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Pitfalls of San Diego's downtown jail – who wants 'em?

Police chiefs work the retirement bennies, Vivian Moreno, the behest scam

The Western Region Detention Facility.
The Western Region Detention Facility.

GEO riot

The Western Region Detention Facility in Downtown’s aging ex-county jail is looking for a new chief of security to make “improvements in security operations without compromise to the safety and security of the client population or staff.” Run by Boca Raton-based private prison operator GEO Group for the U.S. Marshals Service, the detention center faced a crisis this fall when 86 detainees turned up Covid-19 positive, according to a November 2 report by TV station KGTV. In addition, 64 GEO employees tested positive for the deadly virus.

But handling the pandemic hasn’t been the facility’s only problem. A decrepit prisoner intake system sometimes leaves police prisoner drop-offs idling outside, with potentially dangerous outcomes. The jail’s chief of security, per an online job notice, “plans and responds to emergency situations, directs searches for escaped offenders,” and “participates in the formulation of escape and riot control plans.”

Police chief David Nisleit flashes the sly grin of a man who knows who to work the system for his financial benefit.

A botched prisoner handoff by the FBI to the detection facility caused a September 5 riot when the inmate escaped custody through the rear door of a car that was “waiting at the gate of the facility,” per a September 7 FBI news release. “The agents pursued her into a large crowd of individuals who were participating in an unrelated protest at Front and B Streets,” said the Bureau’s account of the incident, captured on video and widely viewed on social media. “The agents regained contact with the woman and attempted to walk back to the vehicle but were immediately surrounded by the crowd. Individuals began to actively interfere with the agents’ lawful authority to take the woman into custody by pulling at the agents and the woman. During the incident, the woman appeared to become distressed, and an individual began to render aid. The crowd then encircled the woman and physically blocked the agents’ access to take custody of the woman or otherwise assist her. Based on the size of the crowd and their response to the two law enforcement agents, the agents returned to their vehicle in order to deescalate the situation and request additional assistance. The agents remained at the scene and coordinated the transport of the woman to a local hospital for further evaluation. The FBI has opened an investigation into the matter.”

Million-dollar DROP-out

With controversy still bubbling over the impending DROP retirement of police chief David Nisleit, another top official has taken advantage this month of the city’s so-called deferred retirement option plan. The program, which was cut off for new employees in 2005, allows workers who signed up the ability to collect pre-retirement cash in a special account, so long as they agree to retire within five years of their enrollment. Nisleit, who has three-and-a-half years to go, reports the Union-Tribune, has already banked $368,700 in his DROP account. Nisleit’s predecessor, Shelley Zimmerman, had $904,867 in her DROP account when she retired in 2018, according to the website TransparentCalifornia.com, bringing her total retirement payout that year to a handsome $1,045,788. In 2019, Zimmerman’s regular annual pension paid her $172,418. The ranks of DROP retirees grew by 30 this month, based on a roster of new DROP retirees posted online by the San Diego City Employees Retirement System, containing the name of ethics commission former executive director Stacey Fulhorst. In 2019 Fulhorst collected a total of $223,810 in pay and benefits, and the year before got $221,361, according to TransparentCalifornia.com. No DROP balances were immediately available.

San Diego councilwoman Vivian Moreno is the latest local politician to jump into the charity-as-lobbying game.

Developer schooling

San Diego Democrat Vivian Moreno is the latest city council member to request that a company with business at city hall make a charitable donation on her behalf. A disclosure filing last year showed that National Enterprises paid influence peddler Cynthia Eldred $3000 to lobby regarding “drainage and/or construction plan changes for property along the western side of Harvest Road between Otay Center Drive and Siempre Viva Road in the Otay Mesa Community.” According to that document, Eldred pitched both David Karlin of the city attorney’s office and Edric Doringo of the Development Services department about the project. City campaign filings show that Enterprise employees, including company president David Wick and property manager Diane Kirma, came up with a total of $2150 for Moreno’s 2018 city council bid. In all, Enterprise employees have given a total of $46,320 to San Diego mayoral and city council races since 2010, with Wick giving $1150 to Scott Sherman’s failed bid for mayor last year against ultimate victor Democrat Todd Gloria, to whom Wick gave $100. He gave a total of $9400 to the successful 2020 Assembly bid of then-councilman Chris Ward.

A behesting statement filed by Moreno on January 13 says of National’s $5000 contribution. “Check sent to SY Women’s Club at CM Moreno’s request,” for “scholarships to San Ysidro students for higher education.”

— Matt Potter

(@sdmattpotter)

The Reader offers $25 for news tips published in this column. Call our voice mail at 619-235-3000, ext. 440, or sandiegoreader.com/staff/matt-potter/contact/.

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The Western Region Detention Facility.
The Western Region Detention Facility.

GEO riot

The Western Region Detention Facility in Downtown’s aging ex-county jail is looking for a new chief of security to make “improvements in security operations without compromise to the safety and security of the client population or staff.” Run by Boca Raton-based private prison operator GEO Group for the U.S. Marshals Service, the detention center faced a crisis this fall when 86 detainees turned up Covid-19 positive, according to a November 2 report by TV station KGTV. In addition, 64 GEO employees tested positive for the deadly virus.

