Wednesday, December 21, 2011

San Diego County User Guide to Online Campaign Finance Disclosure

San Diego County User Guide to Online Campaign Finance Disclosure
What is on this Site?

Campaign finance disclosure reports for all filers who have "local" filing requirements. This includes filings for county offices, county propositions, special districts, and school districts, located or campaigning within the County of San Diego.

Historical campaign disclosure reports going back four years.

What is not on this Site?

State filers. State filings are available on the Secretary of State’s website at

City campaign finance disclosure reports. Please contact your city clerk. Contact information for city clerks can be found at the following link:>

Candidates who do not raise or spend more than $1,000 are not required to provide detailed disclosure of contributions or expenditures. However, these candidates still have filing requirements. For information regarding those filing requirements, upcoming elections and filing due dates, please vi

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Fired administrators allowed to gather more evidenceTri-City Healthcare lawsuit

This story is interesting since Ray Artiano walked out of his own deposition when he sued me for defamation.

Attorneys allowed to gather more evidence in Tri-City wrongful termination suit
Nathan Scharn
Nov. 29, 2011

OCEANSIDE — A U.S. District Court judge issued an order Monday allowing attorneys to gather more evidence in wrongful termination suits between former Tri-City Healthcare District administrators and their former employer, including trustees of the public health care district.

Judge Thomas J. Whelan ruled that attorneys for the administrators would be able to take depositions from defendants involved in a meeting held at Coco’s Restaurant in Vista on Nov. 20, 2008 regarding the discussion at the restaurant. They were fired in 2009 in an overhaul by the elected board of Tri-City’s leadership.

Whelan concluded that the meeting, attended by an attorney and now Chairwoman Rosemarie Reno and trustees Kathleen Sterling, George Coulter and Charlene Anderson, violated the state open government law called the Brown Act.

The law requires public notice of discussions of public business by a majority of elected officials on a board. At the time, only Sterling, who has since been dropped from the case, and Reno were on the board. Coulter and Anderson had been elected, but had not yet assumed office, which constituted a future majority, Whelan said in the ruling.

“The Brown Act also prevents future majorities from gathering privately to make collective commitments affecting the future of the local agency without public input,” Whelan wrote.

The get-together at Coco’s is not related to another controversial dinner meeting, held at West Steak and Seafood in Carlsbad in May 2010 and attended by Reno, Sterling and Coulter, though that meeting has been a factor in several lawsuits, including criminal hearings.

Much of the Coco’s meeting has been kept secret under Magistrate Judge Bernard G. Skomal’s July 18, 2011 discovery order, which held that the discussion at the meeting fell under attorney client privilege. Whelan reversed that, saying the meeting violated the law “in furtherance of a present criminal act,” the ruling said, and was thus exempt from the privilege.

The depositions could provide significant facts in the wrongful termination suit between the former administrators and the health care district.

Trustees fired nine employees after placing them on paid administrative leave. Then-Chief Executive Arthur Gonzalez received a severance package in 2009 worth as much as $1 million. Seven others sought damages in excess of $100,000.

Earlier this year, former vice president of strategic services Allen Coleman received $385,000 and former vice president of performance improvement William “Terry” Howell received $390,000 in settlements, their attorney Ray Artiano and Tri-City officials have confirmed. The other five employees are still pursuing the lawsuit.

The other employees fired were Suellyn Ellerbe, chief operating officer and chief nurse executive; Robert Wardwell, chief financial officer; Doreen Sanderson, vice president of human resources; Daniel Groszkruger, director of information systems; and Ondrea Labella, director of patient business services.

Whelan denied part of the ex-administrators’ contention that Skomal had erred as a matter of law.

Public Tri-City Healthcare District serves residents in Carlsbad, Oceanside and Vista.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

'Dear Tri-City': OC supervisor's NC ghost writer responds to broadside

'Dear Tri-City': OC supervisor's NC ghost writer responds to broadside
Logan Jenkins
Oct. 25, 2011

A contender, if not the favorite, for my “Poison Pen Letter of the Year” award was received by Bill Campbell, chairman of the Orange County board of supervisors.

The undersigned on the thrillingly cheap shot are RoseMarie Reno, chair of the Tri-City Healthcare District’s board of directors, and Larry Anderson, the hospital district’s CEO.

The target is Leon Page, a Carlsbad resident (and Orange County deputy counsel) who sent a “cease and desist” letter, the precursor of a lawsuit, to Tri-City after the board majority voted to banish two recalcitrant members — Kathleen Sterling and Randy Horton — from closed meetings.

Surely not a regular fan of Tri-City’s follies, Campbell must have been nonplused as how to respond. He quickly passed the venom-soaked letter to Page’s boss, County Counsel Nick Chrisos, who told me he had never read anything remotely like it. (In case you’re wondering, that’s not a compliment.)

On a pro bono basis, I’m offering Campbell a draft of the letter he should send to Tri-City.


Thank you for your letter in which you ask the Orange County board of supervisors to investigate the unethical behavior of Leon Page.

I take it you would like us to probe and punish Page. Judging by the urgency of your complaint, you would consider flogging with bicycle chains a suitable disciplinary measure.

You note that Page has initiated legal actions against two government agencies — Tri-City and MiraCosta College. What Page says is his altruistic “hobby” you evidently see as a form of treason to the public sector.

The merits of Page’s public-interest actions, which he conducts on his own time, don’t appear to matter to you. An attorney on the public payroll should always side with his public-sector “team.”

It’s my understanding, however, that Page sued MiraCosta to claw back money that a high court ultimately agreed was a gift of public funds to an outgoing president.

You focus solely on the “adverse legal interests” Page’s lawsuit visited upon the college, not the public good of a sane precedent to protect agencies from someone who threatens to sue if a contractually limited severance package is not sweetened.

You also imply that Page may be a shakedown artist, a grifter in cahoots with Ron Cozad, a North County attorney whom Page retained for the legal work in the MiraCosta case.

Specifically, you suggest (without proof) that Page is a frontman for Cozad, filing lawsuits against public agencies and then, when lavish attorney fees are awarded, Page taking a secret cut.

You insinuate, again without evidence, that Mr. Page may be on the take from the two banished directors. You also pose the ominous possibility that Page’s real ambition is “to destroy the District’s reputation and operations for the benefit of competing hospitals in South Orange County.”

You take pains to accuse Page and Cozad of shoddy research because they failed to appreciate how disruptive these two board members are and how necessary their exile is from secret sessions even if their absence does deny represenation to the voters who elected them.

To sound authoritative, you cite legal precedents for the summary removal of elected officials and suggest that Orange County’s right to ostracize troublesome pols is threatened if I’m on the same page as Page, so to speak.

Finally, you ask me “to take corrective actions” against Page “and notify us of actions taken.”

Let’s start at the end. No corrective action is planned. Consider yourself notified of that fact. Remember the old saying about throwing mud at a wall? Well, nothing is sticking in the OC.

By the way, I’ve read clippings that celebrated Page for his role in cleaning up the MiraCosta scandal. One Union-Tribune columnist — Loren Jennings perhaps? — tagged Page as a North County Hero of the Year.

Frankly, I consider your arguments bizarre at best; at worst, un-American. (I come from one of the most conservative counties in the nation. We talk like that.)

About the only thing I can say in your favor is that you’re trying to spend as little money as possible in keeping a sinking ship from sinking. Faint praise, I know.

You suggest that we in Orange County should be worried about our freedom to punish disorderly elected officials. We don’t have problems with decorum. We don’t have a board member attending meetings via telephone; another who uses an apparently fake title of “Doctor”; and yet another, a nurse, with a dicey record accounting for pills.

And those last two are among the majority who banned the pair of dissidents.

The way to get rid of bad elected officials is through the polls. If I may be so bold, it isn’t your job to slam the boardroom door on your political rivals whenever you get the willies.

In my humble opinion, you should be grateful that one of the OC’s best attorneys is offering you free legal advice.

Take it!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Otay Water District: A History of Death Threats, Scandal and Sewage-Tainted Water

A History of Death Threats, Scandal and Sewage-Tainted Water
October 16, 2011
by Rob Davis
Voice of San Diego

The officials' phones often rang late at night or after meetings. It was the early 2000s, and the Otay Water District was roiled by scandal, by accusations of mismanagement, bribery, fraud and self-dealing.

What followed was never good.

Sometimes came only the sound of a single kiss. A warning, police said. The kiss of death.

Sometimes came an ominous message. Rap music, blaring the same threat: Come on, motherfucker, come on.

When agency attorneys investigated, the answer they uncovered sounded like the kicker to a campfire horror story: The calls had been coming from inside — from the phone of one of the district's own board members.

The conflict typified the dark days at what could otherwise be an unremarkable agency with a routine task. But even a decade later, the Otay Water District is hardly unremarkable. It's proven that safely delivering water to 206,000 people from Otay Mesa to Jamul isn't always routine — though its customers may wish it was.

Across the county, more than 20 public agencies like Otay play a key role in daily life. They're middlemen who buy water from major suppliers and deliver it to the taps of homes and businesses. While big suppliers bring water here from sources far away, agencies like Otay maintain local pipes, read your meter and send you a bill every month or two.

They typically do that in relative obscurity. It's why you may not have heard of agencies like the Rincon del Diablo Municipal Water District. But they are powerful entities. Otay has the authority to set and raise water rates. It determines how much developers must pay to connect new homes and offices to the water system. Its board has the discretion to spend millions of dollars on construction. Otay's service territory includes large stretches of a Southern California rarity: Undeveloped land. And it controls the only local water connection between San Diego and Tijuana.

