Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Mike Aguirre continues to win against firms involved in pension mess

Voice of San Diego
July 29, 2008

San Diego City Attorney Michael Aguirre has settled another of his lawsuits against firms retained by the city before and during the pension meltdown.

Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, the city's former bond counsel, has agreed to pay $2.88 million to settle a case filed by Aguirre in 2005, which alleged that the San Francisco-based firm failed the city by not discovering problems with the pension fund sooner.

The city will net $1.88 million from the settlement after paying expenses and a contingency fee to outside lawyers Bryan Vess and Dan Stanford, who assisted in the case, Aguirre said...

To date, Aguirre said he has recovered a net of more than $9 million from outside lawyers, accountants and consultants somehow involved in the pension crisis.

Monday, July 28, 2008

SEDC board member Chip Owen bilked taxpayers

Owen got $500,000 before joining board
By Jeff McDonald and Helen Gao
San Diego Union Tribune
July 22, 2008

"Three years before he joined the board of the Southeastern Economic Development Corp., Artie “Chip” Owen and a company he managed bought 4.4 acres that they instantly sold to the government agency for a $500,000 profit, records show.

"Caravan Properties LLC bought the property on Market Street near 54th Street in San Diego from Federated Industries Inc. of Chicago for $1.8 million on May 1, 2000.
The transaction was time-stamped 10:59 a.m., the same minute Caravan filed a quitclaim deed transferring ownership to the company and Owen. The subsequent sale from Caravan and Owen to SEDC for $2.3 million also was time-stamped 10:59 a.m.

The transaction was first reported by San Diego blogger and real estate broker Pat Flannery.

Records obtained by The San Diego Union-Tribune show SEDC entered into a purchase and sale agreement with Caravan Properties in April 2000 – before Caravan bought the land from Federated Industries.

Critics questioned the sale. Owen “knew the land and bought it,” said Kathleen MacLeod, who volunteers for a number of community groups. “Why didn't SEDC buy it for $500,000 less?”

Owen... was appointed to the board in February 2003 by then-Mayor Dick Murphy. He currently is the chairman.

The Market Street deal was not his first with the SEDC...

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Dealings of former president Nancy Graham of CCDC to be examined

See all posts re Nancy Graham.

CCDC Chairman Fred Maas wants to conduct an investigation into the business connections of former CCDC president Nancy Graham (left), who resigned on July 24, 2008.

ROB DAVIS of Voice of San Diego wrote on July 25, 2008:

"Fred Maas, the chairman of the Centre City Development Corp.'s board of directors, said today he will seek a "fact-finding mission" to examine the circumstances surrounding former CCDC President Nancy Graham's involvement in the development project at 7th Avenue and Market Street downtown...

"Graham, who resigned Thursday, had previously been a business partner with a sister company of the 7th and Market developer, Related of California. The company, along with CityLink Investment Corp., is leading efforts to build the 41-story, $409-million downtown skyscraper. Under the current terms of the deal, which has not been finalized, the city of San Diego via CCDC will give the developers an $8.7 million subsidy to construct affordable housing in the building...

"Graham's resignation comes eight months after signing a three-year contract with CCDC. She does not get a severance and walks away from more than $496,000 in salary, as the contract set her annual pay at $248,000."

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Carolyn Smith of SEDC out

Voice of San Diego
July 24, 2008

...Carolyn Y. Smith, the embattled president of the Southeastern Economic Development Corp., was forced out of the office she has held for more than 14 years by a unanimous decision of her board Wednesday night.

In a nearly six-hour board meeting that drew dozens of community members and many supporters of Smith, the SEDC trustees ultimately decided to grant Smith a severance package of $100,350 and to bring an end to a tenure that, while supported by some in the community, has been marred by scandal of late.

Smith has been at the center of a maelstrom of publicity since a voiceofsandiego.org story two weeks ago revealed a system of hidden bonuses and extra compensation under which she has paid herself and her staff more than $1 million over the last five years...

