Monday, August 30, 2010

MTS exec tops transportation pay list

As far as I know, all the officials discussed below earned their pay. But I wonder what's so special about transportation? Maybe transportation decision-making requires more objectivity than other fields.

MTS exec tops transportation pay list
By Jeff McDonald
August 29, 2010

The man in charge of making San Diego’s buses and trolleys run on time tops the list of transportation executives whose salary and benefits were examined as part of The Watchdog’s ongoing public compensation survey.

Paul Jablonski, who signed a five-and-a-half-year contract in 2008 and is promised annual 5 percent raises, will receive a $414,000 compensation package this calendar year, records show.

The pay package starts with a $279,300 base salary, but includes a series of retirement and other benefits that push him past the city manager of San Marcos, Paul Malone, who topped The Watchdog’s list for municipal administrator compensation at just over $408,000 a year.

The Metropolitan Transit System operates the San Diego Trolley and the city bus system. It also contracts to provide freight-train service in San Diego and Imperial counties.

Jablonski oversees a 2,300-member workforce and a budget of nearly $220 million. In addition to his salary and benefits, he gets 41 paid days off a year, which is among the lowest in the latest survey...

Saturday, August 28, 2010

What does Lorie Zapf do for a living?

Aug 27, 2010
What does Lorie Zapf do for a living?
City Council candidate’s small business was dissolved months ago
San Diego City Beat
By Dave Maass

Back in March, each candidate for San Diego City Council filed with the City Clerk a Form 700, or “Statement of Economic Interests.” Among other disclosures intended to reduce conflicts of interest, the candidate is required to list all sources of income.

District 6 candidate Lorie Zapf listed only one business interest: “Zapf & Associates, Inc.,” a corporation engaged in “consulting, creative, sales” activities. She listed herself as the president and CEO.

CityBeat has learned that Zapf & Associates Inc. has gone out of business.

According to records on file at the California Secretary of State’s office, the corporation was dissolved on April 6, 2010, which means it no longer exists. The corporation had been registered to Zapf’s home address in Clairemont—the same address against which a bank filed a “notice of default” in March that said she and her husband, Eric, were behind on their mortgage payments by several months.

Zapf, a Republican, and her Democratic opponent, Howard Wayne, emerged from the June primary election with the most votes and will face-off in the November election.

On the campaign trail—and on the ballot—Zapf describes herself as a legal advocate and a small-business owner. However, it is unclear what happened to her small business and what, exactly, she now does for a living.

Zapf has also publically described herself as the regional director for Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse, a non-profit organization that advocates for tort reform. This position was not disclosed on her Form 700 (as is usually required) and instead Zapf listed CALA as one of her company’s sources of income.

Records with the San Diego Treasurer’s office indicate that in 2008 the couple applied for a Business Tax Certificate, the required document one needs to run a business in San Diego, for Eric Zapf & Associates, Inc.. However, the real estate business (also listed to the Zapfs’ home address) has not yet received the certificate. The treasurer’s office tells CityBeat it has requested more information, though declined to say what information was requested and when the request was made.

Meanwhile, the Zapfs seem to be operating at least one other business under a fictitious name. Eric Zapf claims to be the founder of Wet Kiss Creative, which distributes items such as Slapitz—a “slap on” bracelet-style device that is used to display stuffed animals. He also seems to be marketing a magnetic wall mount under the name Air-Pin.

Companies operating under fictitious names are required to register with San Diego County. Wet Kiss Creative is not listed in the county’s database.

Both Eric and Lorie Zapf are featured on the web site for Eric Zapf Homes & Estates, which provides “full brokerage services.” The website says it is currently being upgraded.

The Zapf campaign refused to respond to inquiries regarding anything related to these issues. Instead, campaign spokesman Matt Donnellan wrote via e-mail:

“You and CityBeat have adopted the role of advocates and agents of former Assemblyman Wayne's City Council campaign. It is absurd to think that we would respond to this thinly veiled inquiry by our opponent.”

Donnellan is referring to investigative reporting published in CityBeat that revealed that the Zapfs had defaulted on a mortgage on their home in Clairemont and that Eric Zapf had defaulted on a second home in Nevada and was delinquent three times on his taxes. Our reporting also uncovered that Zapf had falsely described herself on official forms as holding a master’s degree in business. On top of that, we also published anti-gay e-mails sent by Lorie Zapf and dug into the numerous lawsuits she and her husband have filed even while advocating against frivolous lawsuits.

While Wayne has used some of the reporting to attack his opponent, for the record, none of the information originated with the Wayne camp. The campaign did lend CityBeat a DVD recording of a public forum that featured Wayne and Zapf; it did not result in a story.