Otay hasn't enjoyed the same obscurity as other water districts here. During the last decade, it's delivered sewage to drinking water taps, tried to squelch criticism with legal action and endured costly litigation from its customers, employees and board members.

Though the board member implicated in those late-night calls a decade ago is gone, death threats have continued even today.


During the tumult's peak in the early 2000s, a long-time board member got fed up and quit.

The board member, Mark Watton, lashed out against the district's leadership, setting his sights on one man: Otay's board president, a radio station owner named Jaime Bonilla trying to distance himself from accusations of favoritism engulfing the rest of the agency. In a letter to La Prensa San Diego, Watton said Bonilla was right in the middle of Otay's problems.
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"A (hopefully) short sad chapter in the Otay story, and what happens when public officials like these (including Mr. Bonilla) only want the position for their own ego, power and enrichment," Watton wrote.

Now, 10 years after he resigned, Mark Watton runs the Otay Water District. He was the county's highest-paid water official in 2010, in a job that gives him 71 days of leave annually. Add in weekends, and that's almost half the year.

Watton today says that he had it wrong. Bonilla was wearing a wire, working as an informant for the FBI. Watton said he didn't know Bonilla was trying to nab two other board members and a prominent Los Angeles lobbyist in a failed bribery sting. The case eventually fell apart.

"I didn't have the full picture of what was going on," Watton said.

Watton today answers to the district's five-member board.

Its president, still, is Jaime Bonilla.


Something was terribly wrong with the water in Suite 109.

It was the summer of 2007. Business owners throughout the Fenton Business Center in Chula Vista's Eastlake neighborhood reported that their tap water suddenly appeared yellow. Others said green. They all agreed the water was foul, so gross some were embarrassed to have customers use their restrooms.

The story of what went wrong there unfolds across hundreds of pages of court documents in a case that has stretched on for four years. It's one of several lawsuits that have successfully targeted Otay as a defendant.

In the Fenton case, Otay blamed the problem on stagnant water in the newly constructed complex and told the businesses to flush their lines. It didn't help. When the district came out and checked, they tested the water at a nearby fire hydrant, where it looked fine, not at the businesses' taps. The color lingered for days.

The mysterious cause was unimaginably foul. Worse, it had been happening undetected for more than a year.

The district had been delivering partially treated sewage to drinking water taps since the park opened. People had been drinking and washing their hands in water contaminated by human waste. In lawsuits, they said they'd even brushed their teeth with it and suffered from countless gastrointestinal illnesses without knowing why.

No one noticed at first because the sewage was diluted with tap water. But that summer, Otay began buying more treated sewage to put in its purple pipe system — suitable for lawns but not people. After that, what came out of the businesses' taps was 100 percent treated sewage.

The district had put a potable water meter on a pipe meant for irrigation and missed chances to catch it. Otay didn't re-inspect the facility after discovering one of its inspectors had taken a bribe on another project from a contractor involved in the park's construction.

A civil jury found Otay and other developers had acted negligently. Lawsuits have held the district liable for $3 million in damages, money Watton said will be covered by an insurer, not ratepayers. But the settlements are the latest to inflate Otay's legal bills and leave a thick trail of paper in courthouse files over the last decade.

There came Tom Harron, the district's former attorney, in 2001. He alleged that he was fired because he was white so the newly elected Bonilla could hire Latino friends. Two rival former Otay board members and a former auditor testified under oath in the case that they'd regularly heard Bonilla call Harron "El Gringo" or "white boy" — allegations he denied.

"With Mr. Bonilla," one rival board member testified, "it is not enough to simply put a man out of his job. He wants to just completely annihilate this person."

The district apologized and settled with Harron in 2007 for nearly $700,000.

There came a class of six employees (five white and one black), alleging racial discrimination as the cause of their departures around the same time as Harron. One rival board member said Bonilla had used a slur to describe the fired black employee. The former auditor, then suing the district, testified that shortly before winning his seat, Bonilla had said about Otay: "We got to get rid of all the gringos." Bonilla denied that.

The district settled in 2007 for $371,000.


This case was terribly flimsy. And it carried echoes of the political retribution that had once clearly defined Otay's dark days.

But this was March 2011, and an attorney for the Otay Water District was making a case for censure to the Chula Vista Ethics Board. One of the advisory group's members, a businessman named Chris Shilling, had run unsuccessfully in November against an Otay board member, David Gonzalez Jr.

The election hadn't been close. Gonzalez, the brother of Red Sox first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, won easily after far outspending Shilling.

Shilling had taken his campaign against Gonzalez to Facebook, on a page with 46 followers. There, he called the district corrupt and accused Gonzalez of stealing campaign signs. They were baseless comments, hardly noteworthy during election season.

But they sure got the water district's attention. Otay pursued legal action. Bonilla filed a complaint with the ethics board to get Shilling booted.

Bonilla didn't do that on his own dime though. The district's ratepayers paid for the agency's attorney to work on the complaint, which purported to come from the agency's board of directors. But the board hadn't agreed to send it. Bonilla told the Union-Tribune that he, Gonzalez, Watton and an attorney had decided to.

Watton said the district got involved because Shilling had noted in campaign literature that he served on the ethics board, making his criticism carry more weight.

"If someone is just out making stuff up and lying to the public, that is of interest to the district," Watton said. "We're not corrupt."

Bonilla later told the board that he'd pay for any litigation himself, according to meeting minutes. But he didn't reimburse the district for its legal expenses.

When the agency's attorney, Dan Shinoff, presented his case to the ethics board in March, he zeroed in on what he called Shilling's malicious critique of Gonzalez and Bonilla. Shinoff, who's paid $250 an hour by the district, appeared to be settling a campaign score. Talking to commissioners, he unfurled an inflated oratory filled with its own baseless accusations.

Shinoff tried to connect Shilling to an anonymous website that attacked Gonzalez. And yet Shinoff offered no proof it was Shilling's site. Shinoff said the criticism was symptomatic of the country's devolving political discourse.

"Somebody's going to be a victim if we continue this in this society," Shinoff told the board, noting the shooting rampage that had left six dead and 13 wounded in Tucson, Ariz. a few weeks earlier.

He said an ethics board member shouldn't be allowed to make such attacks — not with so much at stake. A rebuke was absolutely necessary, he said.

"I urge you with my heart and with my soul for you to do the right thing," he said. "I come from a family of concentration camp survivors. And I can tell you from a very personal perspective, permitting this sort of dialogue only leads to tragedy."

The ethics board dismissed the complaint.


Customers in the Otay district often have little reason to complain.

They pay some of the county's lowest water rates. In 2009, while other water districts told customers to cut back on their consumption or face penalties, Otay didn't, saying its customers had already conserved.

But this August, customers went berserk. A standing-room-only crowd filled a mid-afternoon board meeting. They were furious about the district's push to guarantee health care coverage for all current employees after they retire.

While other water agencies and government bodies are doing the opposite, Otay was about to increase its employees' retirement benefits. The district had struggled to articulate a clear reason why.

The fight that day was between Otay leaders and the San Diego County Taxpayers Association, and it turned nasty. Just before voting, Bonilla said something that in any other district might've sounded unusual, which evoked memories of the chilling phone messages that he and other agency officials had received a decade earlier.

"You should see the emails we got, threats to our families," Bonilla told the crowd. "It was motivated by this organization."

Fixed-income retirees erupted in howls of protest, bringing the board's discussion to a halt. Retirees were already upset about the retirement benefit boost, concerned it may impact water rates increasing faster than they said they could afford. Now it appeared that Bonilla was blaming death threats on the taxpayers association. "You're going to lie! Shut up!" one bellowed.

Bonilla quickly clarified. The taxpayers association hadn't actually convinced people to threaten board members, he said. They'd just misled the public and gotten people angry.

Two months later, Bonilla cited the anonymous threats again. This time, he was writing to the taxpayers association's board, calling the group's criticism unfounded, misleading and dangerous. Two threatening emails — "You are US enemies and deserve to die," one said — were attached as evidence.

And just as Otay had done months earlier with Shilling, another public critic, the letter concluded with its own threat.

If the taxpayers association's attack continued, Bonilla wrote, the district would sue.

Otay Water District GM Defends $300K Salary
Mark Watton Would Accept Pay Cut If Board Asked
July 22, 2011

SAN DIEGO -- One of the highest-paid public employees in California is defending his $301,000 salary as water rates continue to rise.

10News learned Mark Watton, general manager of the Otay Water District, earns more money than Gov. Jerry Brown and spends a quarter of the year on vacation.

Watton, whose agency has 51,000 customers, told 10News, "This job is just like any CEO's job. It's 24/7. I'm never away from email or the phone, and I'm always on these premises.

According to information obtained by 10News, Watton isn't exactly there every day. His lucrative ratepayer-funded salary includes 71 days of vacation. He could take every Friday of every month off and he would still have 18 days of vacation left.

"You're trying to allude or relate us to some type of criminal prosecution going on in other cities. I agree with those prosecutions, but if you want to imply that's the case here, I disagree with that," said Watton.

There are no accusations of wrongdoing at the Otay Water District, but there are questions about Watton's salary.

Watton served on the water board since 1983, at the same time he was a business owner.

"[I] had a real estate company for a while and a waste disposal company," he said.

