Metropolitan Transit System officials say trouble may be behind the controversial railroad line linking Mexico and the U.S.
During a transit agency board meeting on January 28, Metropolitan Transit System CEO Paul Jablonski announced that new investors have taken control of Pacific Imperial Railroad, the company that runs the currently defunct Desert Line, the 70-mile portion of railroad that runs from the U.S. border at Division to Plaster City.
"Five people now own the majority of stock in Pacific Imperial, one of which is a current shareholder," Jablonski said during the meeting. "The new group is reputable and this is a positive step for [Metropolitan Transit System] and the Desert Line."
According to Jablonski, the investors are from New York and purchased the majority of shares earlier this month. When asked for more information on the new shareholders, Jablonski said the transit agency was not told the names of the individuals involved.
Bringing the line back on track will not be easy and neither will it be easy to outrun the controversy that has plagued Metropolitan Transit System and Pacific Imperial for well over a year.
Hours before the January 28 meeting, San Diego city councilmember David Alvarez, also an alternate on the transit agency's board of directors, requested that the transit agency provide an update on the economic feasibility study that boardmembers asked for in May 2014. In addition, Alvarez asked that Jablonski conduct a financial audit to ensure that the extensive allegations of fraud against Pacific Imperial Railroad are looked into.
Before they can do anything, the new shareholders’ company must first get into good standing with the states of California and Delaware.
According to state records in Delaware, where the company is registered, Pacific Imperial owes $203,697 in taxes and is listed as "AR," or, as the state records describes it, "a corporation that has not filed the required annual report and there are delinquent taxes due." The amount owed has decreased from $240,000 since the Reader first reported on the back taxes in September 2014.
And then there's California. The state's Franchise Tax Board has suspended the company from conducting business here also because of unpaid taxes, as reported on January 13.
According to a spokesperson for the Metropolitan Transit System, the agency has instructed the company to get back in good standing.
"We’ve instructed the new investors to put the controls in place to take [care] of this," wrote Rob Schupp.
When asked if the agency typically conducts business with suspended companies, Schupp wrote: "When it is brought to our attention, we address it."
Donald Stoecklein, the president of Pacific Imperial Railroad, did not respond to questions about the new shareholders or whether he will continue on as president of the company.