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— KPBS, the radio and television station operation owned by the state university system and funded in part by California and federal taxpayers, is stonewalling public requests for information about its big private contributors. The KPBS stations collect millions of dollars each year from the general public, along with mega-donations from such powerful and wealthy San Diegans as the Union-Tribune's Helen and David Copley. The radio station also runs a news operation, along with talk and opinion shows, which some critics say are sometimes skewed to favor big-money special interests. Last week, a request to KPBS general manager Doug Myrland for a list of all donations to the stations over $10,000 was met with a letter from San Diego State University Foundation director of legal affairs Juanita L. Brents, who claimed that "KPBS's financial matters are managed by the San Diego State University Foundation." According to Brent's letter, the foundation "is a nonprofit corporation and is not subject to the California Public Records Act. The Foundation accepts and administers millions of dollars of grants, contracts, and other funds on behalf of the University and its agencies. As a matter of policy, we do not release any of our records."

Señor A's

Years ago, Johnny Alessio ruled the border. The one-time operator of Tijuana's Caliente racetrack and protégé of San Diego banking king C. Arnholt Smith opened Mister A's restaurant in 1965 as a gaudy tribute to his achievements and a hangout for his cronies. Even after he was brought down by federal income tax charges and went to prison for two years in 1970, his restaurant at Fifth and Laurel, just north of downtown, flourished. After Alessio died in 1998, his son Dominic took charge. Last week he announced the end of an era: he had sold the place to restaurateur Bertrand Hug of Rancho Santa Fe's Mille Fleurs. But there's a bit of unresolved business left in the form of a lawsuit filed in federal court here last month by Miguel Gonzalez and Quintin Guadarrama Hernandez. According to the complaint, Gonzalez, a U.S. citizen of Mexican ancestry, and Hernandez, a Mexican who is a legal immigrant to the U.S., worked at Mister A's as busboys. Gonzalez, the suit says, had worked there nine years, before being promoted to waiter in February 1999, where he worked just three weeks before being demoted back to busboy. Gonzalez asked the manager why he'd been demoted and was allegedly told, "The owner doesn't want any more Mexican servers; we have too many. He wants American servers." Two months later, the suit says, three new waiters were hired; all were "Caucasian and/or American." Hernandez, according to the complaint, in March 1999 asked about being promoted to waiter; Alessio allegedly said, "Sorry. Mister A's doesn't want any more Mexican servers." Asked why Gonzalez had been promoted, the suit says the restaurant's manager purportedly replied, "He's the last one. There is a law that says that the restaurant has to be half Mexican and half American waiters." Records say Alessio has denied the charges.

Social Security Sheriff

Retired San Diego homicide captain Phil Jarvis, 63, may be on the verge of becoming sheriff of Bonner County in rural Idaho. According to the Spokane Spokesman-Review, Jarvis is among the top three candidates considering whether to run to replace incumbent Sheriff Chip Roos, who some residents considered a bit too tough. Jarvis is said to have the upper hand against Sgt. Larry Schulze of the county marine patrol, who is also unpopular for what is called his "heavy-handed law enforcement." ... Del Mar resident Peter Jay Lenz has been officially added to the infamous Black Book of undesirables banned from Nevada casinos. Lenz, a big-time bookie who in 1996 was convicted in San Diego of running an illegal gambling conspiracy, didn't show up for his Black Book hearing before the Nevada Gaming Control Board last week ... Walter Paszkowski, a government minister from Edmonton, Canada, is on his way to San Diego and four other cities this week for a look into "regional government." But a "nonworking" weekend he'll spend here is drawing fire from political opponents, who say his $98-a-night room is excessive.

Contributor: Matt Potter

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