Wednesday, October 29, 2008

How many lawyers does it take to do an ethics training? Three--Leslie Devaney, Priscilla Dugard and Christina Cameron

In the case below, three lawyers from Stutz, Artiano Shinoff & Holtz were apparently needed to give a two-hour ethics training to Murrieta officials.

But Stutz partner Daniel Shinoff has found easier methods of training public employees.

MURRIETA: Ethics training opens eyes
Attorneys from the San Diego firm Stutz, Artiano, Shinoff and Holtz held an ethics training
October 28, 2008

...Attorneys from the San Diego firm Stutz, Artiano, Shinoff and Holtz held an ethics training session for elected and appointed city officials dealing in public business. Members of the City Council and six commissions reviewed issues of transparency in government, reporting personal financial interests, handling public contracts and the misuse of public funds...

"The public's expectations of you are even higher than the law," Devaney told those in attendance. "And avoiding conflicts of interest is your responsibility."

[Blogger's note: This is actually not true. The public would be delighted if officials would simply obey the law. Devaney's problem is that she and her firm have spent so many years helping public entities get away with violating the law, that she has a distorted view of what the law is. The same is true for conflicts of interest, which Ms. Devaney apparently defines as anything that conflicts with her own interests.]

With regard to public meetings, Devaney said new restrictions on serial meetings limit how much discussion of public business can be done outside of a public meeting. If one commissioner e-mails another ... with the intent of getting a consensus, those commissioners will have violated a law that prevents city business from being conducted without the public's knowledge.

[Leslie Devaney's law firm orchestrated the PALMGATE scandal at MiraCosta College.]

..."It would look wrong," said attorney Christina Cameron, regarding financial favors for public officials. "If the public read about it in the paper, they would be sure that (you were) getting a better deal."

Regarding campaign contributions, current officials and even City Council candidates were warned of accepting contributions that might later be suspected of a quid pro quo exchange.

"During the campaign season, promises are going to be problematic, (even) when there is no smoking gun," said attorney Priscilla Dugard.

Murrieta officials have not always been on the right side of conflict of interest allegations. A former city councilman who had also been mayor pleaded guilty in 2007 to criminal counts of submitting a false document and conflict of interest. Jack van Haaster, who was ousted from the City Council in a 2005 recall election, admitted to failing to declare his financial interest in a road paving project when he voted on it.

Councilman Warnie Enochs was admonished by fellow council members in 2006 for helping his son on a contracting job on which Enochs had voted in favor. While Enochs said he did not benefit financially, his colleagues said his action was inappropriate for a public official...

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Psychology of elected officials: the Diva

Some say Sarah Palin is going rogue:

Oct. 25, 2008

"...A second McCain source tells CNN [Palin] appears to be looking out for herself more than the McCain campaign.

"She is a diva. She takes no advice from anyone," said this McCain adviser. "She does not have any relationships of trust with any of us, her family or anyone else.
"Also, she is playing for her own future and sees herself as the next leader of the party. Remember: Divas trust only unto themselves as they see themselves as the beginning and end of all wisdom."

"A Palin associate defended her by saying she is "not good at process questions" and that her comments on Michigan and the robocalls were answers to process questions..."

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

SEDC's Regina Petty has written the best denial of a Public Records Act request I've ever seen

Regina Petty, attorney for the Southeast Economic Development Corporation, has written a heated, angry letter. I much prefer it to the cold, disinterested letters of refusal I have received from attorneys Daniel Shinoff and Diane Crosier when I was trying to get the invoices for Daniel Shinoff's bills to San Diego County Office of Education. (Yes, at one time Diane Crosier put Shinoff in charge of denying my requests for Shinoff's records!)

Here is Regina Petty's letter:

I Am Sorry, for You
Voice of San Diego
By Regina Petty
San Diego

Oct. 20, 2008

I am sorry when I must inform a person requesting records that the Public Records Act expressly exempts from disclosure privileged information.

[Blogger's note: You mean you wish you didn't have to come up with a bunch of bogus excuses when someone makes a legitimate public records request.]

I am sorry that was dissatisfied in July 2007 when it promptly received a summary of the amounts the Southeastern Economic Development paid to my firm for legal services in response to a Public Records Act request.

