Top 10 Southwest Florida stories of 2016

Ryan Mills,; 239-263-47846:20 p.m. EST December 29, 2016

8. Saad tied to River Park property owner

Naples City Councilman Sam Saad III stands in front of the building he purchased for his firm, which focuses on the protection of business and real estate interests of clients, on Oct. 31, 2014, in Naples, Fla. He plans to be operating from the 8,700-square-foot-building on 2670 Airport-Pulling Road South on Dec. 15. (Dania Maxwell/Staff) (Photo: Dania Maxwell, Dania Maxwell)

A private New York investment group has quietly spent $8.2 million purchasing a dozen properties in River Park, the last affordable area in Naples, a Daily News investigation found in July.

The revelation left some residents of the mostly black River Park community fearing they could be pushed out for more-profitable development.

Further reporting found Naples City Councilman Sam Saad’s law firm did legal work for the investment group, Axonic Capital, handling eviction cases before and after Saad cast a deciding vote favoring one of their projects. The investigation also revealed that Saad, as the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency chair, pushed in 2013 to accelerate tax-funded improvements to the River Park area just as his longtime business partner began buying River Park properties as Axonic’s broker and property manager.

Saad denied any conflict of interest, and later directed a Daily News reporter to stop contacting him about the matter.