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— What's up with those huge new Union-Tribune billboards on Qualcomm Stadium facing the interchange of I-15 and I-8? They popped up mysteriously several weeks ago and have stadium neighbors buzzing. City Manager Michael Uberuaga didn't return phone calls regarding the billboards, which would appear to violate the city's so-called "off-premise" sign ordinance. But a contract dated this February 7 and signed by Uberuaga and Padres L.P. chief operating officer Jack McGrory, Uberuaga's immediate predecessor as city manager, explains the deal: "Subject to compliance with City laws, for so long as the Padres use and occupy Qualcomm Stadium pursuant to this extension, advertising signs are permitted on the back of the Tri-visions at Qualcomm Stadium." The contract, which is silent on how much the Padres are charging the Union-Tribune for the signs, goes on to say that "the City shall pay to the Padres the City's share of the revenue derived from this advertising only." The contract makes clear that city fathers had a big incentive to go easy on enforcing the city's off-premise sign limits: "If such additional signage opportunities are not available pursuant to applicable City laws, the Padres shall reopen negotiations regarding this extension solely to consider the impact of the unavailability of the additional signage opportunities."

Tax Dollars at Work

At first glance, the glossy four-color brochure touting a "campaign finance and government reform town meeting" sent out by Republican congressman Brian Bilbray looks like a campaign piece. "Please join Congressman Brian Bilbray with special guest Senator John McCain to learn more about efforts to reform the campaign finance system," says a headline on the piece. Close examination of the mailer reveals that it was sent out at government expense and bears the label "Public Document, Official Business." ... A first officer for Alaska Airlines who lives in Mission Valley has been placed on administrative leave and may face suspension of his pilot's license for six months. The move follows an incident in which Vincent Emile Danet, 38, and the plane's pilot, Captain Michael Alan Reese, 56, of Long Beach, continued their flight even though the passenger's emergency oxygen system activated and became depleted on a trip from Portland to San Jose, according the Seattle Times. Oxygen masks deployed at 14,000 feet because Danet and Reese had apparently failed to pressurize the plane. When they realized their mistake, the pilots corrected it but, instead of returning to Portland to recharge the plane's emergency oxygen, they continued up to 41,000 feet, where another depressurization might have been fatal to passengers stranded without oxygen.

Reprobate

A San Diego scam artist who once allegedly conned Zsa Zsa Gabor out of $55,000 will have to surrender to federal officials and return to prison for two years after an Omaha judge ruled last week that she had violated the terms of her parole. The judge found that 59-year-old Suzanne Wonderly failed to come up with $275,000 in restitution for her victims in a 1994 case in which she and an Omaha man bilked investors in three states out of $320,000, according to the Omaha World-Herald. During her supervised release in San Diego, Wonderly also "engaged in speculative financial transactions, associated with an individual involved in criminal activity, and failed to inform employers of her criminal history," according to a probation report cited by the newspaper. She had served three years in federal prison on the original conviction before being paroled. In 1991, Gabor sued her accountant, alleging that in 1989 she had invested $55,000 with Wonderly, who promised a $200,000 return, according to the Los Angeles Times. Gabor never saw her original investment again, according to the Times ... San Diego city councilwoman Valerie Stallings, reported to be the subject of a joint investigation by the District Attorney and federal prosecutors, has released records of five more long-distance phone calls made on her city phones to numbers belonging to John Moores. Most of the calls, made in 1998 and 1999, were to numbers in Carmel, California, where Moores has a residence.

Contributor: Matt Potter

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