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Prez House Stench

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Could it be that Ward buried the transcript because he knew it was extremely damaging to ASU's position and raised questions about the legality of the transaction?

Ratliff's voice message to Ward details two conversations he had with Tseffos during the time that the house was listed for sale in June and July 2005.

"In my opinion, [Tseffos] engaged in dual representation, engaged in collusion and also fraud," the transcript of Ratliff's voice mail states.

In the initial conversation, Ratliff says Tseffos "became extremely bellicose" and "slammed the phone down in my ear" after Tseffos learned that Ratliff expected to earn a commission if his client bought the property.

This, of course, would have meant less money for Tseffos. According to his contract with ASU, Tseffos would receive a 2 percent commission from ASU for selling the property and a 2 percent commission if the buyer was not represented by a broker. Bebbling was not represented, at least not formally, by a broker.

Ratliff called Tseffos a second time. And once again, Ratliff tells Ward, Tseffos brushed him off.

"He told me he didn't need my help," the transcript states.

The transcript indicates that Ratliff then made an offer to Tseffos to buy the property for $500,000 more than the list price of $1.5 million.



"I made him a verbal offer of two million dollars on the piece; told him it was my standing offer. I said that if nobody beats that I expect to hear from you," Ratliff says in his voice mail to Ward.

Ratliff then tells Ward he never heard back from Tseffos, but later learned that the house had been sold to Bebbling for far less. And, Ratliff says in the voice mail, Bebbling had already resold the property for $2 million.

Drawing an important conclusion, Ratliff says in his voice mail that he believes Tseffos "directed [the sale] to Bebbling in an effort to get a re-list on the backside and participate in a flip."

In other words, Ratliff is alleging that Tseffos had already reached an agreement with Bebbling to sell the president's house to him and then assist Bebbling with the resale of the property to JC & Sons, at which time Tseffos could collect another fee and Bebbling would pocket a handsome profit.



Ratliff acknowledges in the voice mail that he has no proof this is what happened, but says, "I would suspect that if somebody got on top of this and endeavored to create a paper trail on the various transactions that took place, they would quickly find out there was some impropriety there."

If there was impropriety, the result was that ASU should have received $2 million for the property if Tseffos had agreed to Ratliff's offer and Ratliff's buyer closed the deal. Instead, it only got $1.375 million.

"Tseffos has clearly violated his fiduciary responsibility to the Board of Regents and Arizona State University," Ratliff's transcript states.

Bebbling refused to answer my question of whether Tseffos represented him or received any compensation in connection with the resale of the property to JC & Sons. But I did learn that Don Vander Giessen, the broker typically used by JC & Sons for its real estate transactions, did not participate in the deal with Bebbling.

Vander Giessen tells me he did not handle this deal because Bebbling had approached JC & Sons on the sale of the property.

It is uncertain when Bebbling approached JC & Sons, but there is no doubt the two were working closely together soon after Bebbling closed on the property in August.

Tempe records, for example, show Bebbling and JC & Sons were submitting joint applications on the property, including detailed plat maps that were completed on October 8, two months after ASU closed the house sale with Bebbling. JC & Sons also notified the city on October 25 that "it is our [emphasis added] intent to remove the existing structure and develop the property into an eight home subdivision."

Ratliff's voice mail obviously raises very serious questions about the propriety of the sale.

In an interview, Ratliff says ASU called him a couple of times about his complaint, but that no one at the university appeared to take it seriously.

"I got nowhere with anybody down there," Ratliff tells me.

Ratliff says that Tseffos should have accepted his offer and begun the process to draw up a contract.

"A verbal offer between brokers is solid," Ratliff says.

ASU's Shafer says the university conducted an investigation based on Ratliff's voice mail.

"The university looked into Mr. Ratliff's complaint," she stated in her June 28 e-mail. "We found no evidence that he submitted a written offer by the required deadline."

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John Dougherty
Contact: John Dougherty