— San Diego-based Sempra Energy is in big trouble with New Jersey utility regulators. Energy America, a joint-venture between Sempra and Direct Energy Marketing Ltd. off Calgary, Canada, has been accused by the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs and the Board of Public Utilities of using deceptive marketing practices in selling electricity to consumers in the state. More than 1800 complaints have been filed against the joint venture, alleging that its employees encouraged elderly consumers and Spanish-speaking urban residents to sign forms without reading them. Energy America workers also allegedly forged customer initials on switch-over request forms and falsely promised lifetime discounts. The company also stands accused of "slamming" -- taking accounts from other electrical retailers without customer permission. If the charges are upheld, Sempra and its partner may be barred from New Jersey's newly deregulated electricity market. The company had signed up about 40,000 customers.

Zoo Food

A unique meat-packing plant in Ignacio, Colorado, near Durango, has just picked up the San Diego Zoo as one of its first customers. The outfit, Load and Go Livestock Gourmet Food for Carnivores, operates out of an old plant once used to slaughter cattle, hogs, and sheep for human consumption, reports the Durango Herald. After 50 years of operation, it was closed and converted for use in grinding up "salvageable sheep and cattle" unfit for humans but delicacies for zoo animals. Salvageable is defined as being old, having broken legs, or suffering from conditions like eye cancer. Before the new operation opened up, the animals were usually shot and buried by local ranchers, who now sell the damaged animals to the slaughterhouse for 10 cents a pound ... Last year county supervisor Dianne Jacob took the microphone at her "State of East County" address to praise the opening of a 100,000-square-foot factory in El Cajon owned by Ketema, a maker of satellite parts and other high-tech doodads. "We're here this evening to celebrate our accomplishments and look to the future," said Jacobs. Now Ketema is making more news. London's Independent newspaper is reporting that some San Diego-based managers at the firm, a subsidiary of an English engineering company known as Senior, falsely inflated the value of inventory figures, shooting a huge hole in the parent company's profits when the fraud was discovered. "What has become painfully clear to us is that much of the inventory did not really exist or could not properly be valued at the level it said on the books," senior executive Andrew Parrish told the paper. "The management of Ketema got carried away with their commercial responsibilities at the expense of financial probity."

Team Players

Padres owner John Moores and Las Vegas mayor Oscar Goodman have latched on to yet another sports team to move to the gambling mecca. Moores, a software mogul, and Goodman, one-time lawyer to the mob, say they have been talking to potential investors about relocating the Ottawa Senators, a National Hockey League team. "This mayor and this city council are desirous of bringing in an NHL and an NBA team and we're doing everything possible to make that happen," Goodman told the Ottawa Citizen last week. "There are a lot of hockey fans living here, but also people are coming here from all over the continent and they would flock here to see a game while they're enjoying other entertainment." Las Vegas, Goodman said, "is a major-league city and we want major-league sports." Moores and Goodman met with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman during a September trip to Manhattan to sell the somewhat controversial notion of pro sports in Las Vegas. Moores has also been sniffing around the National Football League in an attempt to relocate a team to Los Angeles or Orange County ... Retiring San Diego county treasurer and tax collector Paul Boland has wrangled a new gig, at least temporarily. He's scheduled to be chief witness on behalf of the federal Securities and Exchange Commission in its case against the North Orange County Community College District. According to the Bond Buyer, the SEC alleges that the district illegally borrowed millions of dollars and invested the cash in Orange County's risk-investment pool, which later went broke.

Contributor: Matt Potter

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