Jeff Smith noon, March 8
Foundation at heart of O'Connor scandal was big donor to San Diego police; John Burton Foundation
The R.P. Foundation, one-time funnel for the charitable giving and wheeling and dealing by late Jack-in-the-Box millionaire Robert O. Peterson, plays major role in ex-mayor’s case
At the center of today's breaking federal case against former San Diego mayor Maureen O'Connor is a foundation deeply rooted in her past relationship with her late husband Robert Oscar Peterson, the founder of the Oscar's hamburger chain, and later Jack in the Box. The R.P. Foundation was established by him and gave to a wide array of the multi-millionaire's favorite causes during his life.
As we noted last fall:
O'Connor, married to Silberman's erstwhile partner, Republican Jack-in-the-Box magnate Bob Peterson, had a few dust-ups with the genial multi-millionaire, but stuck with him until he died, thus inheriting much of the northern California coastal town of Mendocino, along with a pair of Point Loma mansions, and a few luxury vehicles.
Peterson had met the 25-year-old O'Connor when she was running for city council in 1971. He was 55. The pioneer fast-food mogul kept a condo for O’Connor until their marriage in 1977.
According to the R.P. fund’s most immediately available filing with the IRS, posted online by Guidestar.org and dated July 18, 2011, the foundation's sole assets consisted of $2,101,900 in "receivables due from officers, directors, trustees and other disqualified persons."
The disclosure lists no contributions.
The filing, covering the period between December 1, 2009 and November 30, 2010, lists O'Connor and her twin sister Mavourneen as trustees, along with John McCloskey, who is also listed as the foundation's treasurer, CFO, and trustee .
The name of John J. McCloskey, Peterson's close aide and longtime family retainer, briefly played a role in the political spotlight in May 1986 during Democrat O'Connor's race for mayor against the late GOP city councilman Bill Cleator, as reported at the time by the Los Angeles Times:
San Diego City Councilman Bill Cleator's mayoral campaign charged on Monday that his opponent, former Councilwoman Maureen O'Connor, may have failed to disclose $1,500 in monthly income for more than nine years--an allegation that O'Connor dismissed as "absolutely, flat-out wrong."
In a letter sent to the state Fair Political Practices Commission, Terry Knoepp, Cleator's campaign attorney, included a photocopy of a 1983 group insurance enrollment card signed by O'Connor and listing monthly income of $1,500 from R.O.P. Inc. The fact that O'Connor did not report that purported income on financial disclosure forms, Knoepp charged, "appears to be a flagrant disregard for campaign disclosure laws" that merits an FPPC investigation.
The Cleator forces released insurance records they claimed showed that O'Connor had failed to report her employment by R.O.P., Inc., a firm owned by Peterson:
Immediately above O'Connor's signature is a paragraph in small type that reads: "I hereby declare that I am an active full-time employee of the employer indicated above and that I regularly work at least 30 hours per week. . . All information given by me on this form is true and complete and is offered as an inducement to grant insurance."
O'Connor, however, said that she "never worked any regular hours" for the corporation, but added that she had occasionally "helped out around the office" when her husband, who suffers from leukemia, was ill.
A document filed with the California secretary of state's office in December lists Peterson, O'Connor and John J. McCloskey as R.O.P.'s officers and board of directors. The same document defines R.O.P. as a "services-business management" firm.
No contributions are listed.
Property sold during that period included "Art" with a gross sale price of $19,012. Another source of income was "interest on savings and temporary cash investments." The payee of $117,293 was listed as Maureen O'Connor.
The foundation's disclosure for the period between December 1, 2007 and November 30, 2008, dated July 20, 2009, is the most recent to show contributions to charity.
Donations made during that time, according to the report, included $50,000 each to the John Burton Foundation; San Diego Hospice; and the Alzheimer's Association. The San Diego Police Officers Association Christmas Fund was given $12,630, and Extreme Squash got $2500.
The John Burton Foundation for Children Without Homes was founded in 2004 by retired President Pro Tem of the California State Senate John Burton. Through the Foundation, Senator Burton promotes the values of nurturing children and youth who are less fortunate in life than most. His vision is the Foundation's mission: dedicated to improving the quality of life for California's homeless children and developing policy solutions to prevent homelessness.
The R.P. Foundation is now reportedly defunct. After making her plea today, O'Connor told reporters she had meant to pay back the $2 million she had taken from the fund, and still intends to under an agreement reached with federal prosecutors. She reportedly incurred more than $1 billion in gambling debts over eight years. Her attorney cited a brain tumor she has suffered from as a possible explanation for her behavior.
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