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On Tuesday, city council will consider a $200,000 settlement of the unlawful termination and retaliation suit against the City filed by Scott Kessler, who once rode herd on the business improvement districts.

Kessler had cooperated with a police detective and the FBI in a joint exhaustive study of possible corruption by Little Italy powerhouse Marco Li Mandri and his friend, Paul (Joe) Mannino, who in the 1980s was convicted of drug, firearms and racketeering violations and went to prison.

Under the Freedom of Information Act, civic activist Mel Shapiro requested more information on Mannino from the FBI. Shapiro learned that on the FBI report are the initials OC/DI. Former FBI members say that means "organized crime/drug investigation."

Also on the report were "LCN-Genevese." According to former FBI employees, that means La Cosa Nostra, Genovese crime family, one of New York's major crime groups. After prison, Mannino came west, meeting Li Mandri in 2000. The FBI/police study concerned, among other things, corruption by the two at a business improvement district.

Kessler was fired in late 2008 and had good reason to believe it was because of his cooperation in this probe, which would be an embarrassment to Mayor Jerry Sanders. The detailed study was given to District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, who went to Sanders's office specifically to tell him she would not prosecute the case, according to Sanders's deposition.

The $200,000 settlement seems low to those who have followed the matter. The City spent $450,000 having the Brown Law Group defend the sordid case.

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BlueSouthPark Nov. 11, 2011 @ 6:58 p.m.

From the City's paperwork:

"Plaintiff Scott Kessler (Plaintiff), a former Deputy Director of the City’s Economic Development Division, was an at-will employee laid-off in November 2008 as part of the Office of the Mayor’s managerial reorganization. The Mayor’s Office chose to retain a more senior management employee whose position had been eliminated during the mid Fiscal Year 2009 budget cuts, by placing her in Plaintiff’s former position. Plaintiff’s complaint, however, alleges that the City’s stated reason for his lay-off is merely pretext. Plaintiff claims he was retaliated against and wrongfully terminated because he was a cooperating witness in a San Diego Police Department (SDPD) and Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) investigation, as well as because he disclosed information to the City’s Ethics Commission. The proposed settlement will resolve all claims, including attorneys’ fees and costs, brought by Mr. Kessler."

The employee who replaced Kessler was Beth Murray. There were all kinds of layoffs going on in 2009/2010, including Murray's boss, the head of CPCI, Bill Anderson. Anderson conveniently shifted over to a major City contractor position (wow; isn't this prohibited?): http://www.linkedin.com/pub/william-anderson/14/944/140

Maybe Kessler can find work there. Or not.

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Don Bauder Nov. 11, 2011 @ 8:31 p.m.

How much of the City's paperwork do you believe? Should you? Best, Don Bauder

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SurfPuppy619 Nov. 11, 2011 @ 9:14 p.m.

$200K is way too low. Especially in ligh of how much the City spent to defend up until this point.

Go to trial, roll the dice, the chances of getting less than $200K at trial are small, the chances of getting 7 figures is much higher.

Go teach KFC Sanders a lesson. A 7 figure lesson, because the pocketbook is the only place these clowns feel pain.

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Visduh Nov. 11, 2011 @ 9:33 p.m.

Agreed that this is low. If such a claim has enough validity to get any sort of settlement, that payoff should be five or ten times as large. SurfPup, you really want to see a trial don't you? Air all that dirty linen in public! Show the world just what a crook (masquerading as a clown) Sanders really is! It looks as if it won't get the airing it should have. Not this time.

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Don Bauder Nov. 12, 2011 @ 6:43 a.m.

Showing the mayor's sleazy associations and the machinations of his staff would be reasons enough to go to trial. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Nov. 12, 2011 @ 6:41 a.m.

Agreed: $200,000 is far too low. Neither Kessler nor his lawyer, Josh Gruenberg, would comment. I think it would have been wise to go to trial. Best, Don Bauder

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SurfPuppy619 Nov. 12, 2011 @ 10:21 a.m.