"You go directly to your position as general manager?" asked 10News reporter Craig Fiegener.

Watton replied, "Yes. I had certificates and coursework to be successful in the endeavor I chose."

"Would you accept a pay cut to help the agency and save consumer money?" asked Fiegener.

"If the board asked me to do that I would," he said.

10News learned Watton assumed his role in 2004. He is not a specially educated business executive.

Watton's compensation came under scrutiny after the Otay Water District approved another 7.7 percent water rate increase effective next February.

Watton's next contract negotiation could happen next month and could include another raise.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

San Diego Ethics Commission refuses to release information about its attorney-lobbyists or attorney who works for SEDC

“You have an excellent reputation in the community; you are an extremely careful person, and I don’t see why your answer should not be sufficient,” Commissioner and retired Judge William Howatt Jr. told Fulhorst.

The ethics of the Ethics Commission
By Dave Maass
San Diego City Beat
Oct 12, 2011

At a September meeting of the San Diego Ethics Commission, the agency’s executive director, Stacey Fulhorst, presented the mother of all catch-22s.

While inspecting lobbyist-activity records, CityBeat had learned that private attorneys retained by the Ethics Commission are also working as counsel for the Southeastern Economic Development Corporation (SEDC), a city redevelopment agency, and as lobbyists for private companies. The relationships seem to present a potential conflict of interest on multiple levels, since the commission both regulates lobbyists and enforces ethics in city government, including SEDC. Asked about this, Fulhorst said the law firm—Stutz, Artiano, Shinoff and Holtz—and the commission have put several firewalls in place.

However, since attorney-client confidentiality covers legal agreements, Fulhorst couldn’t offer proof of these safeguards without first asking the commission’s seven members to release the information.

“I would personally recommend that you do approve a waiver, a very limited waiver of just, literally, a handful of paragraphs, because I do think it’s important to demonstrate to the public that we recognize it would not be appropriate for us to receive legal services from the same law firm that was providing general counsel to SEDC on SEDC matters,” Fulhorst told commissioners on Sept. 23.

Paradoxically, Fulhorst couldn’t show the commissioners the relevant paragraphs because they’d then become public record. Nor could the commission turn to its legal counsel for advice, since the lawyers were the subject of the discussion.

The commission deliberated for 15 minutes on whether an agency that investigates conflicts of interests should be transparent regarding its own potential conflicts. Some members wondered why CityBeat wouldn’t just take Fulhorst’s word.

“You have an excellent reputation in the community; you are an extremely careful person, and I don’t see why your answer should not be sufficient,” Commissioner and retired Judge William Howatt Jr. told Fulhorst.

Some worried about setting a precedent.

“I just think we should be careful with granting such a waiver,” Commissioner Larry Westfall, an accountant, said. “Once you do it, we start to open the door for every little, two-bit newspaper in town to come here and make requests for information, too.”

Some recognized the public interest in releasing the document, but Commissioner and attorney John O’Neill alone saw that as overriding other concerns.

“I think it puts to rest any suspicion there is any impropriety here,” O’Neill said. “I don’t think it helps us to not give the document.”

The commission voted 5-1 (one member was absent) against releasing the information, rejecting Fulhorst’s offer to conduct more research on an issue that wouldn’t have come up a year ago.

With Proposition E in 2004, San Diego voters authorized the Ethics Commission to hire its own legal counsel instead of relying on the advice of the City Attorney’s office. Proponents argued it was problematic for the city attorney to represent both the commission and the city officials subject to commission investigations. They also noted that City Attorney staff are also subject to commission enforcement actions.

For the first five years, the commission employed a staff attorney, but when the lawyer departed last year, the agency decided to contract with an outside firm to allow more flexibility. The Stutz firm submitted a bid and, Fulhorst said, was selected because of the “unique expertise and knowledge” of Christina Cameron, a longtime City Hall staffer specializing in ethics and campaign reform who’d recently earned a law degree. Under the terms of the bid, Cameron would serve as a general counsel, working under the supervision of “associate general counsel” Prescilla Dugard and Leslie Devaney. All three were serving as counsel to SEDC and lobbyists, but the firm agreed that Cameron would be severed from SEDC matters and no longer register as a lobbyist.

In the first half of 2011, the Ethics Commission paid the Stutz firm $48,000 in fees, and another $3,000 to a second firm that handles cases when a conflict arises. During the same period, the Stutz firm collected at least $203,000 from SEDC. As a lobbying organization, the firm represents EverFlow Resources, Staff Pro and Western Towing.

Fulhorst, Cameron and Devaney described to CityBeat many of the physical and procedural measures in place to protect against a conflict. The firm also amended its lobbyist reports following CityBeat’s inquiry to better reflect Devaney and Dugard’s involvement with the Ethics Commission: Each provided less than an hour of legal services in the first half of the year.

Tracy Westen, CEO of the Center for Governmental Studies, a Los Angeles-based watchdog organization, says he’s less concerned with the specific SEDC issue than he is alarmed to learn that registered lobbyists are providing legal advice to lobbyist regulators.

“Ideally, if you contract for ethics advice with outside counsel, you want that outside counsel to give you independent advice,” Westen says. “But if the outside counsel is also lobbying the city, its advice may tilt in favor of lobbyists in general. Simply recusing themselves from judgments involving a client they’re lobbying for is a good idea, but it does not purge them of pro-lobbyist sentiments.”

Of the 106 complaints processed by the commission in 2010, 38 percent—the largest portion—were alleged violations of the city’s lobbying ordinance, according to the commission’s annual report.

“If a matter were heavily related to lobbying and I felt it was inappropriate to talk to [Devaney or Dugard] because they are registered lobbyists, then I have other partners and other senior attorneys that I can work with if I need to,” Cameron says.

Westen says that’s not enough. “It’s very difficult for a law firm to purge itself of this appearance of a conflict if some partners are lobbying and others are not,” Westen says. “I think the city really needs to go to a law firm that is not doing lobbying.”

Fulhorst says that’s an impractical idea coming from someone “working in academia,” since the “vast majority of law firms” in San Diego are registered as lobbyists under the city ordinance...

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Why San Diegans Are to Blame for the City's Problems

Why San Diegans Are to Blame for the City's Problems
September 30, 2011
by Liam Dillon

About nine months ago, I asked Mayor Jerry Sanders about critics who say he focuses too much on downtown at the expense of the city's other neighborhoods. The mayor stopped me before I finished my question.

"You mean Steve Erie?" Sanders said.

The mayor, who rarely calls out his critics by name, was referring to University of California, San Diego political science professor Steve Erie. Now, Erie has given Sanders much more to work with.

Last month, Erie and two other academics released a book on San Diego city government called "Paradise Plundered." The book, as its name implies, takes Sanders, other city leaders and even residents to task for San Diego's financial and governance problems.

Erie blames weak leadership, a disinterested public and, above all, low taxes as the source of San Diego's decay. I spoke with him about the city's financial problems, his critique of Petco Park and other major development projects and his response to Sanders' criticism.

Erie also made a case for why corruption isn't always the worst thing in government.

I'd like to start with the central premise of your book. You say that San Diego has a shiny exterior and crumbling underbelly, sort of a Potemkin village. Can you explain what you mean by that?

There are really two faces or sides to San Diego. There's the San Diego the tourists see. There's a high-tech industry that spawned the new economy by places like UCSD. That's the public face of San Diego at least in terms of the local PR machine, which is very good at getting the San Diego image out.

The reality of San Diego is on the public sector side. I think on the first page we talk about an increasingly grim and visible civic reality, which is dry rot for public services and infrastructure. That's still largely hidden. You get intimations of it like during the 2003 and 2007 fire when you suddenly realize we have very little fire protection.

The problem with San Diego is that the ocean and the sun are both our blessing and our curse. Obviously, it's a wonderful place to live in if you can afford it. But the problem is, is that it induces sort of a sense of complacency that as long as the sun comes up everything is OK.

You say that San Diegans are as much to blame for the city's problems as its politicians. So why are they, or why are we, to blame?

You have to understand history. The first thing you need to understand about San Diego is that for years it was a military town. Navy Town, USA. That meant a couple of things in terms of the willingness to pay for local services. One is military pay wasn't all that great. Number two there was a sense that Uncle Sam would provide.
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In addition to this military heritage, there's a libertarian culture here that's particularly anti-local government: Local government is a hot-bed of waste, fraud and corruption. You hear this not only from politicians but from voters all the time.

It's very hard to move voters. The only thing I think in this town that will move them is really a grand coalition. It is the elected officials using the bully pulpit. And a united business community actively supporting things. And the media on board. You see that in a place like Chicago. It's a Republican business community. It's a Democratic machine. The Chicago Tribune has hated the Daleys for years. Yet when it comes to raising revenue and taxes for needed public services and investments they all speak with one voice.

Isn't Chicago notorious for being the most corrupt big city in the country?

But it's a better form of corruption than you have here in San Diego. It's systemic corruption rather than ad hoc or personal corruption.


What I mean by that is, it's cost plus 10 or 15 percent. You just add that on. It's tithing on the part of the machine. And then the services get delivered.

Why should the public stand for that?

Because it works. You just pay more. It works. In San Diego, you pay less and it doesn't work.

But if you look at Chicago's pension situation from a pure numbers perspective, they're in a lot worse place than San Diego is.

But a place like Chicago and a place like Los Angeles, which is also facing pension difficulties now, they tend to have sources of revenue and an ability or capability to raise revenue. Both of those things are lacking in San Diego. In Los Angeles, right, they just took money out of the Department of Water and Power. It was an ATM machine.