The newspaper did not endorse Wayne in the primary—it endorsed Steve Hadley—and has not yet endorsed a candidate for the general election.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Ethics Commission Fines Graham $32,000

See all posts re Nancy Graham.

Ethics Commission Fines Graham $32,000
Former CCDC President Nancy Graham at an Ethics Commission hearing in May
By Rob Davis
Voice of San Diego
August 12, 2010

Nancy Graham, the former Centre City Development Corp. president, was fined $32,000 Thursday by the San Diego Ethics Commission, ending a two-year saga that derailed nearly $2 billion in downtown projects, drew FBI attention and almost took down the city's downtown redevelopment agency.

Graham, who didn't attend the hearing, was penalized for failing to report some $3.5 million she received from a private business deal done in Florida before moving here in 2005. The commission found that she violated city ethics laws 18 times.

Her partners in that deal, which included the Lennar Corp., paid Graham while she was CCDC's president. But she never reported that income on her annual conflict-of-interest disclosures. Without any stated conflict, she went on to negotiate the terms of a downtown hotel proposed on land Lennar owned near Petco Park.

The issue went unnoticed until I asked her about it in spring 2008.

She told me that the private deal was long in her past, that she hadn't had any interest in the private deal for years. She said she'd sold her interests in N-K Ventures, the business she owned with her former husband.

"I have no interest in N-K or anything they do," Graham told me in 2008. "It is a bullshit argument by either sour grapes losers or other people."

That claim proved false.

In fact, it was Graham's own testimony -- this time under oath, not to me -- that unraveled her changing story. We found a sworn deposition she'd given in 2007. In it, Graham acknowledged receiving $125,000 from the Lennar deal while she was CCDC's president.

At the same time she was negotiating a deal with Lennar, the company was paying her profits from the old business deal.

That drew the Ethics Commission's attention, prompting an investigation that started in the summer of 2008 and ended Thursday night.

A three-member panel of commissioners had proposed fining Graham $25,000. But two other commissioners, John O'Neill and Bud Wetzler, argued for more. O'Neill pointed to Graham's public statements and called them disingenuous. He recalled a statement she made during a day-long ethics hearing in May when she claimed she didn't know that building a hotel near Petco Park would be profitable to its developers.

O'Neill held up a blue post-it note he'd written in his notes about that claim. It simply said: "Absurd."

"The record does show an attempt to deceive," O'Neill said.

Wetzler said Graham's actions, coming at the top levels of the organization, were "one of the most serious of all violations we could have."

"I'm convinced," he said, "that someplace along the line she shifted from accidental to intent."

A $36,000 fine was entertained and rejected; the five commissioners had to unanimously agree, and two did not.

So they deliberated quietly and settled on $32,000 -- less than the maximum $90,000 that could've been levied but more than originally proposed. The fine was unanimously approved.

Graham was fined $4,000 each on two violations: Preparing a staff report on the hotel project and discussing it at a CCDC board meeting. She was fined $1,500 apiece for 16 other violations, including sending e-mails and participating in negotiations about the project.

It's the second-largest fine in the Ethics Commission's nine-year history

The Question on Nancy Graham: Why Was She Hired in the First Place?
By Don Bauder
July 26, 2008

Nancy Graham, who recently resigned as head of Centre City Development
Corp., has left the state, supposedly to be with her ill mother. The
city attorney's office has been investigating her for a month, and now
CCDC will hold its own investigation, supposedly by an outside lawyer.
Questions abound on whether she was at all influential in a developer
named the Related Group getting the nod on a planned CCDC project at
Seventh and Market.

Before CCDC hired her, it should have asked
questions. On Nov. 23 of 2005, I reported in a Reader column that
Graham's successor as mayor of West Palm Beach, Florida, had charged
that she was too cozy with Related Group. She didn't arrive in San
Diego until the following month.

While she was mayor, her signature project was done by Related.
Then she went into the private sector
with her husband (from whom she is now divorced), and did a project
with Related. I have subsequently learned that her ex-husband is still
owed money by Related.

On April 23 of this year, I wrote a column on
the Seventh and Market project; Karen-Huff-Willis, head of the Black
Historical Society of San Diego, and activist Ian Trowbridge,
questioned whether she had been involved in Related negotiations.

Graham told me she had been in some meetings in which an agreement had
not been reached reached, but she did not negotiate the deal. The CCDC
backed up her claim. Huff-Willis this week threatened to sue CCDC. She
says that under Section 1090 of state law, public officials must be
guided by the public interest, not personal interest...