San Diego 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.
"Since our inception in 1994, we have focused our efforts in the United States (specifically California and New Mexico), Mexico, and Central America," according to the website. "The Angelica Foundation continues to support grassroots human rights groups in Mexico and aggressive environmental organizations in the U.S., as well as innovative attempts to shift the counterproductive war on drugs."
Based on its "mission statement," the foundation is no fan of the Bush administration's war against illegal drugs. "Angelica continues its support for the Drug Policy Alliance, the leading organization working to overcome the drug war and promote new drug policies based on science, compassion, health, and human rights."
Records show that the Angelica Foundation and the M.B. Dalitz Foundation have done business with each other; in 1994 Angelica bought real estate on Pacific Center Boulevard in San Diego from the M.B. Dalitz Foundation. The transaction was listed as "intra-family," indicating no transfer tax was paid. Angelica's money was invested in a variety of equities, particularly high-flying techs that ultimately crashed. One investment, according to records on file with the Internal Revenue Service, was a semiconductor outfit called MeltroniX. A member of the board and compensation committee was James T. Waring.
Waring invested in the firm in 1999, and others he knew later joined him. But despite the infusion of capital, the company found it hard to make money, even after it recruited a hotshot chief executive officer, Andrew Wrobel, who had a master's degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
On March 15, 2000, just as the 1990s tech bubble was about to burst, MeltroniX gave a presentation before San Diego's prestigious MIT Enterprise Forum, made up of many Massachusetts Institute of Technology grads and other local techies. Andrew Wrobel "has taken the company from a one- or two-customer, project-oriented firm mired in debt to a multi-customer, healthy company," boasted the advance description of the event.
Bud Leedom of California Stock Report was on the panel that interviewed Wrobel that evening. "Wrobel was trying to make it a horse race," he says. "He seemed sincere," and the company had impressive manufacturing assets.
Then tech went to hell. Quickly. Waring had 2 million shares of MeltroniX stock -- 4.2 percent of the total. As the company foundered in June 2000, Waring, through FI Financial, loaned it $250,000 at 9 percent interest. In early 2001, he loaned another $75,000, at 10 percent interest. Other firms extended loans.
The company evinced signs of panic. In April 2001, it sued anonymous persons who had posted negative messages on an Internet chat site. This is usually a sign of desperation. Investors are entitled to post negative stock opinions on websites.
Through 2001 and 2002, MeltroniX continued to sink. For the three months ended June 30, 2002, sales plummeted by 88.6 percent to $84,000. But the cost of achieving those meager sales was $1.05 million. It's hardly surprising that in its last report as a public company, MeltroniX had a cumulative deficit of $64 million.
Red ink was flowing. Unpaid vendors were suing. The auditor questioned the company's viability. On October 4, 2002, the company announced that creditors had foreclosed and sold its equipment. The company had no money to satisfy its debts.
Here was the Lacrymosa from MeltroniX's Requiem: "Given the foreclosures, the company's inability to pay the underlying debt and other debts, and the inability to raise funding, MeltroniX regrets to inform employees, investors, and customers that the company is ceasing operations effective the close of business October 4 of 2002."
The final insult: MeltroniX said it did not have the funds to put out a press release explaining what happened.
Ross, Dixon and Bell was MeltroniX's law firm, and Fletcher W. Paddison was the lawyer on the account. "The company held on by its fingernails for a long time," says Paddison. "I lost money. Jim lost money. The law firm wrote off a lot of legal bills."
Wrobel, who had been ousted before the demise, sued Waring, his family trusts, and other MeltroniX executives. The most serious charge was that within days of MeltroniX's closing, Waring and the other executives took the assets, employees, managers, and customers and formed another company, named NxGen Electronics, that was in the same business in the same office space.
The suit was settled out of court, and Wrobel's lawyer, Michael B. Poynor, says he cannot discuss it. Wrobel is now chief financial officer of Carlsbad's NTN Buzztime and will not comment.
Wrobel's allegations against Waring and his fellow MeltroniX insiders were "totally off base," says Robert Czajkowski, who became chief executive of MeltroniX after Wrobel's ouster and is now president of the privately held NxGen. He won't discuss details of the suit, in which he was a codefendant. "It has been adjudicated," he says.
"When a company goes out of business, people feel they have gotten hurt," continues Czajkowski. "They are entitled to those opinions. The company was undercapitalized and caught up in the bubble. It couldn't dig itself out. It was hopeless; you couldn't raise capital in those days -- not a nickel."