The deficit looks big right now, but the ability to solve it within let's say a five to 10 year period is greater in those communities than it is here.

But how is borrowing from the Department of Water and Power or taking from the Department of Water and Power, how is that good government?

That wasn't the question that you asked. That's a secondary problem, right?

Is it the right way to run a government? Is it really a hidden tax on ratepayers? Yeah, it is. But that's the way, until recently, these places have worked.

What's interesting about San Diego is that we were just the first to get caught. Because we were an early and eager underfunder of the pension among other things. If anything I hope that this book will be read as a cautionary tale of what happens when you go down this route.

Is it fair to say you blame San Diego's financial crisis on inadequate revenues?

On inadequate revenues, yes.

Why is that the primary cause?

San Diego is well below the average in terms of spending on a lot of metrics.

It doesn't mean that it's at the bottom. There are others that are at the bottom, too. But on average the other California cities they spend like today 50 percent more on basic services. They don't have unaccredited fire departments. They don't have the smallest police department in the nation of any big city. They don't have roads with potholes where the deferred maintenance is such. So much of the crisis of public services and infrastructure is our unwillingness to spend money on services.

Back in 1972 we were spending just about the average. You'll notice that the trend line begins to diverge, San Diego dropping further and further behind.

Some could say L.A. is the worst case possible. They throw money at government and public services. But, and not to say that any San Diegan would like to live in Los Angeles, but if there were a major fire where would you wanna be?...

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Housing Commission’s ‘Trojan Horse’

The Housing Commission’s ‘Trojan Horse’
Aug 23, 2011
by Will Carless

In late 2008, as foreclosures flooded the local housing market and the nation's economy hovered on the brink of meltdown, the San Diego City Council scrambled for ideas to tackle the crisis here...

The San Diego Housing Commission responded with a plan: It could buy foreclosures and tackle the city's epidemic head-on. But the commission, which is overseen by a board of unelected appointees, first wanted to be set free.

The agency wanted to buy properties without the City Council's approval. Waiting as long as 90 days for the council to approve the bids would unnecessarily delay highly competitive deals that had to be done quickly, the commission argued.

The City Council agreed. At a March 2009 public meeting, it approved a new policy for the agency, handing it the power to spend public money buying property with radically reduced oversight. Given that this was about fighting the foreclosure crisis, Councilmen Tony Young and Ben Hueso reasoned that cutting down on bureaucracy made sense...

In the two and a half years since that meeting, however, the Housing Commission has rarely used its new power to buy foreclosures.

The agency has bought just eight foreclosed single-family homes and one foreclosed apartment building in that time. That's 45 units out of 756 units the commission has bought or built since then.

Rather than mopping up after the foreclosure crisis, the agency has instead used its new freedom to spend more than $70 million buying non-foreclosed apartment buildings and lending developers tens of millions of dollars to build new affordable apartments.

The commission has been able to make those deals while bypassing the City Council, avoiding the public scrutiny it once would've faced.

Three of the City Council members who approved the Housing Commission's new rules now say they had no idea the power would be used for anything but tackling the foreclosure crisis.

Former Councilwoman Donna Frye called the policy a "Trojan horse" that has allowed the commission almost free reign to build a huge affordable housing portfolio using public money, while facing little public oversight.

Commission officials and the policy's chief proponent, Councilman Todd Gloria, say they made every effort to communicate the far-reaching effect of the agency's new power when the policy was approved...

But the stated motivation for the new freedom, the public hearing in which it was approved and even the report to the City Council all came under the banner of addressing foreclosures. The need for the new power was never fully explained to the City Council or the public. Nor did the agency ever explain how the policy was actually supposed to help it fight foreclosures.

The freedom was also granted at the same time the commission prepared to enter a new era as a heavyweight property investor and developer, an endeavor that was far riskier than simply buying up foreclosures.

The commission's expanding role gave it all the more reason to properly explain the implications of the new rule, said Councilman Kevin Faulconer, one of the three council members who say they were duped.

"The focus of that policy change was clearly on the issue of foreclosures," Faulconer said. "If, in fact, the Housing Commission wanted to go and do something different, what I expect is for them to come and get permission to do so, and then to follow the rules."

In early 2009, few political buzzwords had greater cachet than "foreclosure." Across the city, the wreckage of the busted housing market had created neighborhood eyesores and destroyed family dreams.

At the same time, the Housing Commission was on the move. It had just hired a new CEO, replacing the agency's former leader, Betsy Morris, who had led the agency for 14 years.

New chief Rick Gentry was a veteran of the affordable housing industry and had taken the reins at an exciting time. A massive real estate deal was about to flood the commission's coffers with almost $100 million to spend exclusively on acquiring new property.

That move had been in motion long before the City Council asked the commission for help on foreclosures. Before leaving the agency in 2008, Morris had signed off on a deal to transfer more than 1,300 properties from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development's public housing program to the commission.

The plan was to take out loans against those properties, giving the agency the cash to spring onto the local affordable housing development scene in a big way...

But the commission wanted to make those deals without first discussing them at public City Council meetings. Gentry and Gloria, a former housing commissioner, said that would reduce bureaucracy, allowing the agency to quickly take advantage of the slumping market by bidding on deals.

Being able to make deals unilaterally represented a significant change in how the commission did business. Since the agency‘s creation in 1979, it had been required to bring each of its acquisitions to the City Council for approval.

Changing that requirement faced one crucial hurdle: The City Council had to be convinced that devolving such far-reaching power to the commission was necessary.

Commission officials presented the sea change to the City Council as a minor element of their broader plan to tackle foreclosures...

Spirits were high when the City Council met on March 24, 2009. The Housing Commission had a plan to tackle the foreclosure epidemic, the council was relieved, and the platitudes were flowing...

How would the policy actually address the foreclosure crisis? Nobody asked. And nobody explained it.

In the absence of any explanation, Frye, Faulconer and Councilman Carl DeMaio thought they understood the plan: The commission would buy foreclosed single-family homes that would otherwise fall into disrepair — the boarded-up homes Young had talked about...

Hueso, Young and Gloria were on board, too. They'd met privately with Gentry in the run-up to the meeting. They later said they fully understood what was going on, and knew the change would allow the agency to make any acquisitions without prior City Council approval.

A spokeswoman said Councilwoman Sherri Lightner also knew the policy didn't only apply to foreclosures.

The council's decision to sharply reduce public oversight over the spending of tens of millions of dollars took 27 minutes.

It was approved unanimously.

Now the Housing Commission had more power and more freedom.

Gloria and Gentry said the commission originally planned to use its new power to buy foreclosed apartment buildings to convert into affordable housing. That was part of the agency's plan to address the foreclosure crisis, they said.

But the commission only bought one foreclosed apartment complex and was outbid on another.

Even if the commission had bought more than one foreclosed apartment building, it wouldn't have done anything to fight the foreclosure crisis.

Unlike foreclosed single-family homes being boarded up, foreclosed apartment buildings were hot properties in 2009. They still are today. In San Diego, so-called "vulture investors" have been snapping up foreclosed apartment buildings as soon as they go on sale. That's one way investors have taken advantage of the slumping real estate market.

The commission had really gotten permission to become one of those investors: It wanted the freedom to snap up distressed bargains that lots of other people also wanted to buy.

Someone would've bought those foreclosed apartment buildings anyway. Whether it was the Housing Commission or some other investor made no difference to the city's foreclosure epidemic.

Local housing market expert Gary London said taking advantage of the foreclosure crisis is fundamentally different than helping stabilize the market or aiding struggling homeowners.

"The Housing Commission perverted the foreclosure crisis for reasons of their own profit," London said. "Call it what it is, it has nothing to do with helping foreclosures and to suggest it does is either felony stupidity or downright lying."

Since the 2009 meeting, the Housing Commission has been on a development tear, investing almost $30 million of the public's money to develop six apartment projects from Nestor to Torrey Highlands.

Those deals weren't about boarded-up homes or foreclosures. And they were far more complicated and risky than the simple property purchases half the City Council expected.

Those development deals most concern Frye, DeMaio and Faulconer. They're furious the projects weren't brought to the City Council for a final discussion and vote.

Development projects have a far greater risk of going wrong than straightforward property purchases. Construction can go awry, costs can shoot up and financing can go sour. The commission is largely beholden to the private developer it chooses as a partner, because the developer oversees construction and selects the company that manages the building once it's built.

That developer also receives a fee, paid out of public dollars. On most of the development deals put together by the commission, that fee was $1.4 million...

Monday, August 22, 2011

Washington Post condemns Darrell Issa’s “overreach on oversight”

Washington Post condemns Darrell Issa’s “overreach on oversight”

Lucas O'Conner
Courage Campaign
August 22, 2011

There are plenty of folks who have been wary of the NLRB investigation into Boeing, including the Washington Post editorial board. They've expressed concern in the past that the case could end up going too far by focusing too much on the specific labor questions involved.

But even with that concern, Darrell Issa has gone way too far for them. In an editorial yesterday, The Post editorial board called out Darrell Issa for overreach and risking the integrity of the ongoing case:

But Mr. Issa and his committee have gone beyond questioning the NLRB’s policy to threatening to interfere with a legitimate — even if misguided — legal proceeding. This month, the panel issued a subpoena demanding a slew of documents involving the NLRB action against Boeing. The committee wants to know how the NLRB’s Office of General Counsel decided to target Boeing and whether it did so in cahoots with the White House or a union. The agency has resisted turning over certain documents it says could jeopardize its ability to pursue its case. Lafe Solomon, the NLRB’s acting general counsel, testified before the committee this summer; the board has also turned over more than 1,500 pages related to the Boeing matter.