If you are only getting $200K, and I would bet the lawyer will see more than half of that-then go to TRIAL. Nothing to lose really, because less than $100K in the jeans after this much brain damage is pretty much nothing in my book.

Oh, wait, I forgot, Kessler will have to pay taxes on the $100K, so take out $40K and he will only have $60K in his jeans, go to trial wimp.

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Don Bauder Nov. 12, 2011 @ 4:55 p.m.

I would not call Kessler a wimp. First, he helped the FBI and the police in smoking out the alleged scam. Then he had the guts to sue. I disagree with the decision to settle, but Kessler is now doing consulting on business improvement districts, and may feel that it's not wise to antagonize government people any further. Best, Don Bauder

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SurfPuppy619 Nov. 12, 2011 @ 11:47 p.m.

but Kessler is now doing consulting on business improvement districts, and may feel that it's not wise to antagonize government people any further. == If Kessler received a 7 figure jury award to would never have to work again-ever .................

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Visduh Nov. 12, 2011 @ 11:29 a.m.

Just remember that the trial would have been held locally, and the local judges seem to side with the city over 95% of the time. The attorney may have seen how the issues of pre-trial motions were going and decided that the case wasn't going to do well in front of a jury. Or maybe he and his client were scared into accepting this sop.

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Don Bauder Nov. 12, 2011 @ 4:58 p.m.

The judge was, for San Diego, remarkably fair in this case. I think the question of fear is a good one. Were there threats? Kessler and Gruenberg were dealing with some very rough people. Best, Don Bauder

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SurfPuppy619 Nov. 12, 2011 @ 11:44 p.m.

Juries make the call, not the judges, so trial is the way to go. Always trust a jury.

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BlueSouthPark Nov. 11, 2011 @ 7:08 p.m.

P.S. Watching the Carl Vinson basketball event, with Obama on board...saw Councilman Faulconer in the crowd. Anyone see any other local pols???? How did Faulconer get tickets?

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Don Bauder Nov. 11, 2011 @ 8:33 p.m.

I guess you have to ask Faulconer that question. Then you have the problem of whether or not to believe him. Best, Don Bauder

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SurfPuppy619 Nov. 11, 2011 @ 8:46 p.m.

Hey, My Michigan State Spartans played B-Ball today!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Go green and white!

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Don Bauder Nov. 12, 2011 @ 6:45 a.m.

Your Spartans beat my Badgers in football on a last-second hail mary pass. Then we got beaten the next week in the same fashion. Best, Don Bauder

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SurfPuppy619 Nov. 12, 2011 @ 10:23 a.m.

MSU has had a great football team the last 2 years-so has San Diego State.

MSU beat Michigan a few weeks ago, when Michigan was still unbeaten (Michigan now has the SDSU football coach from last year).

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Don Bauder Nov. 12, 2011 @ 5 p.m.

Yes, and Michigan is doing very well under that coach. Best, Don Bauder

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nostalgic Nov. 12, 2011 @ 2:29 p.m.

Did Scott Kessler wind up with City retirement benefits?

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Don Bauder Nov. 12, 2011 @ 5:02 p.m.

I would be relatively certain that Kessler got his retirement benefits. That goes to the heart of a big colloquy we have had on this blog: can excessive benefits be taken away? At this point, legal advisors say they can't. It will probably take a case going to the Supreme Court to decide that. Best, Don Bauder

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BlueSouthPark Nov. 12, 2011 @ 8:04 p.m.

How long does someone have to be employed to get retirement bennies? Kessler was hired in mid-2006, terminated in Dec 2009.

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Don Bauder Nov. 12, 2011 @ 9:14 p.m.

Oh, that may be different. In that case, I am not sure he was vested after only three years, and I don't know that he purchased service credits. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Nov. 13, 2011 @ 11:33 a.m.

It appears that he wasn't vested. Best, Don Bauder

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nostalgic Nov. 13, 2011 @ 11:55 a.m.

Bill Anderson advertises on Linkedin that he was with the cit;y 5 years and 1 month. Guess he got in under the retirement wire.