Chip Owen and welfare for the rich

Voice of San Diego
July 24, 2008

Months after Artie M. "Chip" Owen, now the chairman of the Southeastern Economic Development Corp., earned $500,000 by flipping a piece of property to the agency, he signed over $400,000 of that money to another developer doing business with the agency.

Owen, who joined SEDC's board three years after the land transaction, was listed in public documents and discussion as the sole businessman involved in the land sale and as the manager of the corporation that exacted it, Caravan Properties LLC.

However, shortly after the deal finalized, the lion's share of the earnings shifted to Santa Monica-based Pacific Development Partners LLC, according to documents on file with the County Registrar's Office and SEDC...

Friday, July 11, 2008

San Diego demonstrates how to win an award for excellence in accounting

David Washburn of Voice of San Diego find that Enron by the Sea made the New York Times again, in an article about "skim funds."

"New Jersey and San Diego had versions of skim funds, and won "excellence in accounting" awards from the Government Finance Officers Association for many years while operating them. Each ended up with far less money in its pension fund than its books showed. The Securities and Exchange Commission found that San Diego had committed securities fraud by overstating the soundness of its pension fund; it is still investigating New Jersey."

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

SD City unions prefer secret pension deals; Mike Aguirre opposes them

San Diego City Attorney Mike Aguirre

Metropolitan Employees Association duo Ann Smith-Judie Italiano continue their odd alliances with Republican judges. The alliance began with the billion-dollar pension deal supported by the MEA bosses and former San Diego mayor Dick Murphy. And it continues with Judie/Ann's newly-forged alliance with Jan Goldsmith.

The bizarre alliance is apparently built on the expectation that San Diegans will continue to sacrifice their own well-being and that of their city, and will go back to using the City Attorney's office to cover-up wrongdoing in city government, in order to keep Judie/Ann in power.

And it involves a major flip-flop on the party of candidate Goldsmith. Scott Lewis explains:

The Union Pawns
By Scott Lewis
July 9, 2008

Voice of San Diego

It was rather amusing to see Judge Jan Goldsmith tout his endorsement from the San Diego Municipal Employees Association...

The best radio ad of the campaign season was Mr. Goldsmith's very own takedown of his rivals. Remember, he used a circus theme to paint City Hall as a mess...

[Quote from Jan Goldsmith's radio ad:]
In ring two, see Scott "the wonder pony" Peters jump through hoops, straddle fences and juggle important city issues all to please his labor union handlers.

Now that Goldsmith is the preferred choice of the firefighters union, the police union, and the white-collar City Hall workers, is it no longer so bad to be associated with unions?

Thursday, July 03, 2008

How come people cheat and at the same time claim the moral high ground?

Newsweek's Sharon Begley explains:
"...In a new study that will not exactly restore your faith in human nature, psychologists David DeSteno and Piercarlo Valdesolo of Northeastern University instructed 94 people to assign themselves and a stranger one of two tasks: an easy one, looking for hidden images in a photo, or a hard one, solving math and logic problems...Then everyone was asked, how fairly did you act?, from "extremely unfairly" (1) to "extremely fairly" (7). Next they watched someone else make the assignments, and judged that person's ethics. Selflessness was a virtual no-show: 87 out of 94 people opted for the easy task and gave the next guy the onerous one. Hypocrisy, however, showed up with bells on: every single person who made the selfish choice judged his own behavior more leniently—on average, 4.5 vs. 3.1—than that of someone else who grabbed the easy task for himself...

"...DeSteno said, it may be because "we have this automatic, gut-level instinct to preserve our self-image. In our heart, maybe we're just not as sensitive to our own transgressions." Adds Dan Batson of the University of Kansas, a pioneer in hypocrisy studies, "people have learned that it pays to seem moral, since it lets you avoid censure and guilt. But even better is appearing moral without having to pay the cost of actually being moral"—such as assigning yourself the tough job....

""Since it's a cognitive process, we have volitional control over it," argues DeSteno. That matters because of another nasty aspect of hypocrisy: we apply the same moral relativism when judging the actions of people like ourselves. When "people like us" torture, it's justified; when people unlike us do, it's an atrocity..."