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However, Ian Trowbridge, retired professor and director of the Cancer Biology Laboratory at Salk Institute, reported to the Ethics Commission that although Vilaplana did not participate in the final vote, he "took part in ballpark district committee meetings and strongly advocated for the Padres," says Trowbridge.

Vilaplana says there was a committee meeting open to the public. He did not vote on the issue, he says. However, "I have been a strong advocate of having more office buildings downtown," he says. "I may have said I want more office buildings." Some may have construed his remarks to mean he favored letting the Padres off the hook on their pledge to build a large park from which people could watch games, says Vilaplana.

Peak says that Vilaplana had participated in discussions about the matter, "but as soon as he realized his firm had a conflict, then he stopped participating in the discussions," she says. The board is going back to minutes to find exactly what Vilaplana said at those earlier meetings, she says.

Trowbridge sums it up: "When I retired last year, I became interested in how politics are done in San Diego. As I went through, it was obvious decisions are made on the basis of relationships."

Anyone who knows San Diego would say "amen" to that.

Among those who did not return calls for comment were Hall, Jarrett, and the lawyer for Hall's partnership.

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