Looking forward to the future of journalism

Reporter’s notebook: Tips for putting together the pieces of a puzzling, complex story

On March 26, City Hall reporter Josh Baugh got an adrenaline-pumping tip: FBI agents had seized files at the office of Fernando De León, a city official who reviewed permits for real estate development in San Antonio. The tip sparked a frantic series of phone calls that afternoon as Josh and I tried to figure … Read more

Using LucidChart to connect the dots between people and organizations

When City Hall reporter Josh Baugh and I worked on this story about fired city official Fernando De León, Josh found a nice online tool to help us connect the dots. LucidChart lets you create flow charts and organizational trees that you can share with your colleagues and publish when you’re done. Here’s the chart … Read more

Firm tied to San Antonio official landed plum job at the Rim shopping center

Fernando De Leon, assistant director of land development for the city of San AntonioCity hall reporter Josh Baugh and I learned a few more scraps of information about fired city employee Fernando De León; the permit company owned by his sister; and possible reasons why the FBI and police are investigating them.

First, some background:

On March 26 — a lazy, Friday afternoon in the newsroom — Josh got a tip that FBI agents were at the city’s “One Stop” center. The tipster said the FBI was carting out files from Fernando De León office, and leading him away in handcuffs.

The One Stop center is a spacious city building that feels more like a trendy art museum than a staid government building. It’s the home of the city’s Planning and Development Services Department. Developers and builders visit the One Stop center to apply for permits to develop land, construct new buildings, and renovate existing structures. De León, an assistant director at Development Services, was one of many employees who reviewed those plans.

I know De León. The last time I saw him was a month or so earlier, when I visited his colleague’s office for a story about the cracked retaining wall at the Hills of Rivermist. In the newsroom, I was walking by Josh’s desk and saw De León’s picture on the computer. “What’s up with Fernando?” I asked. Josh told me about the tip.

I think my exact words at that point were: “Holy shit.”

I offered to help find out what was going on and called Development Services. A receptionist answered. I asked for De León. He was unavailable. I asked for his boss, Roderick Sanchez. He was unavailable, too. I said I heard there were guys in suits over there and asked what they were doing. She blurted “Oh, my God,” and said she couldn’t talk about it.

I got my stuff and started running out to my car to head to Development Services. Josh caught up with me and said it was too late — the FBI had been there earlier that day and had left. So now we had some catching up to do to find out what had happened. It was about 5 p.m., and we had a few hours to go before deadline.

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