As the Post goes on to remind us, many of the documents that Issa's fishing expedition is seeking have also been unsuccessfully sought by Boeing. Issa's wide-ranging subpoena would make those same records public, serving as an end run around the legal decision that Boeing should not have access to those records while the case is ongoing. Not only would Issa's subpoena overrule the court, it would undermine the integrity of the procedings while aiding a specific party in the case. As the Post says, that's "overreach on oversight."

But this is specifically Issa's plan -- to undermine and ultimately close the courthouse doors to workers...

SDUT's Jeff McDonald defends Darrell Issa against "most serious allegations"

It turns out that the New York Times was given faulty information by the Assessor's Office, and that there was faulty information in an Issa tax filing. Here are three corrections by the New York Times.

Correction: August 16, 2011

An article on Monday about the business empire of Representative Darrell Issa, Republican of California, misstated the worth of the companies involved in his splitting up of a holding company. The split entailed separate multimillion-dollar companies, not multibillion-dollar ones.

Correction: August 26, 2011

An article on Aug. 15 about Representative Darrell Issa’s business dealings, using erroneous information that Mr. Issa’s family foundation filed with the Internal Revenue Service, referred incorrectly to his sale of an AIM mutual fund in 2008. A spokesman for the California Republican now says that the I.R.S. filing is “an incorrect document.” The spokesman, Frederick R. Hill, said that based on Mr. Issa’s private brokerage account records, which he made public with redactions, the purchase of the mutual fund resulted in a $125,000 loss, not a $357,000 gain.

And the article, using incorrect information from the San Diego county assessor’s office, misstated the purchase price for a medical office plaza Mr. Issa’s company bought in Vista, Calif., in 2008. It cost $16.3 million, the assessor’s office now says — not $10.3 million — because the assessor mistakenly omitted in public records a $6 million loan Mr. Issa’s company assumed in the acquisition. Therefore the value of the property remained essentially unchanged, and did not rise 60 percent after Mr. Issa secured federal funding to widen a road alongside the plaza.

The San Diego Union-Tribune has not published the New York Times' accusations about Darrell Issa's use of his position as US congressman to increase his wealth. The SDUT has, however, launched a vigorous defense of Issa regarding four cherry-picked "most serious allegations."

Jeff McDonald's picks of "most serious allegations":

1) Jeff McDonald accuses the NYT of incorrectly describing the area in which Issa's office is located.

The New York Times writes, "Here on the third floor of a gleaming office building overlooking a golf course in the rugged foothills north of San Diego, Darrell Issa, the entrepreneur, oversees the hub of a growing financial empire worth hundreds of millions of dollars."

McDonald says that even though the Shadowridge Country Club golf course is a "1.5 mile drive from Issa's office," it's wrong to say that the building is "overlooking" the golf course because not enough of the golf course is visible from Issa's particular window. That was sneaky, Jeff. You imply that the New York Times said the gold course was visible form Issa's window. Would you have preferred that the NYT give the exact mileage to the golf course, using decimal points? No, Jeff, that would be focusing on the wrong facts.

McDonald next disputes the statement that the area is "in the rugged foothills north of San Diego." I went to Google maps and saw two areas of rugged foothills very near to Issa's office, to the east and west. When I zoom out a bit, I see huge areas of rugged foothills to the north, east, and south. It looks to me like the NYT got it right.

2) The SDUT admits that Issa's electronics company may be a supplier for Toyota dealers, but tries to make the point that Issa didn't have a conflict of interest when he went easy on Toyota during his investigation of sudden acceleration problems in Toyota vehicles. Does the SDUT believe that Toyota has no interest in or influence over the products that its dealers offer to customers.

The NYT wrote, "But perhaps his clearest statement on the issue [of Issa's attitude about recusing himself] came last year amid Toyota’s recalls of millions of automobiles with dangerous acceleration problems. Then, Mr. Issa brushed aside suggestions that his electronics company’s role as a major supplier of alarms to Toyota made him go easy on the automaker as he led an investigation into the recalls."

3) The New York Times writes, "In one case, more than $800,000 in earmarks he arranged will help widen a busy thoroughfare in front of a medical plaza he bought for $10.3 million."

The SDUT argues that obtaining earmarks for traffic improvements in front of his building actually hurt Issa financially by raising the price of the property before he bought it, and that the NYT was wrong about the sales price. Obviously, the building will continue to have its value enhanced by the traffic improvements. And I'd like to see more information about the history of the building and its changing sales price. It's interesting that the SDUT relies on Ernie Dronenburg, who has been known to falsify his credentials. Why doesn't the SDUT tell us about the $10.3 million figure used by the Times? Where did that figure come from? Clearly, the SDUT doesn't want to do an investigation, it simply wants to make claims without telling the whole story. In my experience, this is typical of the SDUT. Editor

4) "1900 percent profit"
Does Issa's Family Foundation produce "sharp profits"? The NYT says yes. The SDUT implies that this is not true by quoting Issa's spokesman regarding a single transaction. We need more information about this to know for sure. And the SDUT isn't exploring the issue; it's simply quoting Issa's spokesman. Not much investigation going on at the SDUT.

REPORT: Rep. Issa's Ongoing Ethics Problem

Media Matters Action Network
May 20, 2011

This week, it was revealed that DEI Holdings Inc., the car-alarm company founded by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and on whose board he sits, had for years underpaid tariffs on parts imported from China. This is only the latest ethical scandal to taint Issa since he became the chairman of the House Oversight Committee.
Issa Firm Underpaid Tariffs For Years

Issa Sits On Board Of Company That Just Paid $2.5 Million In Back Tariffs. From The San Diego Union-Tribune:

The Vista car-alarm company once owned by Congressman Darrell Issa was paying about half the required tariffs on certain parts it imported from China for years and paid an estimated $2.5 million in back duties earlier this year to rectify the situation.

Issa no longer owns DEI Holdings Inc., although he is still on the board of the company, which is being sold to Boston-based Charlesbank Capital Partners for $285 million in cash. [San Diego Union-Tribune, 5/18/11]

"Issa Said He Was Aware Of The Misclassifications And Participated In Efforts To Resolve Them." From The San Diego Union-Tribune:

In a prepared response to questions from The Watchdog, Issa said he was aware of the misclassifications and participated in efforts to resolve them.

"Once these issues came to the attention of the board of directors, we called for an independent review by expert counsel," he wrote. "My understanding is the company has made appropriate tariff adjustments and disclosures both to Customs and our independent auditors." [San Diego Union-Tribune, 5/18/11]

DEI Did Not Repay Back Duties Until After Whistleblower Filed Complaint. From The San Diego Union-Tribune: "Former DEI executive Mike Wilhelm noted that the disclosure was made a year after the fact, and only after he filed a whistle-blower complaint with Customs on March 14 of this year. 'They weren't going to do it unless I forced them to,' said Wilhelm, a DEI vice president who resigned over the issue in March after 10 years with the company. "Frankly, I became ashamed to work there.'" [San Diego Union-Tribune, 5/18/11, emphasis added]

Whistleblower: DEI "Hired A Consultant" Who Told Them Not To Pay Back Import Duties. From Wilhelm's complaint to U.S. Customs and Border Protection: "Company rejected the advice to legal counsel to file required notice and pay back import duties of ~ $3m (difference between 1.3% and 2.5%) because they hired a consultant who told them that unless there was a whistle blower, they could get away without paying." [Wilhelm complaint to CBP, 3/14/11, via San Diego Union-Tribune]

Expert: "This Company Has Not Been Meeting That Reasonable Care Standard." From The San Diego Union-Tribune:

Minnesota trade consultant John Goodrich said importers played a cat-and-mouse game with regulators to minimize their tariffs until 1993, when Congress passed the Customs Modernization Act. That law placed new responsibilities on companies bringing goods into the United States.

"Importers are now held to a hyper due-diligence level known as reasonable care," Goodrich said.

"This company has not been meeting that reasonable care standard," Goodrich said after reviewing the whistle-blower complaint and the company's financial disclosure statements divulging the problem.

He noted that every duty form states the importer "will immediately furnish to the appropriate CBP officer any information showing a different statement of facts" than those reported on the shipping records.

Goodrich said, "It is difficult to justify that waiting six to eight months to make corrections and to disclose constitutes 'immediately.'" [San Diego Union-Tribune, 5/18/11, emphasis added]

Sunday, August 21, 2011

A Businessman in Congress Helps His District and Himself

A Businessman in Congress Helps His District and Himself
Darrell Issa has been a forceful advocate for business while his own companies thrive.
New York Times
August 14, 2011

VISTA, Calif. — Here on the third floor of a gleaming office building overlooking a golf course in the rugged foothills north of San Diego, Darrell Issa, the entrepreneur, oversees the hub of a growing financial empire worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

Just a few steps down the hall, Representative Darrell Issa, the powerful Republican congressman, runs the local district office where his constituents come for help.

The proximity of the two offices reflects Mr. Issa’s dual careers, a meshing of public and private interests rarely seen in government.

