“The case put forward to this point just doesn’t seem right, kind of like a badly fitted toupee on an otherwise well-dressed man.”
By Doug Porter
There’s no doubt about the fact that attorney Cory Briggs has made his fair share of enemies in San Diego. His actions in court have made Briggs the bane of corporate interests, providing what I believe to be a necessary counter-balance in a region where it seems as though the “people’s advocates” express concern about issues only after exposés appear in the press.
So it’s ironic that San Diego’s City attorney is now responding to an investigative series focused on Briggs. And the suggestion is being made that the source for these stories may have been somebody connected with the city’s legal offices, which have made no secret of their disdain for the attorney in the past.
Over the past few days inewsource has published three stories questioning Briggs’ ethics. Liens filed by the attorney on properties may have been fraudulent efforts to shield assets. Briggs wife’s employment with an environmental planning company used by local governments may represent a conflict of interest, given the nature of many of the legal actions he has pursued against various agencies.
There are two problems with all these accusations: the lack of a victim and proof that anything illicit actually took place. The case put forward to this point just doesn’t seem right, kind of like a badly fitted toupee on an otherwise well-dressed man.
City Attorney Jan Goldsmith has entered the picture now, saying he’s “concerned”: about “red flags.” The inewsource reporting includes quotes from legal ethics experts questioning suggesting there may be some malfeasance, but…depending…
The inewsource outfit has done some impressive investigative reporting in the past, winning awards for stories on management issues with the North County Transit District, hospice care and political campaign finance.
Briggs has sued the city of San Diego dozens of times; the collapse of the fee-but-not-a-tax scheme to expand the convention center certainly hasn’t made him any friends with the downtown set. His involvement in bringing forward the accusations that brought down former Mayor Bob Filner alienated many progressives around town.
Briggs has responded by saying he’s done nothing wrong. He’s not disputing the facts in the inewsource reporting, just the inferences being drawn.
From UT-San Diego:
Briggs did not cooperate with the news report, but put out his statement the day after the series concluded.
He said he sometimes places liens on clients’ property as security to ensure payment of his legal fees. And he said he and his wife, Sarichia “Seekey” Cacciatore, take measures against conflicts of interest when she takes on environmental planning assignments as a consultant at an agency he is suing.
“There isn’t anything illegal, unethical, or even unusual about any of this,” Briggs said.
This morning he’s gone into court seeking to block an “emergency” move by City Attorney Jan Goldsmith to unseal a deposition in the a case involving hotel room charges that Briggs believes–and the courts has thus far agreed with– are illegal.
[The depositions would normally be made public anyway once the case is finally adjudicated at the appellate level]
Briggs is asserting that inewsource reporter Brad Racino was given unlawful access to the sealed deposition; that the only way he could have learned the information at the heart of his reporting was either from someone who was present during the testimony or that he was allowed to see the transcription.
From the Briggs’ filing in opposition to the City Attorney:
With the benefit of Plaintiff’s complete evidentiary record, the Court should have no trouble recognizing that the City is attempting to get the transcript removed from the restrictions of the protective order as a subterfuge to make it all but impossible for Plaintiff and this Court to ascertain with confidence in a contempt proceeding whether the leak came from the City or from the San Diego Tourism Marketing District Corporation: Once Mr. Racino is given the transcript, it will be easy for the Defendants to maintain the farce that he didn’t get the confidential information until after the City turned over the transcript in response to his February 23, 2015 request. (Yes, Plaintiff intends to initiate contempt proceedings as a result of the leak. )
To preserve the sanctity of the judicial process and this Court’s authority over the parties and the attorneys, to ensure that justice is not frustrated by a collusive attempt to cover up a blatant violation of the protective order, and to protect the rights of the beneficiary of the protective order, the Court should deny the application.
There are the people who say Briggs is just in it for the money. One part of this puzzle is the accusation–which has thus far only surfaced the online response by Briggs–that he was paid off to the tune of $3 million to abet the fall of Filner.
The question for now seems to be which of those enemies is trying to take him down? Or is there a fatal flaw in the scheme of his modus operandi? You have to remember that Briggs once told a reporter about being handed a check and being told to write in whatever number he wanted to buy his silence.
Full disclosure: I met Cory Briggs once. Shook his hand, even. I occasionally receive emails when he files lawsuits. He refused to comment for this report. He also penned an article in the “Who Runs San Diego” series published by SDFP and the Woman’s Democratic Club in 2014. That article was edited by Linda Perine. We have no financial relationship with him.