As a requirement of taking his new city post, Waring filed a personal statement of economic interests. It indicates that he owns between $100,000 and $1 million in NxGen stock. Czajkowski won't discuss that, other than to say that Waring has never served on NxGen's board of directors.
The Angelica Foundation had only $30,200 invested in MeltroniX, according to its IRS filing. Aside from the MeltroniX disaster and tech stock losses, Angelica and Suzanne Gollin appear to have prospered in the years after her father's death.
Only a very few people knowledgeable about Waring and his relationship with Gollin and the Dalitz trust are willing to share their observations. One who will is Fletcher Paddison, Waring's onetime associate at Ross, Dixon and Bell.
"Moe died in 1989," says Paddison, who says he never knew the gangster. Initially, the trust was handled "by former professionals who had worked for Mr. Dalitz" in Las Vegas and Los Angeles. "The trust assets had been mismanaged. She had been struggling before [Waring's] involvement. Mr. Waring and our firm did our best, straightened out a large amount of the problem. Jim made good investments for Suzanne."
Paddison says he doesn't know when Gollin's relationship with Waring and his law firm ended or why: "Things change over time," he says. "Jim was helping Suzanne, helping her reestablish the worth of this [estate]. I believe Suzanne's [current] husband is a very financially astute guy." An administrator of the Angelica Foundation confirms that Waring is no longer providing services to the foundation but won't say more.
While he worked for Dalitz's daughter, records show that Waring, she, and others invested in various ventures. In the early 1990s, a group of speculators plunked money into something called UCLD Investors. The owners were Suzanne Dalitz Brown (now Gollin), two of her children, James Waring, and several members of the Ross, Dixon and Bell law firm, including Paddison, Roy Morrow Bell, and Van A. Tengberg, who is no longer with the firm. Bell and Tengberg did not return calls seeking comment. Paddison says he can't remember the nature of the UCLD investment.
Another Waring/Brown investment of the early 1990s was EMC Partners, owned primarily by the Suzanne Dalitz Brown trust and the Waring family trust. It is a shopping center in Escondido, according to Reza Paydar, who is the project's managing partner.
In late 1993, Waring and Brown invested in First National Bank, which had been founded by Malin Burnham. It is difficult to find whether they made money on this investment. The bank went through several recapitalizations and in 1996 was purchased by a group headed by a Mexico City banker. In 2002, Rancho Santa Fe's First Community Bancorp purchased First National. Matthew Wagner, president of First Community, says he does not know whether 1993 investors came out whole.
Another deal involving Waring and Brown harkened back to the days of Brown's father, Moe Dalitz.
According to a deed dated July 14, 1994, a group of investors, including Waring, Brown, Toni Lena Clark, and others, acquired interest in real estate on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles.
Who is Moe Dalitz? These days, devotees of the history of the Mob and Las Vegas are as likely to remember his front man, the late Wilbur Clark, whose widow's name is Toni. In the 1940s, Clark was a small-time saloon and card-room operator in San Diego. He decided to strike it rich in Vegas. For most of its existence, Vegas had been a festering collection of saloons and whorehouses and little else. Nevada legalized gambling in 1931, but most casinos were grimy joints. Then in 1946, Bugsy Siegel of New York's Bugs and Meyer Mob built the posh Flamingo, replete with golf course, gym, shops, and shooting range. Alas, Bugsy got fatally shot -- although not on his range (and not from the front).
Enter Wilbur Clark with grand ideas about building the Desert Inn. But he got into financial trouble. To the monetary rescue came Dalitz and other members of the notorious Mayfield Road Mob in Cleveland. In the early 1950s, Cleveland's safety director testified about Dalitz before the U.S. Senate's Kefauver Committee, which was investigating organized crime. He said that Dalitz was one of those on top of the bootlegging operation: "Ruthless beatings, unsolved murders and shakedowns, threats and bribery came to this community as a result of gangsters' rise to power," said the safety director.
In Ohio, Dalitz had legitimate businesses, such as laundries, and invested in railroads and steel companies in addition to his bootlegging and illegal gambling enterprises. When Prohibition ended in 1933, Dalitz opened illegal casinos in Ohio and Kentucky. According to John L. Smith of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Dalitz once quipped to a friend, "How was I to know those gambling joints were illegal? There were so many judges and politicians in them, I figured they had to be all right." A master of one-liners, he also told the Kefauver Committee, "If you people wouldn't have drunk it, I wouldn't have bootlegged it."