[Come on. You knew they'd be dissatisfied. You intentionally left out the information they wanted.]

I am sorry that I responded by agreeing to perform the task of redacting privileged and confidential information from multiple years of statements for legal services even though there is no legal authority requiring that I do so for this type of document.

[Right. You could have just copied the documents without redacting them.]

I am sorry that in 2007 no one from ever came to review the redacted statements for legal services which took some time to prepare.

[You say (below) that you couldn't find the documents recently. When did they get lost? Was there ever anything for VOSD to look at? How severe what the redactation job you did on the documents?]

I am sorry that's attention to its own Public Records Act requests unexpectedly vacillates from indifference to exclusive focus.

[What?!? You mean you thought they were going to let you off the hook, and then they didn't? Yes, I guess that would be a disappointment.]

I am sorry that when recently renewed its request for the records the SEDC staff was unable to immediately locate the documents from 2007 so that the redaction task had to be performed again.

[Yes. That's too bad.]

I am sorry that there were extra demands placed on my time in September due to the replacement of more than half of the board members of the SEDC.

[If you had given better legal advice, there wouldn't have been so many board members losing their positions.]

I am sorry that there were extra demands placed on my time in September because of the additional board and committee meetings that were held by the SEDC.

[See previous]

I am sorry my highest priority in September was attending to the needs of a Board of Directors managing a major organizational transition.

[Transition? You mean the people to whom you gave legal advice got caught carrying on questionable relationships with developers, and were forced out?]

I am sorry that my daughter's desire that I accompany her as she relocated to France was inconvenient for

[I'm sure VOSD would have been perfectly happy if your secretary had simply copied all your invoices and turned them over while you were gone. But that would have been inconvenient for you, right?]

I am sorry that I shortchanged my daughter by delaying the trip to be present for the SEDC Board of Directors meeting on Sept. 24 and limiting the trip to return in time for another agency's board meeting on Oct.2...I am sorry that my presence was required at publicly noticed meetings of the SEDC and other agencies on Oct. 2, 9, 10, 13 and 14 so that Will Carless was unable to determine my whereabouts.

[Sorry, Ms. Petty. There's no way you will be able to make Will Carless the bad guy here. Your presence was required because of a scandal you helped create.]

I am sorry that Will Carless called me at my home on Oct. 9 while I was attending a publicly noticed meeting at the SEDC.

[See above.]

I am sorry that Will Carless has repeatedly falsely claimed that responses to Public Records Act requests were late.

[I'm a whole lot more likely to believe Will Carless than to believe Carolyn Smith's lawyer. He has no motivation to lie; you do.]

I am sorry that Will Carless is a bully.

[This sounds like blaming the victim. You wanted to violate the California Public Records Act, so you call Will Carless a bully for demanding that you obey the law! You sound just like Daniel Shinoff.]

I am sorry that Will Carless did not notice that his abusive conduct caused me to stop taking or returning his telephone calls in early August.

[Or did you stop taking his calls because you wanted to hide your billing records?]

I am sorry that Will Carless cannot discern any real news to use for his blog in light of the global financial, political and social issues of the day.

[The SEDC fell apart due to the efforts of individuals to enrich themself by abusing the system. Isn't it newsworthy to find out how much its lawyer was being paid? The global financial crisis seems to be the result of the efforts of individuals to enrich themself by abusing the system. Credit Default Swaps were invented because individual investors wanted to get rich faster, and the problem was that these instuments hid the identity of the seller. Why didn't the SEC jump on this problem? Probably for the same reason that you, Regina Petty, didn't jump on the problems at SEDC. My guess is that individual lawyers at the SEC thought they could help out their greedy investor friends and get away with it. Individual public entity lawyers at both the SEC and the SEDC are an appropriate subject of investigative journalists.]

(End of Regina Petty's letter and of my responses.]

VOSD Editor's Note: Will Carless has doggedly, yet professionally, pursued open records and answers from an agency that has been extremely reluctant to provide either. While this can sometimes be a tense effort, we stand behind his work.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Many Chula Vistans--including some Republicans--aren't happy with Cheryl Cox

Voice of San Diego
A Disillusioned Former Cox Supporter
October 7, 2008

Yes, there is a political war in Chula Vista. Steve Castaneda may be running for re-election to the City Council this November, but his broader sights are set on the Mayor's Office. Mayor Cheryl Cox is on the other side, summoning as much charisma as she can muster to fight this thing out. She doesn't seem to be winning.

