The embattled head of Chester’s Economic Development Agency (CEDA) may have admitted to allegations of misconduct in office, according to a report prepared for the city’s mayor and obtained by The Spirit.

But Drake Nakaishi may not lose his $70,000-a year job because state ethics law has no teeth and the majority of City Council approves of what many say are double-dipping, money-making schemes and activities.

Nakaishi and the city’s $125,000-a-year chief of staff, Ron Starr, reportedly invested $300,000 to create an exclusive, members-only Social Lounge and cigar bar in a non-inspected building with no Certificate of Occupancy (CO) and in a location where such a facility is not allowed by current zoning.

 

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Drake Nakaishi

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Ron Starr

The partners opened the facility March 28th and posted a glamorous promotional video online that, as of Monday, had garnered 1,290 YouTube views and ignited a firestorm of local buzz first reported in The Spirit.

After The Spirit’s story broke, the partners filed for a CO and were denied because of the zoning issue. The partners have since requested a zoning variance and a hearing is scheduled for next Wednesday at 10 a.m.

Getting a zoning variance might be interesting since Pat Worrell, chairwoman of the Zoning Hearing Board, and City Councilman Al Jacobs, who oversees licenses and inspections, were both among the invitation-only attendees enjoying the club’s grand opening. Additionally, Worrell rents space from Starr in the building and Jacobs is a Starr-tenant in an Avenue of the States building that houses his and his partner’s law offices and the city’s Democratic headquarters.

The revelations about Nakaishi came following an investigation prompted by Mayor John Linder and sanctioned by Joan Neal, chairman of the Chester Redevelopment Authority. The probe was conducted by CRA board member James Turner. Nakaishi is executive director of the city’s economic development, redevelopment and parking authorities.

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