But handling the pandemic hasn’t been the facility’s only problem. A decrepit prisoner intake system sometimes leaves police prisoner drop-offs idling outside, with potentially dangerous outcomes. The jail’s chief of security, per an online job notice, “plans and responds to emergency situations, directs searches for escaped offenders,” and “participates in the formulation of escape and riot control plans.”

Police chief David Nisleit flashes the sly grin of a man who knows who to work the system for his financial benefit.

A botched prisoner handoff by the FBI to the detection facility caused a September 5 riot when the inmate escaped custody through the rear door of a car that was “waiting at the gate of the facility,” per a September 7 FBI news release. “The agents pursued her into a large crowd of individuals who were participating in an unrelated protest at Front and B Streets,” said the Bureau’s account of the incident, captured on video and widely viewed on social media. “The agents regained contact with the woman and attempted to walk back to the vehicle but were immediately surrounded by the crowd. Individuals began to actively interfere with the agents’ lawful authority to take the woman into custody by pulling at the agents and the woman. During the incident, the woman appeared to become distressed, and an individual began to render aid. The crowd then encircled the woman and physically blocked the agents’ access to take custody of the woman or otherwise assist her. Based on the size of the crowd and their response to the two law enforcement agents, the agents returned to their vehicle in order to deescalate the situation and request additional assistance. The agents remained at the scene and coordinated the transport of the woman to a local hospital for further evaluation. The FBI has opened an investigation into the matter.”

Million-dollar DROP-out

With controversy still bubbling over the impending DROP retirement of police chief David Nisleit, another top official has taken advantage this month of the city’s so-called deferred retirement option plan. The program, which was cut off for new employees in 2005, allows workers who signed up the ability to collect pre-retirement cash in a special account, so long as they agree to retire within five years of their enrollment. Nisleit, who has three-and-a-half years to go, reports the Union-Tribune, has already banked $368,700 in his DROP account. Nisleit’s predecessor, Shelley Zimmerman, had $904,867 in her DROP account when she retired in 2018, according to the website TransparentCalifornia.com, bringing her total retirement payout that year to a handsome $1,045,788. In 2019, Zimmerman’s regular annual pension paid her $172,418. The ranks of DROP retirees grew by 30 this month, based on a roster of new DROP retirees posted online by the San Diego City Employees Retirement System, containing the name of ethics commission former executive director Stacey Fulhorst. In 2019 Fulhorst collected a total of $223,810 in pay and benefits, and the year before got $221,361, according to TransparentCalifornia.com. No DROP balances were immediately available.

San Diego councilwoman Vivian Moreno is the latest local politician to jump into the charity-as-lobbying game.

Developer schooling

San Diego Democrat Vivian Moreno is the latest city council member to request that a company with business at city hall make a charitable donation on her behalf. A disclosure filing last year showed that National Enterprises paid influence peddler Cynthia Eldred $3000 to lobby regarding “drainage and/or construction plan changes for property along the western side of Harvest Road between Otay Center Drive and Siempre Viva Road in the Otay Mesa Community.” According to that document, Eldred pitched both David Karlin of the city attorney’s office and Edric Doringo of the Development Services department about the project. City campaign filings show that Enterprise employees, including company president David Wick and property manager Diane Kirma, came up with a total of $2150 for Moreno’s 2018 city council bid. In all, Enterprise employees have given a total of $46,320 to San Diego mayoral and city council races since 2010, with Wick giving $1150 to Scott Sherman’s failed bid for mayor last year against ultimate victor Democrat Todd Gloria, to whom Wick gave $100. He gave a total of $9400 to the successful 2020 Assembly bid of then-councilman Chris Ward.

A behesting statement filed by Moreno on January 13 says of National’s $5000 contribution. “Check sent to SY Women’s Club at CM Moreno’s request,” for “scholarships to San Ysidro students for higher education.”

— Matt Potter

(@sdmattpotter)

The Reader offers $25 for news tips published in this column. Call our voice mail at 619-235-3000, ext. 440, or sandiegoreader.com/staff/matt-potter/contact/.

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Comments
2

Boo-Hoo to the Fibbies, they were too incompetent to control their prisoner, so they lost her and she walked into a crowd protesting something else. Both agents should have lost their badges and been force-drafted into the remaining US forces in Afghanistan to be slowly soldiered to death with insufficent rations, bad weapons, no allowance to use vehicles so they had to march everywhere. The terrain and the high altitutde would have killed them in a year if the conditions were right. But nope, blame our substandard jail, built by our substandard city government.

Jan. 27, 2021

Correction: That jail was built by the substandard COUNTY government. Place blame where it belongs.

Ain't it great to see the chief of the local PD, which is called in some circles the "world's largest hick town PD" wearing four stars on his collar? That is equivalent to the rank insignia of only about two dozen top military commanders in duty at any one time. It places him on the same perceived level as folks such as John Pershing, George Patton, Matt Ridgeway, Curtis LeMay, and Norman Schwartzkopf. The current slimy sheriff of LA county wears FIVE stars, same as Nimitz, Eisenhower, MacArthur, and Arnold in WWII. That joke of a cop in solbberin' LA allows his subordinates to wear four stars. But then, all the chiefs of police in SD county wear those four stars, as thought they commanded millions of subordinates, when they usually have a few hundred. What a crock!

Jan. 27, 2021

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