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— The deal to build a downtown ballpark may have hit some snags, but that isn't getting in the way of Padres executives. Seen lingering at the door to downtown's posh Rainwater's steakhouse during last Friday's lunch hour: Padres honcho Larry Lucchino and the city's "ballpark czar," Mike Madigan, who earns an annual salary of more than $200,000 thanks to city taxpayers ... The Los Angeles Times, recently unloaded by L.A.'s powerful Chandler family in the wake of a conflict-of-interest scandal over the paper's business and editorial dealings with L.A.'s Staples sports arena, is hammering San Diego for going too slow on the ballpark. In a front-page story last week under the byline of longtime San Diego bureau chief Tony Perry, the paper quotes Padres co-owner Lucchino -- along with such downtown business boosters as mayoral candidate Peter Q. Davis and ex-Roger Hedgecock aide and lobbyist Mike McDade -- to support Perry's view that "the city moves with glacial sluggishness on big-ticket public projects." Complained Davis: "It's just too popular in San Diego to be negative, particularly if you're a politician." Among a list of purported San Diego sins, according to Perry, are "small-town thinking" and "reluctance to compromise." In addition, says the Times writer, "smugness is also a factor." The Reader's coverage of Jay Emmett, the Padres boardmember who pleaded guilty to federal fraud charges after being linked to mob dealings in New York's Westchester Premier Theatre scandal, also took a hit. Without naming Emmett or offering any description of the case and Emmett's long relationship with Lucchino and the Padres, Perry quoted unnamed "San Diego journalists" who found the story "flimsy."

Small-world theory

Chargers head Dean Spanos and wife Susie are helping pitch a new Las Vegas condominium project co-developed by none other than Irwin Molasky, the ex-La Costa partner who was a co-plaintiff in the resort's libel suit against Penthouse magazine back in the 1970s. A full-page ad in a recent Sunday Los Angeles Times Magazine features a large color photo of the Spanos couple under a quote from them: "Owning an NFL team keeps us on the go and takes us to cities all over the U.S. We have seen new home and high-rise communities in many places, but none compares with Park Towers in LAS VEGAS. Once we experienced its impressive architecture and impeccable attention to detail, we knew we had to own a home there. From the private spa to the screening room and its convenient location to McCarran Airport, Park Towers has become our field of dreams." In 1975, Molasky, along with Cleveland mobster Moe Dalitz, TV mogul Merv Adelson, and their associate Allard Roen -- who had built La Costa using money from the mobbed-up Teamsters Central States Pension Fund -- sued Penthouse over a story depicting the tony resort as Mafia Central. After ten years of bitter litigation -- during which a jury verdict in Penthouse's favor was overturned by a judge who was an ex-labor lawyer -- the parties agreed to drop the case and Penthouse issued a statement saying it "did not mean to imply nor did it intend for its readers to believe that Messrs. Adelson and Molasky are or were members of organized crime or criminals." La Costa was later sold to a Japanese investor, and Molasky, now 73, has prospered; his partner in Park Towers is Vegas hotel magnate Steve Wynn.

Track records

A Del Mar track habitue known as "Jimmy the Mouth" has been convicted of tax fraud for collecting up to $400,000 in undeserved tax refunds, according to L.A.'s City News Service. James J. Greulich, 53, was accused of cashing winning tickets for Del Mar track denizens, then collecting tax refunds for himself by using gambling-loss deductions he racked up during his own betting activities ... Forbes is out with its list of the nation's worst beaches, including Mission Bay. "If San Diego County has established itself as the California capital of sewage spills, this beach is its White House. Blame inadequate flushing due to its location on the bay. Care for a little dysentery to go with that typhoid fever, Mr. President?"

Contributor: Matt Potter

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