POMONA — Recent disclosures of World Trade Center developer H. Thomas Felvey's past financial problems have prompted the City Council to schedule a public discussion at its meeting Monday.
Council members have already met privately with Felvey after last week's disclosure that he and his corporations had accumulated a string of debts in the past decade.
Councilwoman Nell Soto advocated a public discussion to give residents a chance to voice their concerns and question Felvey.
Soto and three of the other members of the council conceded that it is unlikely that anything from the meeting will stop the ambitious $96-million project from going forward.
No 'Glaring Problems'
"As far as I'm concerned, it's 90% a foregone conclusion," said Councilman E. J. Gaulding. "I don't see any glaring problems that would send us back to what we've already been through."
But Soto said the public should at least have the opportunity to discuss the issue.
"The public deserves some answers," Soto said. "I just feel it would be a lot better this way." The council meeting begins at 8 p.m.
The disclosures in The Times outlined how Felvey, an Orange County architect who two years ago was granted the right to negotiate the development of the trade center, had repeatedly failed to pay bills and ignored lawsuits while operating under three different corporations since 1977.
In more than two dozen cases filed in Los Angeles County Superior and Municipal courts, Felvey and his corporations are the subject of at least 12 uncontested default judgments, ranging from $1,000 to $96,000.
The disclosures caught many council members by surprise, but most say that they did not shake their confidence in the project itself.
Councilman Mark A. T. Nymeyer said contractual safeguards and Felvey's limited role in the construction of the project will prevent any problems for the city, which is funding a $13-million underground garage and a $1-million promotional campaign for the project.
The construction and management of the project will be done by Birtcher, one of the country's largest development firms and a partner in the project, he said.
"Felvey was the hub of the wheel, but his role has diminished significantly," Nymeyer said. "He is essentially a promoter now."
Gaulding said that although the disclosures may have tarnished Felvey's reputation, they were far from fatal.
"I tell you I have friends who have been bankrupted 15 times. It's a fact of life," Gaulding said. "You have to give him some credit, he's held this thing together for 3 1/2 years."
The strongest concerns about Felvey's past were expressed by Soto, who said the city should take no chances on the trade center project.
"There is a lot of money at stake here," she said "This man has a reputation and I just want him here to answer some things."
But, Soto said she was unsure if the concerns about Felvey's reputation were serious enough to warrant delaying or killing the project.
Officials have predicted that the Inland Pacific World Trade Center project would provide 3,000 jobs and generate more than $1 million a year in general-fund revenue.
The trade center, which will be one of 54 officially designated centers around the world, is to be located on a 4.5-acre lot across from City Hall.