Happy Net Neutrality Day
The Federal Communication Commission voted this morning to reclassify broadband internet access as a “telecommunications service under Title II.” Over 4 million people wrote in or signed petitions urging them to do so. The communications industry spent untold millions of dollars trying to block or co-opt this decision. They lost.
What this means in plain English is broadband internet is now considered a utility, which allows the commission more regulatory power over Internet providers. And what they want to regulate is essentially a denial of corporate attempts to create special privileges for entities willing to pay the price.
The proposed rules are pretty lengthy, but from an FCC fact sheet, here are the three things that the rules would ban that matter most to consumers:
- “No Blocking: broadband providers may not block access to legal content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices.
- “No Throttling: broadband providers may not impair or degrade lawful Internet traffic on the basis of content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices.
- “No Paid Prioritization: broadband providers may not favor some lawful Internet traffic over other lawful traffic in exchange for consideration — in other words, no ‘fast lanes.’ This rule also bans ISPs from prioritizing content and services of their affiliates.”
Here’s New York Mayor Bill de Blasio on why the decision is a victory for most of us:
…far too many Americans struggle to afford this common service — or lack it altogether. In New York City, home of the second largest tech sector in the country, we pay more for less when it comes to broadband access. And the reason is fairly evident.
Internet access is now essentially controlled by four companies. Comcast and Time Warner nearly have a complete lock on broadband in the markets they control, covering some 50 million American homes. They’re now looking to merge, which would put them in control of about half of the nation’s broadband subscribers. A significant number of Americans also use their smartphones for broadband access — and Verizon and AT&T together own 64 percent of cell phone service.
That’s why we need the right rules safeguarding the fast and open Internet. Access to it shouldn’t be a luxury only available to the privileged few.
Local Community Choice Aggregation Gets National Notice
A key part of San Diego’s Climate Action Plan involves getting 100 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2035.
Mayor Kevin Faulconer has been non-committal as to how that goal will be achieved. A study looking at how the costs of community choice aggregation compare to SDG&E, funded by the nonprofit Protect Our Communities Foundation is due in the next few weeks.
Here’s the basics on the program, via KPBS:
Community choice aggregation, or CCA, means the city could buy energy for its residents instead of going through the utility SDG&E. That would give the city more control over where its energy comes from.
Nicole Capretz, the head of the Climate Action Campaign, said that would allow the city to shift to more renewable sources.
“When looking at what is available when you’re existing under the rubric of a monopoly, the best option to get the efficiencies and the rate reductions and to accelerate clean energy is this program, community choice,” she said. “It was designed by the state specifically so that cities and counties and other government agencies could provide an alternative to the existing models, which aren’t getting us to the goals we need to avert the climate crisis.”
The unique possibilities of CCA in San Diego are mentioned in an article at Grist.org, a well known and influential environmental media organization.
California has been particularly on the ball. Marin County started the state’s first CCA program — it now serves 125,000 customers. Sonoma County has followed suit. San Mateo County is considering it; county supervisors just voted to do a study of the proposal. The mayor of San Francisco, who’s running for reelection this year, has reversed his previous opposition to the city joining a CCA. Now he says his only objection was that there wasn’t enough local power required!
Perhaps the most interesting battle is happening in San Diego. Whereas San Francisco represents only about 5 percent of utility giant PG&E’s customer base, San Diego represents over 40 percent of San Diego Gas & Electric’s. That’s a big chunk to lose!
CCA is a key part of San Diego’s Climate Action Plan, which among other things commits the city to a legally binding target of 100 percent renewables by 2035. There is effectively no way for it to hit that target if it has to accept whatever power SDG&E sees fit to buy for it.
There have been various efforts to kill CCA at the state level, some supported by the state chapter of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), many of whose members work for utilities. The local San Diego chapter of IBEW, however, supports the city’s 100 percent renewables target. The fate of the San Diego’s climate plan, or at least CCA’s place in the plan, remains uncertain. It if did go through, it would represent something of a watershed for the CCA movement.
On This Day: 1933 – A ground-breaking ceremony was held at Crissy Field for the Golden Gate Bridge. 1954 – A Congresswoman introduced a bill to prohibit the distribution of “obscene, lewd, lascivious or filthy” recordings 2004 – A 20-week strike by 70,000 Southern California supermarket workers ends, with both sides claiming victory.
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