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Instead of Wear, Murphy appointed Joe Craver, a retired Air Force colonel, aerospace-contracting consultant, and faithful Murphy campaign contributor. Governor Davis chose Xema Jacobson, business manager for the AFL-CIO's San Diego County Building & Construction Trades Council, clearly likely to favor any kind of new construction. Jacobson had also served as public-works enforcement representative for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 569.

The third seat, to be appointed by San Diego County Sheriff Bill Kolender, was filled shortly before Davis made his selection. But why was the sheriff, of all people, given the right to appoint the county's representative on the airport board? As Morgan put it in his October 2002 column, "Kolender's curious role came with an amendment that Peace pushed through the Legislature in its closing days and is a Peace rebuff to Supervisor Ron Roberts. Peace says he found Murphy more amenable to his ideas of consolidation."

Not everyone agreed with Neil Morgan's version of reality; many discounted the "Steve Peace seeking vengeance against Ron Roberts" story. More cynical observers noted that Kolender, a former Union-Tribune executive, was loyal to Helen and David Copley, the paper's owners, and could be counted on to install a boardmember who would more than support their long-held desire to move the airport, no matter what the environmental or financial costs. Peace, this theory went, had simply accommodated his powerful friends in the press.

When Kolender's pick was revealed on November 9, 2002, in a glowing story on page B-1 of the Union-Tribune, the cynics were not surprised. "Philanthropist nominated for regional airport panel," the headline blared. An enthusiastic story followed. "William D. Lynch, a Rancho Santa Fe businessman and philanthropist, whose foundation backs children's literacy programs, has been named one of three executive directors of the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority."

"I hope to bring some common sense in the analysis" of options for a new regional airport, said Lynch, who applied for the county government's appointment to the airport executive committee after being personally wooed by government officials and others. "And I believe, hopefully, that I can bring something to building a consensus, which is what this is going to take," he said.

In an echo of its many editorials citing the economic benefits of a new airport, the story quoted Kolender as saying that "Lynch 'understands that the airport is one of the foundations of economic development of this county.' " The piece went on to say that "the appointment must be confirmed by the county Board of Supervisors, but Lynch is expected to receive strong backing."

Then, after extolling Lynch's business acumen and charitable activities, way at the very bottom of the U-T story was, by way of partial disclosure, this final sentence: "His foundation also supports the San Diego Union-Tribune's annual Dr. Seuss Race for Literacy, which benefits the San Diego Council on Literacy (on whose board Lynch serves)."

As the newspaper predicted, Lynch was easily confirmed by the county board of supervisors two weeks later. Then the three paid members of the new airport board, known as the panel's "executive committee," along with the nonsalaried members who receive a $100-per-meeting stipend, were sworn in and began work in January of this year.

And there the story might have ended but for Lou Conde, a sometimes irascible, always engaging 76-year-old former county supervisor and veteran of the county's 1970s growth wars, who also claims credit for being the original father of the San Diego Trolley. The Cuban-American Conde, who is famous for staring down his opponents with fierce blue eyes, says that something is rotten in the way Sheriff Bill Kolender selected William Lynch for the airport board. Conde had wanted that job on the board, and when he was denied even an interview with Kolender, he decided to find out why. What he discovered, he insists, was a crime worthy of Tammany Hall's Boss Tweed.

"I arrived here in 1956," Conde says by way of introduction during a recent interview. "I am the father of five children attending public schools, graduating here with six university degrees between them. I am a political science graduate from Brigham Young University, 1951. I have been active in politics since 1952. When I came to San Diego I was active in school affairs. In 1969 I started a citizens taxpayers group called Taxpayers Concerned. We were involved with the political aspects of the local elected officials. We mounted a referendum against elected officials.

"We mounted a referendum against a board of supervisors at that time -- in 1972, I believe it was, maybe '71 -- protesting a very heavy salary increase that they voted themselves. I was in favor of a partial increase, told them so when I addressed the board. They went ahead with a full increase. Our group took to the streets. We mounted a referendum that was successful. The board had to back down and rescind their action to increase their salary. I then sued the Unified School District here in San Diego for using an education office, an office at the education center, to run a campaign to pass bond issues. That is in violation of state law. I took them into court.

"I next sued the Registrar of Voters and successfully stopped them from always listing the incumbent at the head of the ticket. And now they're forced to rotate the names around because we enforced [that order] on the list is preferential. A lot of people didn't know any better; they'd vote for the first name they see. That was about that same time. Then after I was elected to the board in November of '72 and I took office January the eighth of '73. We had a very contentious board. There were many 3-2 decisions on many issues."

When he ran for the board of supervisors in 1972, Conde faced off against incumbent Republican Jack Walsh. "He was just pushing all sorts of liberal issues. He wanted to put halfway houses in residential neighborhoods. He just had many liberal-type philosophies. I can't remember them all exactly at this moment in time. A nice guy, but his politics were terrible as far as we were concerned," Conde recalls.

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