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In August of 2006, Kroll, Inc. issued a report about San Diego's financial reporting problems. The firm had been hired to decide whether a mild report by Vinson & Elkins, or a stronger one by City Attorney Mike Aguirre, best described San Diego's situation. Doing a few interviews, and sewing together information from previous reports, including Aguirre's, Kroll came down on the side of Aguirre: individuals in government shoule be held responsible for false information deliberately put in bond prospectuses. Kroll and its law firm charged the City $20 million and beat it out of town, becoming well nigh inaccessible. The wolves are back. On the Union-Tribune op-ed page of May 30, Arthur Levitt (who made $900 an hour in the $20 million fleece job) and his assistant Lynn Turner argued in favor of Prop. C, which would permit the mayor to hire his own auditor in defiance of basic accounting conventions. On May 29, the U-T had denounced Councilmember Donna Frye and other opponents of the measure. Frye wanted to write a rebuttal letter. The U-T called her and said she should write an op-ed piece outlining her opposition to Prop. C. She had three hours to write it. The next day, her op-ed appeared as a foil to the one supposedly written by Levitt and Turner. How long did they have to write theirs? And how much were they paid? The U-T is as broke as the City.

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Comments

JohnnyVegas May 31, 2008 @ 8:04 a.m.

Arthur Levitt is a scam artist.

No one charges $900 an hour, not even a former SEC chairmen.

Flat out rip off of the City.

I thought Mike was going to sue them, I sure wish he would have/will.

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Fred Williams June 3, 2008 @ 12:39 p.m.

Well, Don, if I deserve "plaudits" I just want to make sure it's an "independent plauditor", so please be sure to tell all your friends today:

Vote NO on C.

:-)

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Don Bauder June 2, 2008 @ 10:59 p.m.

Response to post #13: Fred deserves plaudits. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder May 31, 2008 @ 11:31 a.m.

Response to post #1: Even at that time, there were consultants who charged more than $900 an hour -- but very few. What was pathetic was that when Kroll gave a press conference, it was obvious that their officials didn't know much about San Diego. Aguirre tried to cross-examine one lawyer and his lack of knowledge was amazing. Then the Kroll team bolted out of town and councilmembers couldn't ask them questions. As far as Aguirre's suit goes, I don't know the status now. I can find out, but not right now. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder May 31, 2008 @ 1:55 p.m.

Response to post #3: Maybe Johnny is one of those $900 an hour lawyers. Did you ever think of that, fumber? Best, Don Bauder

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paul May 31, 2008 @ 2:08 p.m.

Don,

Totally off topic: The North County Times and the VOSD both reported that the UT sold off the Copley News Service. Any thoughts on that sale, and the implications for what is left of the Copley Press?

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Don Bauder May 31, 2008 @ 6:06 p.m.

Response to post #5: First, I knew about it (not in advance), but figured people wouldn't give a hoot. Perhaps I was wrong; you are the third to ask me about it. What do I think of it? The Copley organization has now sold the South Bay Daily Breeze and those papers in Illinois and Ohio, which were a significant part of the company. Then Copley sold Casa del Zorro, which David Copley at the time of his heart transplant promised to at least one employee that he would never sell. That resort meant a lot to Helen and David, yet the company sold it. (It was losing money at a fast rate.) I don't know if Copley News Service was profitable. It would be hard to measure, because so much of its output went to Copley papers. It had a couple of good cartoonists. Now Copley is down to the U-T and the almost insignificant (monetarily) Borrego Sun. The U-T has admitted to employees that it is losing revenue at a fast pace. Figures show it is losing circulation rapidly. Is it still profitable? I would think very narrowly yes, but I do not know. Is the company selling out? First, few want to buy a metro daily paper today; those papers are sinking and the U-T is sinking faster than its confreres. I doubt if a sugar daddy would buy it as a toy, although that's possible. Other chains wouldn't buy it; Gannett, McClatchy, Tribune are hurting, for example. That probably leaves William Dean Singleton, who owns the Denver Post, papers in the Bay Area including the San Jose Mercury, and others. He is battling a civil antitrust suit in Northern California. Once he disposes of that, he may make another raid on Southern California. He already owns the ex-Copley paper the South Bay Daily Breeze. He is a head chopper. But the Denver Post is a pretty good paper, so he knows how to squeeze quality out of fewer employees. But does David want to sell? I do not know. Best, Don Bauder

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patflannery May 31, 2008 @ 11:46 p.m.

