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Restaurateur commissions city employee to help fundraise for Councilmember Lorie Zapf

Mission Bay Park District Manager seeks potential donors for Lorie Zapf campaign event

Councilmember Lorie Zapf's push to ease the permitting requirements on sidewalk cafes seems to be paying off. If nothing else, her efforts have won her support from some of San Diego's most influential restauranteurs who are willing to ask City employees to reach out to contacts to get some cash for Zapf's council run.

One of those supporters is Matthew Spencer, owner of PB beachfront eatery Firehouse, and restaurant branding firm San Diego Creative Media. Spencer also partnered with the Cohn Restaurant Group to open Analog Bar and Vin de Syrah and is a longtime member of the California Restaurant Association.

On June 26, Spencer held a fundraiser for Zapf at his Pacific Beach restaurant. Suggested donations at the event ranged from $150 to $550 per person.

But it was the days leading up to the fundraiser when Spencer's search for possible donors intensified.

In the days before the event, Spencer asked Mission Bay Park District Manager for the City of San Diego, Stacy McKenzie, to invite board members on the Mission Bay Park Committee to the event.

"Matt [Spencer] asked that I invite you to a fundraiser they are holding at FIREHOUSE tomorrow for council woman Lorie Zapf," wrote McKenzie in a June 25 email obtained by The Reader.

Recipients included Cynthia Hedgecock, lobbyist Paul Robinson, vice president of design and engineering for SeaWorld San Diego, Patrick Owen; member of the Tourism Authority, Kevin Konopasek; former city planner and member of the Redistricting Commission Dave Potter, among others.

Another recipient, Gary Rotto, a former staffer for Ron Roberts, warned McKenzie about sending the email from her city email account.

"Stacy - I think this puts you in a bad position as a city staff person. If an invitation is to be issued, I believe that it should be from one of us on our private email not from a city email address," wrote Rotto.

The following day Spencer apologized to Rotto for commissioning the help of a city employee.

"Sorry about that, Gary. I asked [McKenzie] to send it. I will make sure if this ever comes up again, I'll send it using personal email addresses."

Spencer's request may have caused McKenzie to be in violation of the City's Ethics Code which states "It is unlawful for any City Official to engage in campaign-related activities, such as fund-raising, the development of electronic or written materials, or research, for a campaign for any elective office using City facilities, equipment, supplies, or other City resources."

In a message on Twitter, Alex Bell from Lorie Zapf's Office said the councilmember did not have any knowledge of the emails.

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Councilmember Lorie Zapf's push to ease the permitting requirements on sidewalk cafes seems to be paying off. If nothing else, her efforts have won her support from some of San Diego's most influential restauranteurs who are willing to ask City employees to reach out to contacts to get some cash for Zapf's council run.

One of those supporters is Matthew Spencer, owner of PB beachfront eatery Firehouse, and restaurant branding firm San Diego Creative Media. Spencer also partnered with the Cohn Restaurant Group to open Analog Bar and Vin de Syrah and is a longtime member of the California Restaurant Association.

On June 26, Spencer held a fundraiser for Zapf at his Pacific Beach restaurant. Suggested donations at the event ranged from $150 to $550 per person.

But it was the days leading up to the fundraiser when Spencer's search for possible donors intensified.

In the days before the event, Spencer asked Mission Bay Park District Manager for the City of San Diego, Stacy McKenzie, to invite board members on the Mission Bay Park Committee to the event.

"Matt [Spencer] asked that I invite you to a fundraiser they are holding at FIREHOUSE tomorrow for council woman Lorie Zapf," wrote McKenzie in a June 25 email obtained by The Reader.

Recipients included Cynthia Hedgecock, lobbyist Paul Robinson, vice president of design and engineering for SeaWorld San Diego, Patrick Owen; member of the Tourism Authority, Kevin Konopasek; former city planner and member of the Redistricting Commission Dave Potter, among others.

Another recipient, Gary Rotto, a former staffer for Ron Roberts, warned McKenzie about sending the email from her city email account.

"Stacy - I think this puts you in a bad position as a city staff person. If an invitation is to be issued, I believe that it should be from one of us on our private email not from a city email address," wrote Rotto.

The following day Spencer apologized to Rotto for commissioning the help of a city employee.

"Sorry about that, Gary. I asked [McKenzie] to send it. I will make sure if this ever comes up again, I'll send it using personal email addresses."

Spencer's request may have caused McKenzie to be in violation of the City's Ethics Code which states "It is unlawful for any City Official to engage in campaign-related activities, such as fund-raising, the development of electronic or written materials, or research, for a campaign for any elective office using City facilities, equipment, supplies, or other City resources."

In a message on Twitter, Alex Bell from Lorie Zapf's Office said the councilmember did not have any knowledge of the emails.

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