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— In his 56 years, James T. Waring has worn many hats: real estate developer, attorney, high-tech investor, environmentalist, and close advisor to a Las Vegas mobster's wealthy daughter. Waring was also involved with the late gangster's trust and with his daughter's charity, the Angelica Foundation, based in tony Rancho Santa Fe.

But it's Waring's latest calling that has city hall buzzing. He's Mayor Jerry Sanders's director of land use and economic development, a powerful new post that has the potential to revolutionize, for better or worse, the city's real estate, land use, and development policies.

It's still too early to say what Waring, who took office late last month, is up to. He didn't return repeated phone calls seeking comment, nor did Sanders's staff or many who know Waring from his days as an attorney in the downtown law firm headed by Roy Morrow Bell, husband of Union-Tribune columnist Diane Bell.

Last October, Waring was appointed to the board of the embattled city employees' pension system, but he resigned that seat when he was named to his current post. According to a mayoral news release of January 10, Waring is co-founder and co-owner of FI Financial. It is one of several entities that own the land on which Scripps Research Institute is located, according to Reza Paydar, a La Jolla real estate entrepreneur and Waring's partner in FI and other projects.

In the January news release, Sanders played up Waring's environmental ties and praised his business acumen. "He will oversee four principal areas: real estate assets, development services, planning and community and economic development," the release said. Waring will make $168,000 a year.

"Waring has never served in government -- and the Mayor thinks that is a good thing," the release continued.

Waring takes over an ambitious agenda for even the most experienced urban-development hand, let alone for a low-profile member of the bar whose most prominent local public-land-use role has been as a member of the San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy advisory committee.

Former San Diego city councilwoman Abbe Wolfsheimer Stutz, now a deputy city attorney who has been probing the city's troubled Real Estate Assets Department, says she recently spoke with Waring by phone for two hours about the city's most pressing needs.

"He wants to get organized," she says, adding that the city has little time to waste in correcting its poor business practices. "The leases have been mismanaged," she says. "There are so many different spreadsheets. One of them is almost six feet long."

According to the Sanders news release, Waring went to college at the University of Southern California and to law school at the University of San Diego. Since 1982, the release says, he has been affiliated with Ross, Dixon and Bell.

The release says that since 1998 he has served on the board of the River Network, which works on clean water and sustainable development issues. Waring is also on the director's cabinet of Scripps Institution of Oceanography and on the boards of trustees of the San Diego Museum of Natural History and Francis Parker School.

If past is prologue, it may be worth delving into Waring's sometimes controversial and conflict-filled history. It's a history peopled by the likes of banker and real estate mogul Malin Burnham and lawyers Roy Bell and Murray Galinson.

In 1981, Galinson sued Waring for professional negligence. Now a big Sanders backer, Galinson claimed that Waring had failed to inform him of encumbrances on a property and did not arrange title insurance as promised. "In performing his duties as an attorney, Waring failed to exercise the skill, diligence, and prudence which lawyers of ordinary skill and capacity commonly possess in that he did not obtain a lender's title insurance policy for plaintiff and so negligently reviewed the condition of title on the real property securing payment of the promissory note that he failed to discover a senior trust deed recorded March 10, 1979, securing payment of $166,000," the suit said. Today, Galinson says, "It was not that Waring is a crook. You have to file a lawsuit to get things on the table. We settled and I got my money out of it. From everything I know, he is a nice, honorable guy."

In 1983, investors in a franchise outfit called Tools-R-Us accused Waring of fraud, unfair business practices, and legal malpractice. Franchisees claimed that Waring and fellow defendants had failed to alert them to troubles with the firm before they signed their franchise deals.

In a third case, Waring and then-partner Jim Schneider, an early Gaslamp Quarter developer, were sued over failing to make payments on a loan on Gaslamp Quarter's Keating Building. The suit was later dropped.

Perhaps Waring's most intriguing ties are those to Suzanne Dalitz Brown, who currently goes by the name of Suzanne Gollin. Her father was Morris B. (Moe) Dalitz, a bootlegger and operator of illegal Midwest casinos in the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s. Ultimately, he became the moneybags of legal casinos in Las Vegas, where he was considered the brains of the Outfit, the enforcer who kept the various mob families from waging turf wars.

Public records and newspaper clips show that Waring and Suzanne Gollin have been longtime business associates. Waring has been trustee for the M.B. Dalitz Trust; he's been a partner with Gollin in real estate ventures; and he was an investor with her in Burnham's First National Bank.

The exact terms and dates of Waring's service for Gollin, why they parted company, and whether Waring knew and dealt with Moe Dalitz are not clear because Waring and Gollin refuse to speak with the Reader. (Ironically, one of the objectives of the Angelica Foundation is to promote "publicly responsive media.")

Despite her father's high profile, or perhaps because of it, Gollin has led a relatively low-profile life. One court filing says she was born in 1951; her voter registration indicates she was born in 1957. Her most prominent role has been as executive director of the Angelica Foundation, described on its website as "a small, California-based private family foundation that supports progressive activist organizations working for democratic change, environmental sustainability, and social justice.

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