City corruption running rampant
Water is no longer free for an unnamed San Diego business following an investigation by interim city auditor Kyle Elser. “An allegation that the City has provided water to a non-residential customer for years without charge was investigated and resulted in corrective action,” per Elser’s January 6 quarterly audit hotline report. “A bill was issued after an unusual configuration was discovered which required a change to the billing software.” The cost to ratepayers of the purloined water and the software upgrade needed to stop the illegal freebie went unmentioned. Other auditor-uncovered fourth quarter transgressions included “fraudulent contract and billing practices” in an unnamed city department. “The department’s investigation confirmed our findings that the vendor charged the City prices in excess of those allowable under the terms of the contract. The City sent the vendor a request for refund.”
In yet another case of staffer fraud, “an allegation of personal use of the proceeds from the sale of recyclable materials at a City facility and receipt of gifts in exchange for City work was investigated and determined to be substantiated. The department held additional training for staff and stopped the improper practice.”
Other busts made by the auditor during the final three months of last year included “a mother supervising her son,” and “a safety concern relating to an employee’s driving history.” Notes the report, “The employee did not report a change in driver’s license status as required.” The list of bad acts remedied also included “illegal parking in a red zone by a City vehicle,” as well as “the personal use of a City vehicle.”
The Voice of money
Outflanked in its big-money fundraising race against San Diego State University’s KPBS public broadcasting operation, the Voice of San Diego non-profit news and opinion website is looking to hire a new director of development with a yearly salary of between $90,000 and $100,000. “As we approach our 15-year anniversary, VOSD has an opportunity for a new Director of Development to lead our fundraising efforts through the next phase of our organization’s growth and beyond,” says an online help-wanted notice. “This includes primary responsibility for our entire revenue portfolio, such as campaigns, individual giving, major gifts, planned giving, special events, foundation grants, corporate sponsorships, and an annual fund. The Director of Development also serves as a frontline fundraiser, with an emphasis on growing the organization’s individual donor portfolio by building and maintaining close relationships with key donors.”
It’s that last requirement that has skeptics wondering how close the relationship between a high-dollar donor and an ostensibly fair and honest news operation can get, given the website’s past friendly treatment of Qualcomm billionaire Irwin Jacobs, a major backer. “It is expected that the amount raised will increase each year, as the Director of Development and the leadership team will work collaboratively to and improve the organization’s overall fundraising capacity,” the document adds.
Just how steep a climb the new hire faces is indicated by the Voice’s latest federal disclosure, which shows revenue sagging from $1,969,929 in 2017 down to $1,769,481 in 2018. KPBS’s income, on the other hand, burgeoned from $27.7 million in 2017 to $52.8 million in 2018, according to a November 2019 financial audit commissioned by the university.
KPBS recently snatched Voice culture and arts editor Julia Dixon Evans away from the Voice, the website’s editor Scott Lewis revealed in a Christmas Eve email requesting more donations to “make sure we can keep going.” He was paid $135,435 in 2018.
Labor’s $100,000 baby
Labor union funding has made a sudden big entrance into the heated race for District Three county supervisor with a $100,000 contribution On December 30 by the Service Employees International Union Local 221’s Independent Expenditure political action committee. The cash went to an independent expenditure committee operated on behalf of Democratic candidate Terra Lawson-Remer by Laborers International Union of North America Local 89.
That union is also running a so-called independent expenditure effort in favor of ex-employee and current San Diego city council candidate Kelvin Barrios, to which the Southern California District Council of Laborers PAC transferred $50,000 on December 16. Running to replace incumbent Democrat Georgette Gomez, who is seeking to succeed House member Susan Davis in the state’s 53rd District, Barrios agreed to pay a $4000 penalty to the California Fair Political Practices Commission in November. That deal settled charges Barrios tapped into campaign cash while acting as treasurer in a 2016 Chula Vista Elementary School Board race. “These payments were for his personal benefit,” per the FPPC’s findings. “He also spent a total of approximately $3140 on debit or cash withdrawals at local food establishments, USPS for stamps, and the Men’s Wearhouse for menswear. Barrios admitted to FPPC investigators that these purchases were for his personal benefit.”