Saturday, August 30, 2008

SEDC refuses public records requests

SEDC Won't Produce Documents
August 29, 2008
Voice of San Diego
by Will Carless

The Southeastern Economic Development Corp. has, for almost two months, refused to provide documents and information that would shed light on when and how its various clandestine bonus programs were introduced.

SEDC President Carolyn Y. Smith has consistently claimed that the bonus programs pre-date her arrival at SEDC, and that she was merely following agency protocol when she approved hundreds of thousands of dollars in bonuses for herself and her staff.

But the agency has repeatedly declined to provide any documentation that would prove such claims. And a story in The San Diego Union-Tribune earlier this month quoted Smith’s three predecessors at the agency as saying that they do not remember any such bonus programs being in place during their tenure...

Is the CCDC a charitable organization for San Diego developers?

By Ian Trowbridge, Mission Hills
Voice of San Diego
August 29, 2008

On Tuesday, the mayor will ask the City Council to confirm his reappointments of three CCDC Board members, Fred Maas, Kim Kilkenny and Robert McNeely whose terms have expired even as several investigations of CCDC are underway and it is important to know whether any of these board members are implicated in the growing scandal at CCDC. With the collusion of Council President Scott Peters, these reappointments have been placed on the consent calendar.

..Maas is a Republican political operative turned developer and a confidante of Nancy Graham -- meeting with her according to her calendar for the whole of Wednesday mornings for weeks.

As befits a political operative, he currently has the role of distancing the CCDC Board from Graham even though they appointed her, gave her a $65,000 bonus for unknown services, and allowed her to run CCDC as if it were a charitable organization for downtown developers.

Maas refuses to release documents detailing the goals set for Graham and how she achieved them to warrant the $65,000 bonus even though the board violated the Ralph M. Brown Act (Government Code Section 54957) in conducting and voting on her compensation in closed session. Kilkenny is an executive of a major developer of Otay Ranch who seems to have little concept that he is supposed to protect the public interest. McNeely was on the selection committee that chose Nancy Graham...

CCDC Attorney Resigns

CCDC Attorney Resigns
Voice of San Diego
By Rob Davis
Aug. 29, 2008

Helen Holmes Peak, the corporate counsel for the Centre City Development Corp., has resigned, citing concerns about a potential conflict of interest.

Peak, who is a partner with Lounsbery Ferguson Altona & Peak LLP, an Escondido law firm, participated in discussions about the proposed Ballpark Village from 2005 to 2007, while one of her partners represented Lennar Corp., one of the project's developers.

She did not disclose the relationship on her statements of economic interest until 2007. Even when she did report it, she did not recuse herself from meetings and discussions about Ballpark Village, a massive mixed-use project proposed by JMI Realty and Lennar.

Peak disclosed receiving more than $10,000 from Lennar in 2007, according to her annual conflict-of-interest disclosure forms. But she didn't subsequently recuse herself from discussions about Ballpark Village, saying that she didn't know Lennar was involved.

Lennar is essentially a silent partner in the project; it is part owner of the underlying land but is not listed documentation submitted about the project...

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Courts shouldn't have to depend on the memories and truthfulness of board members--Brown Act requires closed sessions be recorded

It appears to me that many, if not most, unlawful strategies are decided by public entities during closed sessions in board meetings.

Good for Briggs and Trowbridge, who are working to bring those discussions to light.

Lawyer to SEDC: Record Meeting

Cory Briggs, a local attorney who filed a lawsuit last week against the Southeastern Economic Development Corp., has written a letter to the agency's corporate counsel, Regina Petty, asking her to ensure that the closed session of SEDC's board meeting tomorrow is recorded.

Briggs' letter says his client, activist Ian Trowbridge, wants the meeting recorded because the closed session discussion could become evidence in his lawsuit against the agency. That lawsuit alleges that SEDC's board violated state open meetings law, known as the Brown Act, when it voted in closed session last month to pay outgoing SEDC President Carolyn Y. Smith a $100,350 severance payment.

The Brown Act forbids the board from discussing a termination payment in private... the open session discussion is preceded by a closed session item that's listed on the meeting agenda as "Public Employee PerformanceEvaluation/ Discipline/ Dismissal/ Release."

Briggs' letter reads:

"The need for a neutral, objective record of tomorrow’s closed-session discussions should be obvious at this point. The discussions are likely to be evidence in the above-referenced matter and may become evidence in other proceedings. The best protection for my client, your client, and especially the public is for there to be a clear record of what is discussed -- one that doesn’t rely on the memories or truthfulness of persons accused of breaking the law -- in the event that the discussions become relevant at a later date...

"[N]ot preserving a contemporaneous record of the discussions could constitute the spoliation of evidence and subject your client (and possibly even you) to sanctions."...

August 26, 2008

Monday, August 25, 2008

Shocking! Nancy Graham lied to the press!

Voice of San Diego reports: "When she resigned July 24, [CCDC'S Nancy]Graham said she was in Tennessee, caring for her elderly mother..."