Most wealthy members of Congress push their financial activities to the side, with many even placing them in blind trusts to avoid appearances of conflicts of interest. But Mr. Issa (pronounced EYE-suh), one of Washington’s richest lawmakers, may be alone in the hands-on role he has played in overseeing a remarkable array of outside business interests since his election in 2000.

Even as he has built a reputation as a forceful Congressional advocate for business, Mr. Issa has bought up office buildings, split a holding company into separate multimillion-dollar businesses, started an insurance company, traded hundreds of millions of dollars in securities, invested in overseas funds, retained an interest in his auto-alarm company and built up a family foundation.

As his private wealth and public power have grown, so too has the overlap between his private and business lives, with at least some of the congressman’s government actions helping to make a rich man even richer and raising the potential for conflicts.

He has secured millions of dollars in Congressional earmarks for road work and public works projects that promise improved traffic and other benefits to the many commercial properties he owns here north of San Diego. In one case, more than $800,000 in earmarks he arranged will help widen a busy thoroughfare in front of a medical plaza he bought for $10.3 million.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Six months into chairmanship, Issa isn’t what either side expected

Six months into chairmanship, Issa isn’t what either side expected
By Ben Pershing
July 11, 2011

When Rep. Darrell Issa assumed the role of chief watchdog of the Obama administration, both sides of the ideological spectrum had big expectations.

Liberals thought the Republican from California would be a media-hungry inquisitor who would stop at nothing to embarrass President Obama. And some conservatives believed he would quickly uncover high-level corruption that must be lurking just behind the White House gates.

Six months into Issa’s tenure as chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, neither side’s predictions have proved quite right — although they still disagree about whether he’s doing a good job. And the congressman has been surprised by the experience.

“There’s more job than I expected,” Issa said in an interview last week. “With the limited resources that we have . . . we’ve done about 80 hearings and forums [but] what you find is it’s not even half of what we should have looked into or what we should do. We have a huge backlog.”

Issa helped set the bar high, saying in early January that Obama’s was “one of the most corrupt administrations” of modern times. If that were true, it seemed to follow, scandals should be easy to find.

That has not been the case, though Issa is particularly proud of the work his committee has done on Operation Fast and Furious, a controversial venture by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives that targeted Mexican gun traffickers but has been linked to the killing of a U.S. Border Patrol agent.

Issa has also proposed a broad overhaul of the U.S. Postal Service that would eliminate Saturday mail delivery. And he has pushed to cut hundreds of billions of dollars in workforce costs across the federal government.

“Issa’s style is much more focused than the media perceived it would be. And the White House wanted to make him into something he isn’t,” said Rep. Patrick T. McHenry (R-N.C.), who chairs an oversight subcommittee.

Although the committee has produced few major investigative breakthroughs, McHenry said it has been hitting “the singles and doubles” that could eventually build into something larger.

“Expectations that you would have an immediate ‘aha’ moment are removed from reality,” he said.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), another subcommittee head, said “there’s a learning curve” for a new chairman but predicted that many of the investigations the committee has underway would bear real fruit by next year.

Democrats paint a different picture.

“Frankly, I think the jury is still out on what kind of chairman he wants to be,” said Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (Va.), a member of the oversight panel. “At times we see the statesman Darrell Issa and other times he has reverted to the very petty, partisan Darrell Issa.”...

Saturday, July 23, 2011

$1.8 Billion Loss Spooks Pension Board

Some board members were miffed that they weren't told about the loss. The U-T paraphrases a pension consultant as saying it "conducts extensive reviews of the investment managers it recommends but routinely excludes some details from their reports to clients."

$1.8 Billion Loss Spooks Pension Board

The board that oversees the county employee pension system declined to invest $100 million with a fund run by a trader [Boaz Weinstein] who lost $1.8 billion in controversial investments three years ago, the U-T reports. According to HFMWeek, a magazine for hedge fund managers, the firm targets net returns of approximately 15%.

Some board members were miffed that they weren't told about the loss. The U-T paraphrases a pension consultant as saying it "conducts extensive reviews of the investment managers it recommends but routinely excludes some details from their reports to clients."

Media stories about the trader and his epic 2008 problems are among the first hits on a Google search of his name.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Allegation in lawsuit: Mayor Jerry Sanders or one of his deputies fired a high-level San Diego whistle-blower

Salacious City Lawsuit Nears Trial
Jul 17, 2011
by Liam Dillon
Voice of San Diego

The two-year-old allegations are as salacious as they come: Mayor Jerry Sanders or one of his deputies fired a high-level city of San Diego employee because he was helping investigate contracting involving one of the mayor's supporters.

And the lawsuit that makes those allegations doesn't show signs of going away.

Last month, the City Council approved an additional $250,000 to defend the case on top of the $200,000 the city has already spent on outside attorneys. The $450,000 cost doesn't include more than a year of work by the City Attorney's Office before it bowed out of the case. A trial date in San Diego Superior Court has been set for Oct. 7.

The city's outside lawyer, Janice Brown, said the money for her bills is well spent. The former employee's current settlement offer is at least three to four times the entire bill, she told the City Council.

The gulf between the two sides is as wide as the allegations' seriousness.

Former city deputy economic development director Scott Kessler filed suit in July 2009, alleging the Mayor's Office directed him to bend contracting rules to favor Marco Li Mandri, a well-known civic leader in the city's Little Italy neighborhood and a Sanders supporter. Kessler says he refused. Kessler also argues the Mayor's Office ultimately fired him after he gave a copy of a joint FBI and San Diego Police Department investigation he obtained about Li Mandri's involvement in a North Bay parking and business improvement district to the city's Ethics Commission. (That criminal case never came to anything. San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis' office didn't pursue charges in that case, and Li Mandri has denied any wrongdoing.)

Sanders' office says it never told Kessler to improperly favor Li Mandri. It maintains Kessler wasn't laid off for his cooperation with any investigation. Instead, it argues it laid off Kessler, along with numerous other high-level managers, as part of mid-year budget cuts in 2008.

The lawsuit has been contentious and included a rare deposition of Sanders. The mayor has denied repeatedly all of the allegations including as recently as in an interview last week. Brown, the city's outside attorney, said the same to City Council last month.

"We believe that we'll have an opportunity in front of a jury to show that they're not true," she said. "That's why we're opposing it."

But for the last eight months, the case hasn't focused on these scandalous claims. Instead, both sides have fought primarily over an administrative issue: whether Kessler needed to complain formally to the city's Ethics Commission about his firing before filing suit.

This legal defense, Brown said, not only protects the city in this case, but also sets a precedent for any future employment lawsuits against the city. If successful, she said, it could save the city time and money going forward. Brown, who is a former federal Justice Department attorney and former board member of the city's downtown redevelopment agency, added she has cut her hourly rate almost in half to $260 for her work on the case. Through the end of May, lawyers at her firm had spent more than 700 hours on the lawsuit, invoices show.

Settling the case hasn't been an option because Kessler is asking for too much money, Brown added. His most recent settlement offer is for $1.5 million. The city hasn't bothered countering.

"Do you respond to that in real numbers or do we say, 'You're out of the stratosphere?'" Brown said in an interview.

Kessler's attorney, Joshua Gruenberg, said the city should bother with a counter offer. It's typical for plaintiffs to take less than their initial demand, he said. Gruenberg added that he made his first settlement offer in November 2009 for less than $1 million. The cost has increased because of all the hours he's worked since.

"I don't know if I've ever spent more time on a case than this one," Gruenberg said. He added he believed Kessler would prevail in court.

Regardless, both Gruenberg and Brown said they were open to settlement talks before the Oct. 7 trial. A lot of legal issues remain. Gruenberg is trying to depose the mayor for a second time and Brown is fighting it. The question about Kessler needing to make a formal complaint about his firing to the Ethics Commission before filing a lawsuit is unresolved. Then, of course, there's Kessler's actual wrongful termination claims to decide.

Asked if the cost of defending the lawsuit was justifiable, Sanders replied, "I would imagine you would want an attorney defending you if you were sued also."

[Maura Larkins comment: Of course we would, Jerry. But we'd have to pay for it. The problem here is, the taxpayers are paying for your expensive lawyers. You should have settled long ago.]

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

A bribery scandal is being investigated at the state's Community Care Licensing office in San Diego,

News 8 Exclusive: State licensing employees accused of taking bribes
Jun 28, 2011
By David Gotfredson

SAN DIEGO, Calif. (CBS 8) -- A bribery scandal is being investigated at the state's Community Care Licensing office in San Diego, a division of the California Department of Social Services.

Officials confirm the employment of three state inspectors has been terminated after they were accused of taking thousands of dollars in bribes from operators of local residential care facilities for the elderly.

The state licensing inspectors worked at the offices of Community Care Licensing in Mission Valley. They are identified in court documents as Conchita Valero, Lydia Williams and Christina Nepomuceno.

The employees held the job title Licensing Program Analyst (LPA) and, as such, they inspected and licensed assisted living homes for the elderly in San Diego County.

According to a search warrant dated June 2 obtained by News 8, investigators are now seeking bank records to try to prove that the state inspectors were taking bribes from the owners or operators of several assisted living facilities.

Iris Ramirez, 49, runs four senior care homes in Mira Mesa under the name Ambassador Senior Retreat.

The search warrant alleges Ramirez bought airline tickets to fly LPA Valero and LPA Williams to the Philippines for a vacation, and also gave Valero $2,800 in cash.

In exchange, Ramirez's licenses were fast tracked and "completed in two months or less" instead of the average "five to six months," according to the warrant.

