by Will Harper
The City of Oakland has filed suit against Maurice Himy, who was recently indicted for allegedly shaking down a city contractor, to collect in $181,678 he owes in back rent and fees. Himy used to operate Spaccio, a men's clothing store in Frank Ogawa Plaza in a space he rented from the city until March, when he went out of business. Follow the jump to see the special deal the city gave Himy to try to keep his clothing business afloat.
Frank Fanelli, the city's real estate director, says the city tried to help Himy by cutting his rent in half. Himy promised to pay more for rent once business got better, but it never did, Fanelli says. Fanelli described it as a "work out" deal, one that banks often offer.
Fanelli said the city likes to help businesses like Spaccio succeed, which is why they agreed to the deal with Himy. He acknowledged that Himy was the first and only retailer to get the "work out" deal from the city. He described it as a "test case."
The city filed to collect the money on September 28, two weeks after federal prosecutors filed an extortion charge against Himy. At first blush, the timing of the collections suit is fishy. City Hall sources say FBI agents, who interviewed several city department heads after Himy's arrest, were suspicious of a rent-break the city had offered to Himy but not other retailers.
But Bill Noland, Oakland's finance director, says that the timing of the lawsuit had nothing to do with the federal probe. He said the finance department referred the issue to a collections agency before the scandal broke.
Himy was a good friend of Jacques Barzhagi, the longtime advisor to Mayor Jerry Brown who was fired in July 2004 after a brush with the law in a domestic dispute. Prosecutors say Himy also boasted of having a pay-to-play relationship with someone identified in court papers only as "City Official A." City Council President Ignacio De La Fuente has acknowledged he is City Official A, but denies doing anything wrong or illegal.
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