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Don Bauder Nov. 13, 2011 @ 3:23 p.m.

Anderson or Kessler got in under the wire? Best, Don Bauder

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nostalgic Nov. 13, 2011 @ 6:12 p.m.

It looks like Anderson could get retiree health insurance and retirementincome based on ten years of service (5+5); Kessler gets nada.

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InOmbra Nov. 14, 2011 @ 9:15 p.m.

I think that there is a big part of this sordid tale that is being overlooked, in at least two regards.

First, the SDPD/FBI report states that in 2005 Kessler came to the SDPD to report that Li Mandri/Mannino had violated conflict of interest laws in 2000 and 2001. The report says that investigators interviewed Kessler about his allegations from April to Aug 2005. This was more than four years after the fraudulent actions that Kessler says he warned Li Mandri and Mannino about.

Kessler's 2005 interviews with the SDPD/FBI took place more than a year prior to Kessler landing his job with the City, as Deputy Director of the Economic Development division, in late 2006. Did Kessler discuss Li Mandri and Mannino during his City job interview? If not, why not? The SDPD/FBI final report took two years to produce, and by the spring of 2007, when the City saw the report, Kessler had been in his City job a full year.

What triggered Kessler to go to the cops in the spring of 2005, four long years after the fraudulent activity that he had observed? What was happening in San Diego then (other than the resignations of Hank Cunningham, Economic Development Director; Lamont Ewell, City Manager; and Dick Murphy, Mayor)?

I think it is worth considering this, and worth looking at what Kessler, Li Mandri, and Mannino were doing separately and collectively during all of those years. The records of their official actions and interactions exist and are quite interesting. [cont]

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Don Bauder Nov. 15, 2011 @ 6:56 a.m.

My own supposition is that if Kessler had discussed Li Mandri/Mannino in jobs interviews, he would not have been hired. If in fact Kessler didn't discuss the Li Mandri/Mannino conflicts until four years after he had observed them, my guess would be that the police/FBI had not pursued the case earlier. Best, Don Bauder

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InOmbra Nov. 14, 2011 @ 9:16 p.m.

[cont] Second, it is worth looking at what Li Mandri and Dumanis were doing during those years, and their interactions. Among other events, in Feb 2003 the Little Italy Association gave an "appreciation" dinner for the newly elected Dumanis. Next, ironically, Dumanis appeared at the LIA Board meeting in Sep 2004 and gave a presentation on white collar crime, check cashing fraud, County crime, and the priorities of her office. "The Board expressed their appreciation to the District Attorney for taking time from her busy schedule to return to the Community where she has had so much support over the past three years." Then, in June 2005, exactly when Kessler was talking to SDPD and the FBI about Li Mandri and Mannino, Dumanis gave another presentation to the LIA Board, as recorded in the LIA minutes: "District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis (new resident to Little Italy) spoke with the Board and gave an update on what they are currently working on in the DA’s office."

My instincts tell me that Kessler saw the City in turmoil in 2005, and knew that it could be his chance to move into City government, after operating on the fringe of it for years, on boards and advisory groups. Kessler may thought that Li Mandri would again be a competitor, for the spot Kessler now envisioned as his. Kessler and Li Mandri had moved in the same circles for decades, yet Li Mandri was moving ever more into the big money and forming bigger connections, and Kessler was just plugging along, doing all the tedious, hard work.

Why did Kessler wait four years to report a crime? Why is Li Mandri the last man standing, and how long will he continue standing?

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Don Bauder Nov. 15, 2011 @ 7:04 a.m.

Good questions all. The best revolves around Dumanis. She is completely political -- perhaps the most political DA San Diego has ever had. Her own closeness to the power structure in Little Italy, and her snug relationship with Mayor Sanders, probably determined her turning down the pursuit of the case. Also, there is the San Diego culture: Thou shalt not touch any downtown power broker. Kessler and Li Mandri had been friends. Kessler warned Li Mandri several times that his activities were crossing the line. Li Mandri will say this was a personal vendetta of Kessler. I don't think that stands up. Best, Don Bauder

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JustWondering Nov. 15, 2011 @ 8:49 a.m.