When interviewed by investigators, Ramirez "stated that the airline tickets were a ‘gift'; a ‘thank you' for licensing her facility so quickly," the warrant alleges. Each airline ticket cost $1,044, the warrant reads.

"Ramirez admitted to paying LPA Valero $2,800 cash and that LPA Valero was ‘probably' not documenting deficiencies at the facilities in exchange for the money," according to the warrant.

Contacted at her home in Murrieta, Ramirez told News 8 the airline tickets and the $2,800 in cash were gifts and she refused to answer questions.

"I don't want to say anything more. Sorry," said Ramirez.

Also named in the search warrant is the Eternal Sunshine Care assisted living facility on Quince Street in San Diego's Oak Park neighborhood, owned by Selma Teer, 36.

The search warrant claims Teer had purchased a home in Mira Mesa that she hoped to license as a Community Care facility; and gave LPA Nepomuceno $3,000 in cash.

When Nepomuceno left on medical leave from work, the search warrant claims Teer left the following voice mail message on Nepomuceno's state-issued cell phone:

"(You are) not returning my call. You are not paying my money back. You want a bribe for my application for my license. You lied. You are such a liar. You want a bribe, do your job. You don't do your job; you give me my money back."

In an interview at her Oak Park facility, Teer denied using the word "bribe" in the voicemail message, and said she did not bribe anybody.

"I don't even know what a bribe is. I don't know the meaning of it," Teer said.

Teer told News 8 she believed the $3,000 in cash she paid to LPA Nepomuceno was a loan, and that the payment was set up by her former business partner, Iris Ramirez.

"Iris Ramirez is the one that put me in this position," Teer said. "I'm 100% helping people. So you help people and this is what you get."

The search warrant also names Happy World residential care facility in Poway, once run by 56-year-old Maria Blume; and the Golden Touch III facility in Mira Mesa, formerly operated by Blume's nephew, who gave LPA Williams $5,000 in 2009, according to the records.

Blume initially told News 8 she would answer questions about the bribery allegations, but then did not return a message left on her cell phone seeking comment.

A spokesperson for the California Department of Social Services declined to comment on the ongoing investigation but did confirm the employees in question are no longer on the payroll.

"Each employee has a right to privacy and I'm not going to discuss personnel matters," spokesperson Michael Weston said. "I can just tell you that these three individuals no longer work for the Department of Social Services."

The bribery allegations remain under investigation by the Department of Social Services and no criminal charges have been filed against any of the state employees or the facility operators.

On Monday, News 8 requested access to the public inspection files for all seven assisted living facilities in question. Weston said the records will be made available in the coming days after confidential information is removed.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Mayor Jerry Sanders uses the word "extortion" to describe redevelopment bill

See also Redevelopment Midnight Deal.

Redevelopment bill passes, threatens local funding
Downtown effort could lose $50 million
By Roger Showley
June 15, 2011

Downtown's continued redevelopment could come to halt if the Legislature's measure passed June 15 goes into effect, shifting much of the downtown property tax base to local schools...

San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders called the votes "an extortion attempt" in the face of attempts by pro-redevelopment cities to work out a compromise that would have yielded funds for the state without killing redevelopment programs.

However, private property rights advocates who make up a coalition called "Stop the Money Pit," hailed the Legislature's action, although it promised "much work to do" in ending redevelopment because of the school-funding option that passed.

The measure was passed after months of consideration of an alternate reform sought by Gov. Jerry Brown, who proposed to dissolve the state's roughly 400 redevelopment agencies.

That measure, not passed by either the Assembly or Senate, would have shifted the redevelopment money to schools, cities, counties and special districts after taking into account existing debt obligations and other contracts.

Brown also hoped the measure would shift $1.7 billion to help close the state's budget gap, now standing at about $10 billion...

Monday, May 16, 2011

An echo of San Diego redevelopment agencies in Washington D.C.?

Million-Dollar Wasteland: A Washington Post Investigation
Speculators score, District loses in affordable-housing deal
By Debbie Cenziper
May 15, 2011
Washington Post

It sure looked like a good deal at the time.

A nonprofit developer promised to spend millions renovating three rotting apartment complexes in some of the most blighted neighborhoods of Southeast Washington. It would be one of the largest redevelopment projects in years east of the Anacostia River, helping dozens of low-income renters suffering through roof leaks and winters without heat.

In late 2007, then-Mayor Adrian Fenty sent a letter to the D.C. Council touting the developer’s experience, construction team and financing. The council swiftly approved the deal, lending $3.5 million in federal funds to help pay for the renovation of 98 units priced for the poor.

But the project died before a shovel ever hit dirt.

East of the River Community Development Corp. had taken on nearly $8 million in mortgages to buy complexes riddled with leaks, sewer backups, and buckling stairwells, roofs and floors.

Soon after the city delivered the federal money, the group declared bankruptcy and shut down. The District lost millions of dollars while the project was delayed for years.

But one group reaped millions. A handful of real estate speculators, including three previously convicted in a sweeping housing fraud scandal, had sold the complexes to East of the River based on adjusted appraisals written by one of the sellers’ associates, The Washington Post found.

The project is a case study of the breakdowns in the nation’s $2 billion-a-year affordable-housing program, in which extensive construction delays have derailed the development of thousands of homes.

The District’s East of the River project involved an inexperienced developer that cut an ill-fated deal with savvy speculators under the watch of a local housing agency that failed to protect the government’s investment.

Waste and weak oversight are endemic at housing agencies nationwide. A Post investigation found that about $400 million in affordable-housing funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is tied up in hundreds of troubled construction projects, including the one proposed by East of the River...

DA Absent from SEDC Embezzlement Case

DA Absent from SEDC Embezzlement Case
May 9, 2011
by Will Carless
Voice of San Diego

We've been asked one question a lot in the days since former Southeastern Economic Development Corp. officials Carolyn Y. Smith and Dante Dayacap were charged with embezzlement and misappropriation of public funds: Why didn't San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis prosecute this case?

Back in 2008, when the SEDC scandal was first breaking, Mayor Jerry Sanders announced at a press conference that he had asked Dumanis to investigate the alleged wrongdoing at the agency. Sanders' move came after a city commissioned audit found SEDC's compensation practices had risen "to the level of fraud."

As I pointed out recently, Dumanis has a special Public Integrity Unit that she created back in 2007, before the SEDC scandal broke.

I put the question to Dumanis' spokesman, Steve Walker, in an email.

His response:

The Attorney General's Office is the appropriate agency to handle this prosecution. Since this is a pending case, the District Attorney's Office will have no further comment at this time.

The California Attorney General's Office does prosecute plenty of people accused of misusing public funds. The state AG investigated the wrongdoing at the city of Bell, for example.

Gary Schons, who heads up the local office of the attorney general, wouldn't go into the matter when I called him. He simply said that his office also has a specialty in prosecuting these sorts of cases.

But, while the AG is an appropriate agency to do the prosecution, it's unclear why Walker would categorize the AG as the appropriate agency. In other words, why is the AG more appropriate than the DA's Public Integrity Unit?

The case, which focuses on a clandestine system of bonuses we uncovered in this story back in 2008, fits the stated scope of the unit, which Dumanis created specifically to root out misuse of public funds and corruption by public and elected officials.

Smith and Dayacap were highly paid, high ranking public officials. (Both made far more than the mayor in 2007.)

Why the AG brought the case instead of Dumanis is unlikely to become public.

As a rule, prosecutors don't discuss pending cases because they don't want to give the impression that they're attempting to try the case in the media, said Professor Heidi Rummel, a former prosecutor and expert in criminal law at the University of Southern California.

Prosecutors want "to avoid any potential unfairness or prejudices to the defendant before he has his day in court," Rummel said.

That Dumanis' office isn't prosecuting the case is irrelevant because, as a public prosecutor, she represents the government as much as her colleagues at the Attorney General's Office, Rummel said. As such, she should be as wary of prejudicing the case by what she says publicly as she would be if her office was prosecuting it.

The precaution of not talking about a case extends not just to the case itself, but also to the reasons why a prosecutor did or didn't take the case on, Rummel said.

Complicating the SEDC matter is the fact that the original investigation wasn't done by the DA or the AG or even any state agency. It was done by the FBI, which usually teams with U.S. Attorney's Office to prosecute the subjects of its investigations.

I learned in court on Wednesday that Dayacap had received a "target letter" from the U.S. Attorney's Office more than a year ago. But at some point between then and now, the federal government decided not to prosecute and instead the case ended up at the state level.

(FBI spokesman Darryl Foxworth wouldn't comment on the case either.)

Certainly, the passing-around of the Smith/Dayacap prosecution has confused the two defendant's lawyers. Jerry Coughlan, who is defending Smith, and Marc Carlos, who's representing Dayacap, both told me on Wednesday that they had no idea the Attorney General's Office was involved in the case before their clients were served with arrest warrants.

If I find out any more about why Schons, not Dumanis, brought the case, I'll pass it along.

Monday, May 02, 2011

San Diego budget plan: more prosecutors after library and recreation cuts

From Libraries to Lawyers: Shifting Budget Priorities
May 1, 2011
by Liam Dillon
Voice of San Diego

San Diego's library system has eroded over the past six years. Mayor Jerry Sanders freely admits it.

"We've taken them down to a very small percentage of what they used to be," Sanders said at a recent budget forum.