With financial help from Dalitz and the Mayfield Road Mob, the Desert Inn was completed in 1950. Clark, who died in 1965, was the glad-hander who mixed with the guests and fawned over the entertainers and other celebrities. Dalitz was the money and idea man in the back room. "The barren Strip [was] retooled after World War II by Dalitz and other mob financiers as a glitzy resort destination where golf, fine dining, and first-rate nightclub acts were on the same menu as hookers and gambling," wrote Timothy L. O'Brien in his 1998 book, Bad Bet: The Inside Story of the Glamour, Glitz, and Danger of America's Gambling Industry.
According to James Neff's book, Mobbed Up: Jackie Presser's High-Wire Life in the Teamsters, the Mafia, and the FBI, a 1978 Federal Bureau of Investigation memo stated, "The individual who oversees the La Cosa Nostra families in Las Vegas is Moe Dalitz. Dalitz makes certain that there is no cheating with regard to skim money taken out of the casinos and further, that there is no fighting among families for the control of the various casinos."
In its crudest form, skim money is cash that is smuggled out of the counting room and stashed somewhere -- perhaps in an offshore bank -- so that the Internal Revenue Service never sees it.
To build and buy casinos, Dalitz needed big capital. According to Neff, Dalitz initially turned to Lou Jacobs, who headed Buffalo's Emprise, which had concessions at racetrack and pro sports stadiums. Jacobs "had extensive ties to the Teamsters, the Mafia and Cleveland," wrote Neff. (Emprise's successor company, Delaware North, has the concessions at Petco Park and, despite its dubious past, was named by the state to take over and transform the successful operations of the Bazaar del Mundo. By most accounts, the conversion is doing poorly.)
Dalitz knew the Teamsters' Jimmy Hoffa from the laundry days. According to Neff, Dalitz had hired thugs to keep his laundry employees from unionizing. Hoffa got a payoff on the deal. Then came a flow of Teamsters' Central States money into casinos, often steered by Dalitz. Over time, Dalitz received more than $200 million of Teamster money, according to Dan E. Moldea, author of Interference: How Organized Crime Influences Professional Football.
Dalitz was known in San Diego. In March 1970, the Illinois Bureau of Investigation snooped on Dalitz, multimillionaire hoodlum Meyer Lansky, and then-Chargers owner Gene Klein at a romp at the Acapulco Towers. The 21-room apartment-hotel was part-owned by Klein, who denied knowing Lansky.
In the late 1960s, Dalitz and three other developers began creating Carlsbad's La Costa resort with loans from San Diego's U.S. National Bank and the Teamsters. In 1975, Penthouse magazine printed a story saying the place was filled with mobsters. La Costa, Dalitz, et al., sued for libel. Mike Aguirre, now San Diego's city attorney, was in charge of the truth defense. "I assembled the best group of organized-crime investigators that was possible," he says. "We took every single sentence of that article" and proved that each was true. "The jury found for us," but the judge threw out the verdict, and the case was finally settled with each side issuing bland statements. The magazine said that it didn't mean to say that two of Dalitz's codevelopers were associated with organized crime. Dalitz? He had been active in philanthropic activities, the magazine said.
Indeed, Dalitz, particularly in his later years, had tried to establish himself as a philanthropist. In 1957, he and his casino confreres had built a for-profit hospital in Vegas. Teamsters money went into that project too. One partner was Roy Cohn, the former McCarthy-era attorney.
Dalitz made much of his generosity. He even wept during an interview with Ovid Demaris and Ed Reid, authors of Green Felt Jungle. They called Dalitz "a sanctimonious little mobster from Cleveland.... He is still a hoodlum in conscience and mind, but his heart has weakened."
When he died, Dalitz left $1.3 million to 14 charities. Maybe Suzanne Gollin inherited the charitable side of Moe Dalitz. According to a petition granted by the North County Superior Court on May 5, 2005, she changed her legal name from Suzanne Dalitz Brown to Suzanne D. Gollin. According to its website, James D. Gollin is grants advisor and director of Angelica. Other biographies on the Web say he is chairman of the populist Rainforest Action Network and a naturalist author who is called "one of the most prominent green Buddhists in America" by the Buddhist Review. He once worked for Morgan Stanley International on Wall Street.
Angelica, from which Suzanne Gollin draws a $150,000 annual salary, according to disclosure reports, shells out money liberally to "organizations that defend the environment and its resources from the destructive practices of powerful corporate and multi-national interests," according to its website. The group proselytizes for "more effective, humane, and economically sensible social policies."
That seems to track with Jim Waring's own interests, but it will no doubt fuel plenty of heated gossip among San Diego's mainly Republican downtown establishment, which is the backbone of Mayor Jerry Sanders's support.