One reader, Susan Watry, has already responded to my requests for perspective on it.

"When we supported Cheryl Cox in 2006 we hoped that adults were finally going to be in charge at city hall. Unfortunately we got a rigid authoritarian who has to be in control of everything, who has no ability to compromise and who considers anyone who disagrees with her the e-n-e-m-y. She swooped in expecting to run the city like she ran the Chula Vista Elementary School District -- with a heavy hand and little public input.

"She immediately chose Councilman Jerry Rindone to form her legislative committee. She has even surprised her own council with things these two hatched up behind closed doors.

"She has been out to get Councilman Castaneda for two years. She has strong ties to the Lincoln Club who spent heavily in the June primary in an effort to defeat Castaneda. Just this week I was given a letter she and Greg Cox are sending out asking people to help elect Scott Vinson who is trying to unseat Castaneda. Don't look for harmony anytime soon."

...Comments on Voice of San Diego regarding above article:

Editor´s Choice
During her campaign, Cheryl Cox repeated over and over that she was the candidate that would restore trust between the citizens of Chula Vista and their mayor. I heard her over and over saying this. I agreed. I voted for her. Since her election, I have seen little of what I consider attempts to restore trust. On the contrary, the mayor has worked behind closed doors, corresponded by emails with devlopers out of sight of the public, and proposed new (phone) taxes, calling them tax reductions. None of these were presented in a manner that would make a citizen of Chula Vista feel they were included and wanted them to "trust" their city officials. I am disappointed. My trust has not been restored.

Posted by Sam Longanecker
October 7, 2008 10:44 pm

I agree with the other three completely. This is the Mission Statement of the Chula Vista City Council and Mayor Cox totally disregards it on every point. City Council Mission Statement The City of Chula Vista is committed to build and nurture a progressive and cohesive community which values our diversity, respects our citizens, honors our legacy, and embraces the opportunities of the future. It is horrible how big corporations with money to throw around are the only ones considered worthy of doing business in the city and get whatever they want. We need an elected City Attorney who will make sure the laws and policies of the city are interpreted equally and fairly to protect the existing residents and businesses from atrocities such as the MMC Energy proposed large heavy industrial peaker plant a mere 350 feet from homes and 1300 feet from a Headstart and school!

Posted by Theresa Acerro
October 8, 2008 8:34 am

Poor Cheryl. She won the mayors job just as the bottom fell out of real estate development and the city's tax base, which is founded on unlimited sprawl development, is going to hell. And all she does is play dirty George Bush type republican politics, instead of rethinking the city's revenue sources and coming up with a more balanced approach to maintaining a sustainable city. Chula Vista deserves better leadership than she can provide.

Posted by Watcher
October 8, 2008 11:09 am

Cheryl Cox has spent too much time trying to appease her friends and not enough time trying to understand the city she lives in. She laments that she can't get a 8 dollar beer in CV. She will show you all the postcards of the Gaylord facilities in other cities, yet she probably couldn't tell you she stepped foot outside the facilities, which is excactly the problem for the businesses on Third Avenue. If this council election is a referendum is on Cox, then we can expect to see Steve and Pamela. I bet the Supervisor is disappointed that the Cox name he helped build in the South Bay has been sullied by such a divisive and ineffective leader like Cheryl.

Posted by Third Avenue Al
October 8, 2008 11:35 pm

I’m a life-long Republican and I must say that I’m embarrassed to be in the same Party as Cox. While I did vote for her, I will never do so again. She bungled the Gaylord mess, the City Manager, and bungles almost everything that she touches. We would be much better off if she just stayed home and let the city mail her salary.

Posted by Dean
October 9, 2008 6:58 am

This Blogger's comment:
My guess is that Greg Cox taught his wife everything she knows about politics, and also introduced her to David Malcolm, Bonnie Dumanis, Patrick O'Toole and others whose efforts on her behalf ended up exposing the ethics-free environment in which Coxes operate. Greg has simply been luckier than Cheryl, not better.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Cheryl Cox didn't even bother to pretend to oppose political prosecutions

Peter O'Toole and Bonnie Dumanis seemed to have opened the Public Integrity Unit for the sole benefit of Cheryl Cox, going after Cox's opponents for the flimsiest of reasons. Money spend on defending public employees has never bothered Cheryl Cox. She spent huge amounts at Chula Vista Elementary School District.

