workers.”
Husing concluded, “There is no relationship with Iddo other than that.”