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The care and feeding of Lamont Ewell San Diego's Ethics Commission has released notes of interviews conducted earlier this year during its investigation of San Diego Data Processing Corporation honcho Roger Talamantez. Talamantez was sanctioned and forced to resign in January 2004 after his big spending of public funds on $25 tequila shots and lavish parties came to light. Last month he agreed to pay a $500 fine for a series of events in August 2003 in which he allegedly tried to pressure then-councilman Michael Zucchet to underground power lines in Talamantez's Mission Hills neighborhood. In February of this year, Ethics Commission investigator Lauri Davis called then-city manager Lamont Ewell to inquire about meals he had with Talamantez: "When asked about the October 2, 2002 dinner at Fio's with Talamantez, Ewell and their spouses, Ewell acknowleged that this dinner did occur. Ewell stated that they dined together as a 'social occasion' and it was 'non-job related.' They all acknowledged that it was a social occasion and did not discuss anything business related.

"Ewell remembers this dinner because they agreed to split the bill in half. Ewell said he paid Talamantez cash for his and his wife's portion. He remembers paying because he had to borrow additional money from his wife. Talamantez used a credit card to pay and Ewell just assumed it was Talamantez's personal credit card. Ewell was shocked when it came out last year that Talamantez had used a DPC credit card to pay for that dinner and reported it was a business expense when it clearly was a social occasion.

"Ewell said he would have asked for a receipt for his portion had he known what Talamantez was doing; however, it never occurred to him that years later this meal would be an issue. Ewell said he trusted Talamantez because he thought he was 'ethical' so he never dreamed he would need to ask for a receipt.

"Ewell said a November 4, 2002, $228.90 'meal' at Doubletree 'never happened.' Ewell insisted that he never had dinner with the people listed on the receipt," Davis continued. She noted that "Talamantez wrote a handwritten receipt for this meal stating 'Lost receipt $228.90 -- Doubletree -- City Managers Exec. Seminar Dinner -- Roger Talamantez, Lamont Ewell, Rey Arellano, Larry Gardner. Discussion of Retreat.' "

As Ewell remembered the evening, "This was not really a 'dinner' but in fact for 'drinks' at the management retreat. Ewell replied that after the management retreat was over they had a 'cash bar' and had some drinks. Ewell said alcohol has never been allowed at city expense which is why they had a cash bar. Ewell said he paid cash for his own drinks and he saw Talamantez purchase some drinks; however, Ewell did not know Talamantez was using a DPC credit card to purchase those drinks.

"Ewell was asked if he understood that even if there is a 'social occasion' and someone purchases a meal or drinks for him he may still be required to report it on his SEI. He acknowledged that he knows that. We discussed reciprocal meals and he asked about regular reciprocal meals he has with the County Administrator. I explained that those would need to be reported too if they exceed $50 in aggregate. I told him that we have been making sure people know about reciprocal meals when we do our training as this issue came up recently in our office. Ewell said he would be attending the Ethics Commission training session in March."

Old Navy brand As of last Friday, a mug shot of new mayor Jerry Sanders had yet to be posted in the glass case of honor near the elevators at San Diego city hall, but that of ex-admiral Ronne Froman, his second-in-command, is already there, joining those of the city council and city attorney Mike Aguirre. ... With San Diego's strong-mayor era rapidly approaching, city holdovers are leaving in droves. In the Water Department, long a source of controversy over its bad management, the trend has been especially pronounced. In addition to director Frank Belock and deputy Vic Baines, human resources manager Paulette Mormino has departed. Another big gun to leave the City recently: Jonathan Dunchack, manager of "special projects," which included the expansion of Qualcomm Stadium, build-out of the convention center, and construction of the Padres' baseball stadium. His last day was December 5.

To all a broke night It's not much of a merry Christmas at the once-mighty San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce. In a letter e-mailed to members last week, president Jessie Knight spelled out the bad news. "Like most non-profit organizations, the Chamber has to fight annually just to stay out of the red. In point of fact, 2005 has been a tumultuous year for the Chamber financially, although it is anticipated we will make the bottom line goal for the year," he wrote. "To that end, to minimize operational costs during the December holiday season, the Chamber will go to limited staff from December 16-31, 2005. While our reception desk will be closed, Chamber staff will be available by calling the Chamber's main line at (619) 544-1300."

Hot wheels More evidence that Brent Wilkes, the Poway defense contractor and sports car connoisseur at the center of the Duke Cunningham bribery scandal, was generous to a fault comes from a fund-raising solicitation for Children's Hospital authored two years ago by San Diego Porsche club president Bill Allen: "The goal is to raise at least $1 million from throughout the community by the 50th anniversary celebration in November 2004. Thanks to Poway's Gina and Brent Wilkes, who are serving as the campaign's Honorary Chairs, they have a dollar-for-dollar match up to $1 million for every contribution."

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