Don: re Levitt and Turner, of course they would be against anything remotely like an independent auditor. So is Stan Keller - for the same reason. None of their outrageous fees would survive the smell test of a proper audit. All three are charlatans and they wish to see a charlatan appointed as our auditor as they never know when they might get another opportunity to come back and rip us off.

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Burwell June 1, 2008 @ 9:27 a.m.

The U-T should sue the local TV and radio stations and obtain an injunction to prevent the stations from using U-T articles as a source for their news broadcasts. Local TV and radio should be required to pay the U-T a percentage of their advertising revenue as compensation for using U-T editorial material. The blow-dried news bimbos of San Diego TV land would have no content to mouth over the air without the U-T.

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Don Bauder June 1, 2008 @ 9:44 a.m.

Response to post #7: Good points. Levitt, Turner, and Keller couldn't fleece the City if an objective auditor would cock an eyebrow at their fees. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder June 1, 2008 @ 9:55 a.m.

Response to post #8: This is true everywhere. TV and radio get their news from the local paper. However, it is quite often by a circuitous route. The Associated Press gets its news from the local paper, then sends it out under the A.P.'s name. So the radio or TV station can say it got it from the A.P. Or if radio and TV get it from the local paper, they can always make it look like it was original reporting. Keep in mind, too, that the papers often get their news from TV. The U-T used to have a TV watch to see if it was being scooped. Blogs are quite critical of the written media, but use them as a major source. And it goes the other way: newspapers increasingly get stories from blogs. But I don't think anybody could sue over the sourcing of news; the incest has been around for centuries. Best, Don Bauder

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Fred Williams June 2, 2008 @ 1:24 p.m.

Modern news reporting is an echo chamber.

A press release is cobbled together by Fred Sainz, with an extra dose of disinformation and bald faced lies to make it spicy, and sent to Kittle at the UT.

The UT copy/pastes it into a "news story" and it goes out under the by-line of Matt Hall.

The AP re-writes Hall's falsehoods into a shorter version, and it goes out on the wire.

By the evening, the local television bubble heads are reading their scripts for the camera, and AP has distributed the story to other outlets around the nation.

The result?

BIG NEWS TONIGHT with Laffy Happy

Laffy: Welcome to the news. Our big story tonight

(graphic of City Attorney)

Laffy: Is Mike Aguirre actually Jimmy Hoffa? Our crack team of reporters find out!

Reporter 1: I'm here on location at the civic center downtown, talking to the Mayor's spokesperson, Fred Sainz. Mr. Sainz, is Aguirre really Jimmy Hoffa?

Sainz: Well, it's been reported in the Union Tribune, so there must be something to the story.

Laffy: Does that mean that the City Attorney is currently encased in tons of concrete?

Reporter 1: Mr. Sainz, in your judgement is the City Attorney in a concrete case, right this moment?

Sainz: His cases have been a thorn in the Mayor's side for a while now.

Laffy: Turning now to the man in question, Aguirre himself, our team coverage continues.

Reporter 2: So, Mr. Aguirre, or should I say Hoffa?

Aguirre: You guys are nuts. You need professional help.

Reporter 2: Laffy, it's apparent that the City Attorney has lost his mind, and now he's attacking hard working reporters.

Laffy: So that's the news folks! Aguirre is actually Jimmy Hoffa. We've got to break for commercials, but when we're back...is your plant psychic? We'll find out!

(go to commercial)

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Don Bauder June 2, 2008 @ 2:23 p.m.

Response to post #11: That's a wonderful satire, and so close to the truth. You've written several other satires that were penetrating, too. Congratulations. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder June 3, 2008 @ 4:37 p.m.

Response to post #16: Amen. Best, Don Bauder

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