It takes 10 years to vest with the City and if I remember correctly the purchase of airtime credits ended in July 2005. The confusion may be it only takes five years to vest in the County system.

Surfpuppy you wrote "Go teach KFC Sanders a lesson. A 7 figure lesson, because the pocketbook is the only place these clowns feel pain."

Since Sanders "laid off" Kessler in his capacity as Mayor, the City, meaning the taxpayers, not Sanders personally, will pay the settlement or judgement. With the chances of a Jury awarding punitive damages against Sanders non existent the only ones being financial "punished" are City Taxpayers". And of course the only real winners are the lawyers, who get paid if the city wins or the city looses.

Sadly, I'm not surprised by the two you you rooting for, and encouraging, the plaintiff to go to trial for mo money. It almost as if it's a sport. Especially when its OPM.

Emptying the people's treasury on what may or may not be a dubious claim has become a new favorite pastime. While I have little respects for Sanders as Mayor, suggesting we dole out seven figure settlement is NOT a charity my government should be undertaking.

Until such time when politicians are actually held liable AND accountable for their acts, the only ones who suffer the punishment of exorbitant settlements are the tens of thousands of taxpayers who fund the City's treasury, while Sanders laughs about it.

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Don Bauder Nov. 16, 2011 @ 7:41 a.m.

Yes, the taxpayers pick up the tab for Kessler's $200,000 and the $450,000 to go to the City's law firm, if was all used up. Incidentally, the council approved the settlement yesterday (Tues. Nov. 15). Best, Don Bauder

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SurfPuppy619 Nov. 16, 2011 @ 8:04 p.m.

"Emptying the people's treasury on what may or may not be a dubious claim has become a new favorite pastime."

JW, what makes you think it is dubious, after all the investogatiosn that proved fruitful?

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KLoEditor July 30, 2013 @ 3:49 p.m.

"Emptying the people's treasury on what may or may not be a dubious claim has become a new favorite pastime."

I look forward to you letting us know that you persuaded Gloria Allred to drop the harassment lawsuit.

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JustWondering Nov. 16, 2011 @ 6:30 a.m.

While not pleased at all with the loss of $200k as a settlement for bad decision making by the Mayor's office, it's better than the alternative. Rolling the dice with a trial/jury award which may have been higher was not a good idea. Sadly, once again, the Mayor has wasted more than the 200K reported. There were fees and expenses not included in the report.

Now the questions should be about who is responsible, for this loss of the taxpayer's money, and what will be done about it?

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Don Bauder Nov. 16, 2011 @ 7:43 a.m.

Nothing will be done. The City will try to bury the matter as fast as possible. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Nov. 16, 2011 @ 5:16 p.m.

KESSLER GETS NO PENSION. I checked. Kessler did not work long enough to get retirement from the City. Best, Don Bauder

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SurfPuppy619 Nov. 16, 2011 @ 8 p.m.

The $200K is GREAT for the City but pretty bad for Kessler, it could have easily been a 7 figure judgment, the OC social worlker case was $5 million, $10 million after interest after appealing to the SCOTUS.......

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Don Bauder Nov. 16, 2011 @ 9:27 p.m.

I wish he had held out for more, too, but supposed it had gone to trial and he had lost. He could have been wiped out financially. Best, Don Bauder

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Psycholizard Nov. 16, 2011 @ 6:55 p.m.

Scott Kessler stood up, fought City Hall and won. I congratulate him. Perhaps he should forget this and move on. But the rest of the city shouldn't forget. These development agencies should be abolished.

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Don Bauder Nov. 16, 2011 @ 9:30 p.m.

I think the most important part of this sordid story, which I followed in great detail, was the lengths that Sanders and Dumanis would go to thwart law enforcement and give shelter to those with sleazy backgrounds. Best, Don Bauder

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