How important is cash on the barrelhead to members of the San Diego City Council?
Plenty, judging by the latest batch of financial disclosure reports delivered over the weekend to the city clerk's office.
One disclosure drawing special attention was filed by the legal defense fund of Democratic councilwoman Myrtle Cole, lately noted for her vote in favor of Mayor Kevin Faulconer's $2.1 million environmental impact report for a new Chargers stadium.
"I own two L.T. jerseys"
Cole described the stadium expenditure — regarded by critics as a waste of public money in light of the scorn the mayor’s proposal has received from the Chargers — as a "$2 million investment in keeping San Diego competitive."
Added Cole, "I own two L.T. jerseys," apparently referring to ex-Chargers star LaDainian Tomlinson. "That's an investment and I want to wear those jerseys."
Democrat Dwayne Crenshaw’s libel suit
Cole also has more substantial personal financial concerns. As previously reported here, the fourth district councilwoman set up a legal defense fund in 2014 to pay for costs of defending against a libel suit brought by fellow Democrat Dwayne Crenshaw. He alleged he had been defamed by a hit piece dispatched by her campaign during their 2013 council race.
The case was dismissed a year ago by superior court judge Richard Strauss, who said of the mailer, "the statements therein are not provably false.”
In a disclosure filing of last December 19, Cole's legal defense fund reported a debt of $42,159 to the Lawton Law Firm, which handled the case for her.
Debt down from $42,000 to $5000
The fund's latest filing, dated July 31, shows that the legal liability has been reduced to $5,009, thanks to an influx of cash this spring from city hall lobbyists and other special interest donors.
The contributor list is notable for money from those with major stakes in the development of Mission Valley, including Tom Sudberry, whose Sudberry Properties is developer of the giant Civita complex off Friars Road, just down the road from the proposed new stadium.
Mission Valley developers join in
The stadium environmental impact report has been cast by many of its backers as a way of removing obstacles to future Mission Valley development, regardless of how the fight for the Chargers turns out.
In addition to Sudberry himself, who came up with $550 on April 28, Jane Sudberry contributed $550 the same day. Sudberry's Estean H. Lenyoun, III gave $125 on April 23, as did Karen Lenyoun the same day.
John LaRaia, of H.G. Fenton, gave $150 on April 23. Sudberry developed Mission Valley's Fenton Marketplace, featuring Costco, Lowes, and Ikea, also on Friars Road near the stadium site. Michael Neal, Fenton president, donated $300 the same day.
On May 4, John Baumgardner of Ace Parking, the current stadium's parking vendor, gave $3550.
Doug Manchester’s architect
Doug Austin, a city planning commissioner and the architect of ex-U-T owner Douglas Manchester’s proposed retail and residential complex on the current site of the newspaper's Mission Valley office building, gave $300 on April 23.
The donations came about a month after the mayor's stadium task force picked the Mission Valley site of the current Qualcomm stadium for redevelopment as a new football venue.
Other notable donors to the councilwoman’s fund included SeaWorld park president John T. Reilly, with $550 on May 1, and lobbyist Rachel Laing, a former PR aide to ex-mayor Jerry Sanders, who gave $550 on June 12. Sempra's Frank Urtasan contributed $250 on April 23.
In addition to the fund's disclosure, several individuals filed separate statements, as required by law, revealing that they have currently pending business before Cole. They included developer Robert Ito, who gave $250 on June 22, and Crystal Crawford, who disclosed her interest was the "PACE program with the city of San Diego (Ygrene Energy Fund)."
Wendy Urushima-Conn's disclosure said she was seeking "approval by city council for my appointment to the Library Commission." She gave $100 on June 22.