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— Back in September 1996, the city attorney's office announced formation of a "Public Integrity Unit" to clean up local government. "The Public Integrity Unit will serve a valuable function, and not only in handling election code violations but perhaps even more importantly, in investigating and prosecuting cases involving fraud, misuse of public funds, and related violations of the public trust," Casey Gwinn, then city attorney-elect, said in a press release. How has the unit, established after the city council trashed the city ethics commission, been doing since then? According to statistics furnished by the city attorney's office to activist Mel Shapiro, not too well. Last month deputy city attorney George H. Ramos, Jr. responded to Shapiro's questions about the unit's performance by writing that, since its inception, the office had "received a total of 476 complaints from all sources. This figure does not include the 482 campaign statements we have also reviewed." And the results? According to Ramos, "One civil complaint was filed." Though his letter doesn't mention it, the case was against one-time mayoral candidate Peter Navarro, bête noire of the San Diego establishment. How much money is being spent on the unit? Ramos didn't supply dollar figures, but his letter notes that "the Section is comprised of a deputy city attorney, legal assistant, and investigator."

Travels with Moores

That New York trip Las Vegas officials took with Padres owner John Moores to meet with bigwigs from the National Hockey League and the National Basketball Association about getting a sports franchise for the Nevada city has gotten some politicos into a tight spot. It seems that after flying to New York aboard Moores's private plane last week, Las Vegas mayor Oscar Goodman, city councilman Gary Reese, and city manager Virginia Valentine paid $575 apiece for three suites at the RIHGA Royal Hotel in Manhattan, according to an account in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Las Vegas taxpayers picked up the tab. While the wealthy Goodman was unapologetic about the expense ("I would have stayed in a more expensive hotel if I was paying for it myself"), the other officials were more defensive. "Frankly, I didn't know it was going to cost that much," Valentine told the paper, and Reese, "a 58-year-old barbershop owner traveling to New York for the first time," said he "was uncomfortable staying in such costly digs at taxpayer expense." As of last week, meal expenses had yet to be accounted for. Moores is interested in owning either an NHL or NBA team in the gambling capital.

La Jolla Cash-out

Ousted San Diego Museum of Art executive director Steve Brezzo has sold his fancy digs on La Jolla's Soledad Avenue to one of Padres owner John Moores's key executives and investment partners. According to county records, Brezzo and his wife Dagmar unloaded the imposing residence to Charles E. Noell, who for the past seven years has been president and chief executive officer of JMI Services, Inc., Moores's closely held investment company. Noell is also a general partner in JMI Equity Fund, L.P., a venture-capital investment firm, which also manages a big chunk of Moores's fortune. Noell paid $2,127,000 for the house ... La Jollan Glenn Pound, ex-dean of the University of Wisconsin and former professor of plant pathology there, has donated $2 million to the University of Arkansas for scholarships, according to The Chronicle of Philanthropy.

Drugs and Dollars

Diversa, the San Diego outfit that is trying to find material for new drugs in exotic microbes that grow in hot springs, is in hot water with Mexican officials, who claim that the company isn't paying enough for the germs it discovers in undisclosed Mexican locales. Last year, Diversa ran into similar flak when it attempted to explore the geysers of Yellowstone. Environmentalists have filed suit to block the program there ... The big downtown lobbying firm of Carpi & Clay has picked up a new client, Mt. High Hosiery, Ltd., of San Diego, to lobby on "unspecified trade legislation," according to the Political Finance & Lobby Reporter.

Contributor: Matt Potter

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