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— Relating to the public Embattled San Diego Unified School District superintendent Alan Bersin has tapped the ranks of local public relations professionals to come up with his new "Executive Director of Communications and Community Relations." John Spelich, until recently president of troubled Stoorza Communications, was picked for the $124,000-a-year job after a personal interview by Bersin and his chief of staff. "We had ten applications for the position but Mr. Spelich's background and experience was so far superior to the remaining candidates that we dispensed with a panel interview," according to a district memo. Spelich will outrank the district's current PR honchos, ex-Los Angeles Times reporter David Smollar and ex-Channel 39 news executive Tom Mitchell. Spelich had been hired by Stoorza in July after he left a job at Gateway Computers. Before coming to Gateway, he was in charge of global news and PR for Ford Motor Company. Bersin is reported to be unhappy with the attacks of teachers union representatives and angry parents who contend that his "Blueprint for Education" has gone awry. The new position also comes on line as contentious campaigns for school board are ramping up... Warren Hellman, wealthy father-in-law of UCSD chancellor Robert Dynes, has just made another big acquisition. Hellman's investment firm, Hellman & Friedman LLC, has gone into partnership with Warburg Pincus & Co. to buy Arch Capital Group, a major insurance company. Warburg is putting up $500 million; Hellman will pay $250 million.

Aqua in the red A Hawaii biotech outfit founded by Mark Huntley and other scientists from La Jolla's Scripps Institution of Oceanography is in financial hot water but vows it won't be pushed into bankruptcy. Aquasearch, which started back in 1989 as a breeder of algae for fish food and later branched into supplying algae for cancer and other disease research, moved its operations to Keahole Point on the big island of Hawaii in 1995. This October, five creditors claiming they are owed $550,000 in unpaid debt and arguing that Huntley has mismanaged the company, sought to put it into Chapter 11 bankruptcy. In a statement released earlier this month, Huntley said, "Aquasearch is not in bankruptcy. These debt claims are in dispute, and I feel these petitioners have no valid claims. There appears to be some hidden agenda on the part of these people, as they have made no formal communication with us in the past six weeks." A hearing on the matter is set for December 7 ... A former San Diego County data-processing chief has run up against conflict-of-interest allegations in his new job as chief information officer of Los Angeles County. Jon Fullinwider, who used to have the same job here, owned 68 shares of stock in Cisco Systems while handling a $250 million Cisco contract and ordering that all county agencies buy equipment from the company, the L.A. Times reports. He did not disclose his shareholdings on his conflict-of-interest filing as required by law.

Harry Lime on steroids San Diego-based Science and Engineering Associates is out with the ultimate Christmas present: "Spyfinder," a "battery-powered, hand-held device that detects and locates hidden cameras and video devices, regardless if the camera is operational or not." Proclaiming that "millions of miniature cameras are sold each year" and 45,000 websites are "dedicated to hidden camera sales or video voyeurism," the company says that its device can be used by "celebrities who commonly battle privacy invasion, athletes needing to ensure locker-room privacy, and travelers looking for hidden cameras in hotel rooms and restrooms." Exact details are a secret, but the firm says the $190 Spyfinder uses "laser and proprietary optics to find hidden surveillance cameras anywhere."... San Diego's own Websense, Inc., is competing for a multimillion-dollar contract to allow the government of Saudi Arabia to block citizen access to websites that the government deems undesirable, reports the New York Times. The software would block pornography and religious and political sites that the Saudi government views as a threat.

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