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— A retired rear admiral, ex-SEAL, and military special-ops expert who lives in Coronado has found himself in the middle of the controversy over the nation's airport security. Cathal "Irish" Flynn, who saw two tours of duty in Vietnam as a SEAL, later became an admiral, and then was the Federal Aviation Administration's associate administrator for Civil Aviation Security from 1993 until 2000, is a member of the board of directors of Argenbright Holdings Limited of Atlanta. That company is the nation's largest airport-security firm, providing services at some of the nation's busiest airports, including Boston, Dallas-Fort Worth, Detroit, Washington's Dulles International and Ronald Reagan National, and New York's La Guardia. Before Flynn joined its board last May, Argenbright pleaded guilty to two charges of making false statements to the FAA regarding its training, testing, and background checks of its screeners. The government subsequently put the firm on probation and levied a $1.5 million fine. But late last week the U.S. Attorney's Office in Philadelphia accused Argenbright of violating the terms of its probation by handing out airport-access passes to employees who hadn't been given criminal-background checks. Company president Bill Barbour told the Philadelphia Enquirer he was "puzzled" by the charges and maintained they were inaccurate. The paper reported that Flynn, contacted in Coronado, said that the hiring of ex-felons must have occurred before he joined the Argenbright board and that "his plan to strengthen background checks applied to future employees, not ones already hired." He conceded that "more remains to be done." The allegations say eight employees had been hired by Argenbright since its October 2000 guilty pleas. Their offenses included election fraud, criminal conspiracy, concealed-weapons charges, and various drug raps. In April 2000, speaking to an airport-security conference in Singapore covered by the Straits Times, then-FAA security chief Flynn anticipated the need for better personnel. "No matter how much investment we put in advanced equipment, aviation security will not improve unless there are advances in the human element. The accuracy, thoroughness, and response of our intelligence and law-enforcement communities also play an important role. A visibly professional security workforce is of untold deterrence value. Terrorists tend to go to the weakest link, and, once inside the system, they can have considerable latitude to target other aircraft."

Judge by the money District Attorney Paul Pfingst, facing a nasty reelection challenge by a host of candidates, has so far raked in more than $22,000 from big names in the local legal and business establishment. His latest campaign-finance report, filed last week, reveals that Qualcomm cofounder Andrew Viterbi and his son, Alan, founder of U.S. Public Technologies, that controversial red light camera company, each gave $250; Richard Leib of U.S. Public also gave $250. U.C. Regent, local attorney, and Republican activist John Davies also chipped in $250. Attorney Lisa Foster, whose husband is city schools superintendent Alan Bersin, gave $500, as did Greg Vega, the ex-U.S. Attorney now associated with the Seltzer, Caplan law firm. Both Vega and Foster are members of the City of San Diego's new ethics commission.

Battle ready Just in time for war, the cafeteria at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot has been named "Best Mess Hall" by the "Major General W.P.T. Hill Memorial Awards Program for Food Service Excellence." In reporting the honor, Food Service Director magazine quotes the mess manager, Master Gunnery Sgt. Edward Trevino, as saying, "As our customers come through the door, they're expecting every day that everything will be perfect. When that door opens at 1100 [11:00 a.m.], they want that salad bar to have been set up exactly on time, they want the food on that line, they want the pastry on the bar. They want everything ready to go every day -- and they want it to be clean and to smell good."... Ex-Chicago White Sox player Jack McDowell, who now lives in Rancho Santa Fe where he has a rock band called Stickfigure, is trying to sell his Chicago-area home for $1.195 million, reports the Chicago Tribune.

Contributor: Matt Potter

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