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"There is little doubt that such statements are actionable if made in the context of a private financing, and we are researching whether there is any different conclusion if the statements are made in the context of a municipal financing.

"Please handle this complaint with great care. We remain concerned that Mr. Bauder may take additional actions in the next 30 days, in retaliation for this complaint, which undermine the marketability of the City's bonds.

"I urge you to hold Mr. Bauder accountable for his misconduct. His column masqueraded as the truth but, in the end, contained deceiving assertions that bear no resemblance to the truth. His misconduct reflects directly on the character and accuracy of the ownership and leadership of the San Diego Union-Tribune.

"The Union Tribune has always been a towering force for good in the San Diego community. The paper prides itself on reporters and columnists who have the highest regard for truth and veracity. I urge you to maintain those standards in the face of Mr. Bauder's misconduct."

Bauder declined to comment on the letter, and neither Gwinn nor Union-Tribune attorney Hal Fuson, to whom Winner's office referred questions, responded to messages left at their offices. But in a telephone interview from Palm Springs, Mann said that Gwinn's charge that Bauder had deliberately misrepresented the facts of the ballpark bond issue to elicit a quote from him were "just downright ridiculous."

"Obviously I'm well aware that Don has never been in favor of the stadium and has written not one but probably ten columns on it. Everything I said in his column I stand by, and I have no qualms about it," Mann said. "I did not know when I talked to Don that there was a qualified bond-approving attorney opinion. I was under the impression that there was no opinion because they couldn't write one. And there is a difference between no opinion and a qualified opinion. He didn't make any statement about the opinion, and since it didn't come up, I didn't ask. And that's, I think, the crux of the matter.

"I know what a qualified opinion is. And in a subsequent interview -- not necessarily with Bauder -- I said that's one of the reasons that the interest rate is so high, because of the qualified opinion. If it had a real opinion, the interest rate would not be that high."

Gwinn's charge that Bauder had made a "false statement" to him, says Mann, "is just not true." Gwinn's further assertion that "Mr. Bauder's false statements, particularly those made to the California Municipal Bond Advisor, raise profound issues regarding a clear effort to thwart the city's ability to issue bonds on the ballpark redevelopment project" is, Mann says, "pure nonsense."

"Incidentally, the publisher [of the Union-Tribune] subsequently got in touch with me, plus the owner of their chain got in touch with me. My phone was ringing off the hook that following week. I talked to everybody. Don's boss, I assume the business-page editor, wrote a letter in reply. While I didn't read the letter, they're saying, 'You want to sue us? Sue us.' Obviously there wasn't any grounds for suit. I thought it was ridiculous.

"I'm an old, longtime writer and reporter myself. I've been sued for libel. And I'm more than ticked off when some lawyer for somebody or other that I've written about says we're going to sue you unless you publish a retraction. I tell them go ahead and sue."

On Friday, Mann said that Gwinn had called to "apologize." "I didn't let him get too many words in," Mann said. "I gave him a 15-minute lecture on the freedom of the press and how ridiculous I thought his position was."

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