Of course, at CVESD Cheryl was in charge of deciding who would be attacked, too. She was sort of a two-for-one deal: Bonnie Dumanis and Cheryl Cox wrapped up in one package. Castle Park Elementary still hasn't recovered from Cox's illegal actions and her expensive payments to lawyer to help her get away with it.

San Diego Union Tribune
City won't ask DA to reimburse legal bills
By Tanya Sierra
October 8, 2008

CHULA VISTA – Chula Vista officials won't ask the district attorney to reimburse the city $609,000 for legal bills one councilman said are from a “fishing expedition” that caught nothing.

The motion to ask for reimbursement failed on a 2-2 vote, after a heated discussion at last night's City Council meeting. Councilman John McCann was absent. Mayor Cheryl Cox and Councilman Jerry Rindone voted against requesting a refund, and Councilmen Rudy Ramirez and Steve Castaneda voted for it.

Reached Monday, McCann – who did not indicate he would be absent – said he did not know how he was going to vote, and he was still waiting for legal advice.

In the last two years, Chula Vista has spent more than $600,000 defending council members questioned or prosecuted by the district attorney's Public Integrity Unit.

Ramirez made the initial request last month. Over the course of several meetings, some residents criticized the city for agreeing to pay $194,000 for Castaneda's legal bills, which he incurred for his defense during a perjury trial in April. Castaneda was found not guilty on six counts and a mistrial was declared on four others...

Last month, Ramirez asked for the council's support in requesting reimbursement for legal bills. He said District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis has unfairly persecuted Chula Vista with investigations that have led nowhere.

In an interview Ramirez said: “When I go fishing, I pay for the fishing expedition.”...

Friday, October 03, 2008

Chula Vista Peaker Power Plant Protest October 2, 2008

The young man in the middle drew the colorful posters his family is holding.

The Russell Coronado family

Meanwhile, inside the council chambers, the hearing was taking place. The crowd outside could be heard now and then.

Protest planner Hugo Ivan Salazar at the hearing.

After dark, a crowd waited outside while the CEC (California Energy Commission)hearing went on.

Diana Vera spoke to the crowd.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Why do businesses give shoo-in Greg Cox such big campaign contributions?

The San Diego Reader's Susan Luzzaro has some questions, and some possible answers, about San Diego County Supervisor Greg Cox's campaign donors.San Diego Reader
Big War Chest, No War
By Susan Luzzaro
May 21, 2008

"...Greg Cox has been a San Diego County supervisor since 1995, and he will be a candidate again on the June 3 ballot. He represents District 1, the southern part of the county, which includes Chula Vista, where his wife is mayor, and Otay Mesa. Cox’s opponent, Howard Johnson, says his campaign has only $20,000.

"The total amount Cox has collected for his war chest, $280,000, is remarkable because it is so unnecessary. Why are people donating sizable amounts to a shoo-in? A look at Cox’s campaign donations between July 2007 and March 2008 is equally remarkable for what they reveal about what’s going on in his district.

"...In the second half of 2007, employees of San Diego Gas & Electric and its parent company, Sempra Energy, gave Greg Cox $6150. SDG&E has been pushing hard to get the Sunrise Powerlink project approved. Supervisor Cox and Mayor Cox have given strong public support to the controversial project.

"Worth mentioning is that the Coxes have investments in three companies located on Otay Mesa: Medtronic Inc., Copart Inc., and Ethos Environmental. Disgraced former port commissioner David Malcolm is a major stockholder in Ethos Environmental.

"Do campaign contributions affect the future? Ask the Coxes. A February 1995 Union-Tribune article reported, “In the six weeks before Greg Cox was appointed to the Board of Supervisors, he and his wife made campaign contributions to three of the four county supervisors who would select him to the coveted position.” Dianne Jacob, the one supervisor who did not receive contributions, said she would not have “accepted money under circumstances like that.… It carries the wrong message.”