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— A controversial member of the administration of ousted Democratic governor Gray Davis has turned up on the payroll of the San Diego State University Foundation. Rudy Murillo -- onetime aide to ex-congressman Lionel Van Deerlin, a Democrat, and ex-San Diego city councilman Uvaldo Martinez, a Republican -- worked as spokesman for the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service before picking up a job with then-governor Davis as executive director of the state Commission of the Californias, a cross-border international-relations group.

During his time with Martinez, Murillo found himself enmeshed in a city credit card spending scandal; he also had his car impounded for not paying $846 in parking fines and back registration fees. In November 1986, Martinez pled guilty to two felony counts for misusing the cards and was forced from office. Murillo was investigated by the district attorney's office but never charged.

Besides his work for Davis, Murillo had his most recent brush with notoriety last year when his name turned up on a list of campaign contributors to Perris, California, city-council races. Allegedly, those contributors were later reimbursed by Republican political consultant Colin Flaherty, the ex-husband of Van Deerlin's daughter and a longtime Murillo chum. (Years before, Flaherty had worked as a freelancer for San Diego magazine and the Reader, as well as being employed by the Daily Transcript.) The alleged developer cash-laundering scheme, involving a number of Flaherty's friends and associates, resulted in a $76,000 fine levied against Flaherty by the state's Fair Political Practices Commission. Both Flaherty and Murillo denied the allegations. Murillo said that the $200 check that the FPPC said he had received from Flaherty within a few days of making his campaign contributions was not a reimbursement. "It might have been for theater tickets, it might have been for anything," he told the Union-Tribune last year. "From time to time I have lent money to Colin and vice versa. I told that to investigators and told them they were barking up the wrong tree." Last October, Flaherty defaulted on the fine, which he had failed to contest.

In a telephone interview this week, Murillo -- a close associate of Lynn Schenk, ex-chief of staff to Davis -- said his work at the SDSU Foundation involved attempting to arrange a large grant from other large foundations to support an educational and academic development effort in conjunction with maquiladora plants in Tijuana. "This is a follow-up from something that I was doing for the governor at the comission," he said. In addition to other functions, the foundation plays a major role in managing hundreds of millions of dollars of grants from federal and private sources for university research and monitoring the university's conflict-of-interest reporting.

Summer school San Diego city councilwoman Toni Atkins, an avowed foe of Mayor Dick Murphy's controversial strong-mayor charter initiative, has left town for a month. "I will be out of the office from July 4, 2004, through July 31, 2004, attending the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University," she wrote in an e-mail to a constituent. "While I may be checking my e-mail periodically, I will not be able to do so daily." Aide Jeff Gattas says the trip, approved by Atkins's fellow councilmembers, is being funded by a scholarship from Fannie Mae, the big mortgage provider ... It must be election time again. Democratic congresswoman Susan Davis was recently given the conservative Navy League's annual "Robert M. Thompson Award for Outstanding Civilian Leadership" for her "work on defense issues." She shared the prize with right-wing Virginia Republican representative Ed Schrock, a big military-spending advocate and staunch backer of the war in Iraq. Meanwhile, Davis is out with a campaign-fundraising appeal to local supporters: "While I question the direction of the war, I've stood up for the needs of our military families and been their champion. In the people's House, our voices have been muzzled, but I will continue to be your voice. My aggressive advocacy has won me many friends -- but also some powerful foes. I need your help to make sure I can return to Congress to continue my efforts to make our nation's policies consistent with our values."

Legal eagles Rancho Santa Fe-based plaintiffs' lawyer Bill Lerach picked up most of the big ink in last Sunday's New York Times, but a name out of San Diego's legal past also surfaced. Mike Walsh, the ex-UCSD professor, Common Cause head, and U.S. Attorney, was given a small pat on the back in a story about the Union Pacific Railroad, which he ran after leaving San Diego. Walsh, a train-safety advocate, was favorably compared to current management in the paper's front-page exposé of the railroad's fraudulent train-wreck investigations. After UP, Walsh, an avid runner and fitness advocate, headed Houston's Tenneco, Inc., before dying of a brain tumor in May 1994 at age 51.

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