Libraries used to be a greater budget priority. While nearly every city department has seen cuts during a decade of San Diego budget deficits, reductions to libraries have been deeper. Its budget has decreased from $38.7 million in Sanders' first budget in 2007 to $30.1 million under the mayor's proposal for next year. Its percentage of the city's day-to-day operating budget will have g0ne down by more than 1 percent, too.

As libraries have lost, others have gained.

In 2007, the City Attorney's Office received $36.2 million, or $2.5 million less than libraries. Its proposed 2012 allocation will be $42.4 million, or $12 million more than libraries. The percentage the attorney's office receives of the city budget has gone up by 0.3 percent since 2007 as well.

City Attorney Jan Goldsmith argues his department's budget has increased because of costs outside his control, such as paying for a share of the city's growing retirement obligations. Beyond the vagaries of the city budgeting, Sanders, City Council members and even a key library supporter defended the city attorney for keeping the city out of trouble and from racking up outside legal costs.

The downside of cutting libraries is clear. They'll be closed. For attorneys, the effects are less obvious. A smaller legal department could mean lost lawsuits, missed opportunities or bigger bills for outside contracts. But as the mayor and council stress the need to protect public safety and other front line city services in a time of continued budget pressure, they'll have to come to terms with the realization that the city's team of lawyers costs increasingly more than its team of librarians.

The City Attorney's Office files or defends lawsuits involving the city, provides legal advice to the mayor, council and all departments, and prosecutes about 35,000 misdemeanor cases a year. Good lawyers cost money, Goldsmith said in an interview. The fact that they have cost more in the past six years, he said, has little to do with him.

Nearly the entire $4 million hike in his budget this year came from costs associated with rising pension and other retirement obligations, an increase he couldn't do anything about. Further, Goldsmith contended his office took that hit more than others because its costs are almost all personnel.

Goldsmith's office has spent less than its budget the last two years. He's left some positions empty and replaced higher paid jobs with lower level ones. Goldsmith also said he decreased costs for outside attorneys, but those savings primarily appear in other department's budgets.

"Each year we've come in with a plan on how we're going to do our fair share," Goldsmith said.

But for some, it's not fair enough. At a recent community budget forum, Sanders answered a written question about a chart that showed the city attorney's budget larger than the library's.

"Please explain how this is shared pain," the question asked.

Sanders responded that attorneys are expensive, and it costs more to hire outside counsel than do legal work in-house...

Monday, April 11, 2011

Bonnie Dumanis: D.A.'s Public Integrity Unit: Not So Public Lately

The prosecution of Kathleen Sterling is worrisome. Almost immediately after Sterling and other Tri-City Healthcare board members fired a group of administrators in December 2008, powerful friends of the fired individuals began asking Dumanis to file criminal charges against members of the board who voted in favor of the firings. Bonnie Dumanis did not respond to the first two attempts to involve the criminal justice system in the matter, preferring to allow the case to make its way through the civil courts. But apparently the third time is a charm. Does this have anything to do with the mayoral campaign and/or efforts to change the makeup of the Tri-City board?

D.A.'s Public Integrity Unit: Not So Public Lately

April 10, 2011
by Will Carless
Voice of San Diego

District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis' website for her recently announced mayoral campaign waxes lyrical about the prosecutor's protection of the public, high conviction rates and strong managerial and organizational skills.

Not mentioned in the list of accomplishments is the District Attorney's Public Integrity Unit, a crack team of lawyers Dumanis set up with much fanfare in the spring of 2007 as a weapon against San Diego's image as a den of political iniquity and corruption.

Indeed, four years after the unit was created, San Diegans would be forgiven for wondering whether it actually still exists. Since the controversial — and largely botched — prosecution of Chula Vista Councilman Steve Castaneda in 2008, Dumanis' team of anti-corruption lawyers has been remarkably low-profile.

Dumanis says the unit has hardly been slacking off. Her office provided a list of 88 public integrity prosecutions since 2007 as evidence that complaints are being investigated. And Dumanis and her public integrity czar Leon Schorr stressed that most of the work of the Public Integrity Unit is investigative and doesn't necessarily result in prosecutions.

But 85 of the 88 prosecutions listed by Dumanis involved rank-and-file public employees, not politicians or elected officials, who were the original stated targets of the Public Integrity Unit. Lumped into the successes of the unit are cases against police officers and city employees, and for attorney misconduct.

In four years, three elected officials have been prosecuted by Dumanis' office and, so far, only one of those prosecutions has resulted in punitive action: Earlier this year former Encinitas Mayor Dan Dalager was fined $1,000 for receiving discounted kitchen appliances from a resident he assisted while in office.

Dumanis proposed the Public Integrity Unit as a new and necessary weapon in the local prosecutorial arsenal, and warned crooked politicians that she would be watching them, and that they'd better behave.

Driving home the point that this was to be a unit that would specifically target politicians, Dumanis said at the same press conference that she would no longer be endorsing political candidates, and that her office would not be used as a political pawn. She later endorsed in several important races, including the 2008 city attorney's race, in which she backed Jan Goldsmith against Mike Aguirre...

In 2008, Chula Vista Councilman Steve Castaneda was also accused by the Public Integrity Unit of using his office for financial gain, but investigators found no wrongdoing by the councilman. Castaneda was then charged with perjury for allegedly lying to the grand jury that investigated him. A jury acquitted him of most of the charges and hung on two of them, which Dumanis chose not to pursue.

Castaneda accused Dumanis at the time of prosecuting him at the behest of his political rival, Chula Vista Mayor Cheryl Cox.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Redevelopment: the well-meaning program for fixing urban ills greatly abused

Click on title to see links in the original story:

Going to Money Town
Voice of San Diego
March 14,2011

One of the arguments for killing redevelopment: That the well-meaning program for fixing urban ills has since been greatly abused for all sorts of luxuries that stray far from its original intent. In between doling out a couple of sharp elbows to local California politicians and state Republicans, journalist Steven Greenhut delivers a little history in the Wall Street Journal on California's endangered redevelopment and abuses he's witnessed through his career.

· We've been following closely as San Diego and other municipalities around the state have tried to tie up billions of dollars in redevelopment cash before the governor cuts it off. While most places have just carved out the money, some have already begun borrowing it, sometimes at quite a cost. Redevelopment agencies across the state borrowed $700 million in the first two months and a week of the year, compared to $1 billion in all of 2010, the LA Times says.

· It's not San Diego, but it's instructive: NPR's Planet Money recently profiled one Pennsylvania city that sold a lake to help fix its problems, threw in the towel and then got help from a state squad that travels around helping distressed governments.

At this point, it looks like California could use one of those, too, although they might end up spending all their time in Sacramento. (It'd still be cheaper than these guys.)

Friday, March 04, 2011

Former CCDC board member gets $464,750 for "technical assistance" [??] on plan to end homelessness downtown

Feb 28, 2011
Former CCDC board member gets lucrative consulting contract
Providing "technical assistance" on plan to end homelessness Downtown pays $464,750
By Kelly Davis

Today, the San Diego City Council (sitting as the Redevelopment Agency) will be asked to approve an amendment to a contract with LeSar Development Consultants (LDC) that will pay a total of $464,750 for 15 months of work. The contract, which began in July 2010 and lasts through September 2011, is for "technical assistance" on a plan to end homelessness Downtown within five years. LCD's already been paid $235,000 for work between July and the end of 2010. Today's contract amendment adds $229,750, bringing the total to $464,750.

LDC's president, Jennifer LeSar, sat on the Centre City Development Corp.'s board directors from 2002 to 2009. According to the staff report, LDC was the only respondent to a request for consulting services put out in January 2010. On Jan. 12, 2010, LeSar sent a letter asking the city's Ethics Commission if any conflict-of-interest provisions prohibited her from being paid to provide consulting services to CCDC. She was told it was OK as long as she didn't participate in making the contract.

The contract is being paid with money from CCDC's low- and moderate-income housing fund.

LeSar's hourly rate, according to the scope of services, is $225; Matthew Doherty, who's worked for the San Diego Housing Commission and Corporation for Supportive Housing, has a listed hourly rate of $175. Rachel Ralston, whose resume includes four years as associate editor at the Gay and Lesbian Times before joining LeSar Development in February 2007, is listed at $90 an hour.

LeSar defended the cost and said that her company's per-hour rates are competitive. When I pointed out that Ralston's per-hour rate would come out to $187,200 annually if it were a full-time job, LeSar said I wasn't taking into account the built-in costs of running a business.

LeSar said that LDC's work will create an infrastructure that previously didn't exist for collaboration on homeless services between the San Diego Housing Commission and the county. "We are getting people housing because of this partnership," she said.

Under the contract, LDC was responsible for coordinating last September's "Registry Week," for which 30 teams of volunteers went throughout Downtown to count and survey the street population and create a database that will help get the most vulnerable people into housing, starting with 75 veterans, for whom the Veterans Administration is providing 75 housing vouchers, and 50 mentally ill individuals who will receive Section 8 vouchers and case management services from county mental-health providers.

LDC's role, according to the scope of services, is to coordinate with the San Diego Housing Commission and the county's Health and Human Services Agency to develop a "five-year work plan" for ending homelessness Downtown. The plan includes developing financing strategies, setting annual targets for creating supportive housing Downtown and working on state- and federal-level policy. LDC will also look at the feasibility of holding another Registry Week in 2012, handle PR and community education and outreach and provide recommendations for developing a data system to track and measure the program's progress.

You can download the staff report and supporting documents here.