San Diego Triple bogey, redux The San Diego city property agent who blew the whistle on a pending sweetheart lease renewal for Carlton Oaks Golf Course has been fired, and the timing of the move -- sanctioned by Jim Waring, top development aide to Mayor Jerry Sanders -- is drawing suspicion from both inside and outside city hall. As reported here on March 23, an internal March 3 memo, obtained after a request under the state's Public Records Act, documented that agent Brett Maxfield had warned in July 2005 that the city's Real Estate Assets Department was being pressured to extend the lease on less than favorable terms to taxpayers. Citing the "low return" of the proposed lease, Maxfield said he attempted to persuade his immediate supervisor to sidetrack the deal, but "he instructed me to 'not think too hard about it' and to write the report recommending the lease to the Council." Only after Maxfield went to then-acting real estate assets director Jack Farris was the agreement shelved. Maxfield's actions also resulted in a new audit of the lease, which discovered that the leaseholders had been undercharged rent to the tune of $92,908 in 2004 and a similar amount in 2005, the memo says.
On March 27, Maxfield, who was still serving a 12-month probationary period required of new hires, was called into the office of acting real estate assets director Mike Boyle and told he was being let go. "I believe that the reason for this action is the article that came out in the Reader concerning Carlton Oaks and other issues I have raised concerning the Water Dept.'s handling of property issues," Maxwell wrote in an e-mail to Waring the day he was fired. "Can we meet and talk about it?"
Waring responded less than an hour later, denying that the Carlton Oaks coverage was the cause of Maxfield's dismissal. "Just so you know, Mike briefed me on your employment status before any article was known or published. Regardless, I will meet with you as a courtesy, but only with Mike present. I do not want you, however, to expect that meeting to change the decision that was made or become a debate of some type. For what it's worth my free advice to you as a young, very educated man, is that your turning the page on this is the best life decision you can make for your future. Let me know if you want to meet." Maxfield, now convinced Waring was complicit in the cover-up, did not respond.
In a March 27 "Notice of Probationary Failure" letter to Maxfield, acting real estate assets director Boyle did not mention the Carlton Oaks affair but instead accused Maxfield of blowing out of proportion repeated complaints by a Navajo-area couple about hazardous erosion conditions on city Water Department-owned property next to their house. Boyle claimed Maxfield had displayed "bad judgment, hysteria and hyperbole concerning both facts and common sense conclusions" about the Navajo situation. Boyle also alleged that Maxfield had "damaged good will" and "insulted and strained working relationships" with other city departments. "I am aware of other READ [Real Estate Assets Department] agents unwilling to work with you; contentious relations with Lessees, and dubious charges of tax fraud and unilateral involvement of City Auditors, outside of the chain of command."
Maxfield says the Navajo case cited by Boyle was a simple pretext for the City's "retaliation" against him for legally complying with the Public Records Act request for the Carlton Oaks documents. "You...told me that you heard I had 'granted an interview to the Reader,' and that I had turned over the documents to their request without you having a chance to review what was going to be disclosed," says Maxfield in a letter he drafted to Boyle. "You were very upset by this. Your body language was full of anger. You mention how you were the only one who was to talk to the press and that my going behind your back and granting an interview was a betrayal. You called me a 'Whistle Blower' and said that you did not agree with that philosophy."
Maxfield insists he played everything by the book in his efforts to comply with the Public Records Act, including informing Boyle by e-mail prior to turning over the documents. The real reason he was let go, Maxfield says, was that he was rooting out too many skeletons in the City's closet. The animosity from other departments cited by Boyle came from those with something to hide, he maintains.
"The mayor has put a lot of talk into restoring integrity and transparency into the city," Maxfield says. "Of course, his actions seem to be contradicting that by firing me, because that's what I've been trying to do. Instead of congratulating me for my efforts, they are shooting the messenger.
"It's like these guys are the crooked cop. He's like busting the drug dealer and then taking them around the corner and saying, 'Okay, guys, give me the money, and don't do this in public. Keep your dirty laundry hidden.' That's what I feel is the course that Jim Waring is taking the city in." Boyle says he can't comment on a pending personnel matter. Waring did not respond to phone calls.
Polar bear express Outsourcing is everywhere these days. Even the venerable San Diego Zoo has decided to spurn the locals and get its printing done by a big Canadian company. According to a release from Montreal-based Transcontinental, Inc., the printing giant has inked a three-year deal to print and distribute 300,000 copies of ZOONOOZ, the zoo's glossy magazine. Transcontinental, the largest printer in Canada and seventh largest in North America, will also be printing zoo guidebooks and "three to five million maps a year" of the zoo and Wild Animal Park. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. In a phone interview this week, editor Karen Worley said the zoo's "processes for evaluating vendors are not open to public discussion."