Stacey Fulhorst puts a hard spin on conflict-of-interest and campaign spending laws.
With official data showing a continuing slide in the enforcement of conflict-of-interest and campaign spending laws by the city’s ethics commission, the group’s soon-to-retire executive director Stacey Fulhorst is spinning hard. “In terms of enforcement, the statistics in the report reflect an ongoing trend of a gradual decrease in enforcement activities,” according to the minutes of January’s commission meeting. Fulhorst, per the document, told the commission that she “attributed this trend to the success of the Commission’s educational and enforcement efforts.”
A smile of relief? City Ethics Commission director Stacey Fulhorst is set to retire.
Few if any outside observers agree. They contend that under termed-out Republican mayor Kevin Faulconer the commission has looked the other way in a series of conflict-of-interest cases that came before them. The group’s annual performance report for 2019, released last month, shows that of 40 complaints “processed” by the agency, 19 were “approved for investigation” by the commission, joining 9 charges under investigation leftover from 2018. Of those 48 cases, 11 were “dismissed by the Commission after considering the results of staff investigations,” and 15 were disposed of by so-called stipulated settlements. Two unresolved cases remained to be dealt with in the new year. Fines against miscreants in 2019 totaled $23,100, a bit more than 2018, when the total was $22,000, but far less than previous years, including 2017’s $45,600. The crest came in 2014, with fines of $191,150.
Unlike the California Fair Political Practices Commission, San Diego’s ethics board makes its dismissal decisions behind closed doors, drawing a curtain of secrecy over what is widely seen as a highly politicized, lawyered-up business. Last year, a long-pending $4000 fine against Republican Kevin Faulconer was announced by the commission just a few weeks after Campland LLC — the developer whose contribution was at the center of the complaint against the mayor — got a lucrative city lease deal.
Meanwhile, commission vice-chair Alex Kreit, a professor at Thomas Jefferson Law School — stripped of its accreditation last November by the American Bar Association — is clinging to his commission seat. But he won’t be showing up in person for meetings. “Vice-Chair Kreit explained that he will be attending Commission meetings via telephone until he relocates to Kentucky, at which time he will no longer be a resident of San Diego and will resign,” according to the commission’s January minutes. “General Counsel Christina Cameron explained that Commissioner Kreit may continue to serve on the Commission as long as he is considered an elector of the County of San Diego and until he establishes residency and registers to vote elsewhere.”
A replacement for Fulhorst, who departs later this year, is being sought by an ad hoc committee run by commission chairman Sid Voorakkara, a longtime Democratic staffer now partner in a consulting business called Ten Page Memo, LLC. The company “specializes in strategic planning and government and community relations,” as the Union-Tribune put it in May 2013. Republican Tom Hebrank, an accountant and veteran of the city’s audit commission once said to be interested in succeeding ex-auditor Eduardo Luna, is on the Fulhorst successor committee, along with Republican lawyer Fred Kosmo.
Bye, bye Geoff
San Diego County is out with a flashy brochure aimed at recruiting a new Director of Strategy and Intergovernmental Affairs, to oversee lobbying in Washington and Sacramento, and “coordinate advocacy efforts on behalf of the County with other government agencies.” The successful candidate will be a “key influencer for impacting legislation and policy decisions for the region,” and have “experience working in Washington, D.C. on Capitol Hill and the California State Capitol.” Salary is “dependent upon the qualifications.”
Lobbyist Geoff Patnoe’s replacement at the county will need to be hip to new political realities.
Geoff Patnoe, a one-time aide to ex-San Diego mayor and GOP governor Pete Wilson, currently holds the position, to which he was appointed in 2010 by an all-GOP board of supervisors. He had worked for Republican supervisor Dianne Jacob for five years. Among other former gigs, Patnoe was director of the San Diego County Taxpayers Association, a business lobbying group, in 2002. He also once worked for the political subsidiary of Stoorza Communications on behalf of John Moores and his taxpayer-financed Padres ballpark.
With the rise of Democratic supervisor Nathan Fletcher and the advent of term limits threatening to disrupt the board’s longtime GOP majority, observers expect Patnoe’s successor will be more in line with the state legislature’s current Democratic majority. Last year Patnoe got a total of $281,848 in salary and benefits, according to TransparentCalifornia.com.