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Selection Process For Joplin, Mo. Reconstruction Was Rigged To Favor Wallace Bajjali

An audit by the State of Missouri shows the Sugar Land real estate developer had inside information on the selection process for a master developer for the City of Joplin. A tornado destroyed much of the city in May 2011.



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The State of Missouri has completed an audit of the City of Joplin’s handling of efforts to rebuild after a tornado flattened the city in May 2011. The report finds the selection process to hire a master developer was rigged to favor the now-defunct Sugar Land firm of Wallace Bajjali.

The audit reveals that Wallace Bajjali apparently had inside information on the selection process, and that the development firm was significantly less qualified to perform the work than its second-ranked competitor. Joplin city officials ignored numerous red flags concerning the firm.

“There were several reference checks that came back negative towards Wallace Bajjali, saying things like, ‘Big hats, no cattle,’ or ‘It would be a mistake to get involved with Wallace Bajjali,’” says Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway. “We also noted that there were several projects that Wallace Bajjali had that were entering bankruptcy and they were under review with the federal Securities and Exchange Commission for some substantial fines.”

Joplin Chamber of Commerce President Rob O’Brian, who helped oversee the selection process, had multiple meetings with Wallace Bajjali before drafting the qualifications for a master developer.

The City of Joplin paid the Sugar Land firm nearly $1.5 million over 2 1/2 years. At the time development partners David Wallace and Costa Bajjali resigned in January, the firm had not performed any of the work for which it had been paid.


Related Stories:

The Rise and Fall of Wallace Bajjali – Part 1: BizRadio Days

The Rise and Fall of Wallace Bajjali – Part 2: Joplin’s Not Sugar Land

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Andrew Schneider

Andrew Schneider

Politics and Government Reporter

Andrew Schneider is the senior reporter for politics and government at Houston Public Media, NPR's affiliate station in Houston, Texas. In this capacity, he heads the station's coverage of national, state, and local elections. He also reports on major policy issues before the Texas Legislature and county and city governments...

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