U-T reporters seem to have an all-hours hotline to city attorney Jan Goldsmith.
Reporters for the UT San Diego have a friend in city attorney Jan Goldsmith.
Whether it was the flap over the Tourism Marketing District, the project-labor agreement for the convention center, the pension deficit, Goldsmith’s view on state legislation addressing medical marijuana, or former mayor Bob Filner's management style, Goldsmith was always available for comment, clarification, or suggestions on what reporters should include in their stories.
As seen by emails turned over in a public records request, Goldsmith was available at any time of day or night. During much of 2013, Goldsmith used the paper to wage a public war against Filner and to push his own agenda. The emails span the entire year from January 2013 to December and dealt with a variety of topics.
One example of the tight relationship came August 16, when city-attorney spokesperson Thomas Mitchell released a press release celebrating a judge's decision in favor of pension reform. Less than one hour after the release was issued, Goldsmith contacted U-T San Diego's editorial editor William Osborne, reporter Craig Gustafson, and CEO John Lynch to expound on the release.
"There is more going on than just the Mayor," wrote Goldsmith, referring to then-mayor Bob Filner's desire to change elements of Prop B, known as the “Pension Reform Initiative.” "Nice win for the city and local control."
The U-T’s CEO, John Lynch, responded, "Great work!"
But the emails show more than just a chummy relationship between journalists and U-T executives. On some issues, Goldsmith would offer suggestions to reporters for their stories.
On November 21, Goldsmith contacted reporter Lori Weisberg at 7:02 p.m. with a suggestion on what to include in her story regarding the city's approval to release the assessments collected under the Tourism Marketing District.
"Lori, do you want to put something in your story that the city retains the unconditional right at any time to hold back more money up [to] 100 [percent] of the assessments?"
Two minutes later, Weisberg responded that she would add the information in the online article.
But it wasn't the first time Goldsmith and Weisberg worked together on stories pertaining to the Tourism Marketing District. Months earlier, in February 2013, Weisberg asked Goldsmith about Filner's refusal to release the Tourism Marketing District assessments.
The exchange of several emails appears to have occurred from Goldsmith's personal email address. In one email, the beginning letters of "@yahoo.com" can be made out under a blacked-out redaction.
Two years earlier, Goldsmith addressed the use of personal emails for city business in a story done by U-T San Diego.
"I cannot stop people from sending emails for city business to my personal account. A lot of people have that address. I suspect that happens to everyone in public office from time to time, whether it be Twitter, Facebook or emails. My practice when I receive an email in my personal account for city business is to forward it to the city email either with my response or, after forwarding it, respond through the city email.”
Even when using his work email, Goldsmith was more than willing to share information with U-T reporters.
On February 26, Weisberg asked Goldsmith when a closed-session meeting was. Goldsmith responded that night at 8:16 p.m., letting her know that there is "nothing to report out."
In regard to the lawsuit over the project-labor agreement, Goldsmith was open to dispel any rumors that were circulating.
"I'm hearing rumors that a settlement agreement has been signed between the City and the Coalition for Fair Employment,” wrote Weisberg.
Seven minutes later, Goldsmith responded. "Not true…. Not sure where you got rumblings but that is not even close."
And in an email later that night, Goldsmith reiterated the information. "No agreement. I don't know what the point of the rumor is, but there is no agreement."
The relationship between the daily's writers and Goldsmith included the editorial staff as well. William Osborne had a direct link to the city attorney. For example, on November 21 of last year, Osborne contacted Goldsmith for public documents related to the project-labor agreement.
"Hi, Jan," wrote Osborne. "I would like to formally request that your office provide me with copies of emails and any other communications between staff in the mayor's office and the contractor for the Convention Center expansion project regarding a project labor agreement for the expansion project."
Twenty-four minutes later, Goldsmith responded: “Thanks, Bill. I have routed this to our [Public Records Act] lead, Bill Gersten, with a request to expedite."
When not expediting requests for certain reporters, Goldsmith spent portions of his work day praising the editorial staff and their work.
"Your recent editorial on marijuana was great," wrote Goldsmith to Osborne, a longtime critic of implementing regulations while pot was still considered illegal by the federal government.
And while the email exchanges covered numerous topics. The city attorney's office appears to be less than forthcoming in releasing the emails to and from some U-T reporters.
Absent were any email exchanges between Goldsmith and U-T “Watchdog” reporter Trent Seibert, despite being specifically named in the request. The omission is problematic, considering that Goldsmith’s calendar indicates that he had meetings with Seibert at a café in Little Italy — as well as at U-T headquarters — in April, May, June, August, and September of last year.
The city attorney's office has not responded the question of why these emails are missing. Questions were also sent to Goldsmith’s office asking why he was so willing to meet and chat with reporters and editorial writers when the city attorney's office has several spokespeople on its payroll.