The Palm Beach Post reports:

"Her 83-year-old mom, Virginia Roskan, has Parkinson's. But when Page Two called Roskan's home Thursday, Graham's sister said she had no idea where Graham was.

"'She's not here right now, and I have no idea where Nancy is,' Kay Smith said from Lebanon, Tenn. 'She's been traveling a lot. I haven't seen her in a while...'"

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Half the SEDC board supports Artie

These people won't quit! It seems they have no shame. It appears that Charles Simpson, Sharon Whitehurst-Payne, Randy Jones and Kea Hagan really believe that it's okay to use tax dollars for insiders, and leave the public good out of the equation. Even after large secret bonuses and the chairman's profits from a deal with SEDC have been exposed, they want to continue business as usual.

SEDC keeps Owen as chairman

By Helen Gao
August 13, 2008

"Southeastern Economic Development Corp. Chairman Artie “Chip” Owen survived an attempt on his leadership position Wednesday night, as a board vote to oust him failed.

"The board voted 5-4 to keep Owen in place. His land deals and connections to a developer with SEDC business have come under fire.

“I feel we need to be a little more proactive than we have been,” said board member Richard Geisler, who made a motion to remove Owen.
The quasi-independent nonprofit city agency guides redevelopment on 7.2 square miles east of downtown, and has been under fire for budget and pay anomalies. The board fired president Carolyn Smith last month, with 90 days' notice.

"Geisler was supported by board members Cruz Gonzalez, Karen L. Howard and Derryl Williams. They were outnumbered by votes from Owen, Charles Simpson, Sharon Whitehurst-Payne, Randy Jones and Kea Hagan..."

After the above vote, mayor Jerry Sanders appointed new members to fill the seats of all but one of the board members who voted to keep Owen (including Owen himself). Unfortunately, Sharon Whitehurst-Payne remains on the SEDC board.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Who is Chula Vista's city attorney?

Who exactly is the city attorney that Cheryl Cox wants the City Manager to coordinate with? It's not Ann Y. Moore, even though Moore is still listed on the city's website.

The National Law Journal
wrote on June 2, 2008:

"Chula Vista City Attorney Ann Y. Moore is retiring on Thursday and will join San Diego's Norton Moore as a senior partner, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported. Moore began as an assistant city attorney in 1995 and was appointed city attorney in 2003. The move comes before a ballot initiative that would make the city attorney elected, rather than appointed, if passed. The city council hasn't named a replacement for Moore, the Union-Tribune reported."

What's going on, Mayor Cox? Who prepared that letter for Mr. Garcia? Why the secrecy?

Chula Vista Mayor Cheryl Cox had problems in her earlier job

Recently two employees reported that Chula Vista City Manager David Garcia was looking at inappropriate images on his laptop, and Mayor Cheryl Cox hired an investigator to look into the report. On May 28 she wrote a memo saying the City Council disapproved of Garcia's Internet conduct.

This is a far cry from Cox's behavior as a board member of Chula Vista Elementary School District.

In 2001, two employees at CVESD reported that they feared that a fellow teacher would kill them. This sounds a little more serious that downloading images on a laptop, doesn't it?

Cheryl Cox and her fellow board members never investigated.

Why not? Partly because she knew the report was false. But more importantly, she knew that the two teachers from Castle Park Elementary made the report to coverup criminal wrongdoing by the teachers.

Cheryl also wanted to coverup that wrongdoing. Castle Park Elementary has been a mess ever since, going through 11 principals in 11 years.

It looks like Cheryl wants to make a mess out of Chula Vista, too. Can we look forward to 11 city managers in 11 years, Cheryl?

Sunday, August 10, 2008

FEMA and Sanders got together after the fires, now taxpayers pay inflated bills

Jeanne Fowler couldn't could not figure out why A.J. Diani Construction Co. removed so much cement from her property. Her property had a lot of concrete, she said, but her driveway and pathways were not destroyed. Now she knows: the contractors were paid by the pound.

Diani removed 305 tons of concrete, 372 tons of ash and trash, and 11 tons of metal from the remains of Fowler's home, according to invoices. The company charged $164,789; her insurance company agreed to pay $57,779.

Who pays the difference? Taxpayers.

Watsonville-based Granite Construction Company also participated in the clean-up.

Complaints over debris cleanup tab unanswered
By Dana Wilkie
August 10, 2008

"Mayor Jerry Sanders... was told in the spring that homeowners were outraged by the program's high costs...At the same time, Sanders' spokesman acknowledged, the mayor heard from homeowners who were getting “fairly elevated invoices.”

"Spokesman Fred Sainz said the mayor “immediately inquired” about the high bills, and though he wasn't wholly satisfied with the explanations from city staff members, Sanders “took their answers at face value.”

"Sanders has been unwilling to comment on the debris-removal program before or since The San Diego Union-Tribune reported Aug. 3 that city-hired contractors charged much more than private contractors to clear similar home sites and often hauled away far more debris than what private companies took from comparable lots.

"The city assured homeowners that they would be charged no more than their insurance allowed for demolition, which means most of the costs of the $9.4 million program will be borne by federal, state and local taxpayers..."