By Doug Porter
Developments over the past few days bode poorly for San Diego’s image and civic pride.
One of the main tourist attractions, the football team, the successor to the downtown development agency and the home for Comic Con are all in turmoil.
Controversies have arisen concerning the lone Democrat on the Board of Supervisors and the sheriff’s department is being investigated for civil rights violations arising out of the arrest of a mentally handicapped man.
So many stories, so little time to tell them all…
Sex and Drugs at SeaWorld
This time, plaintiffs claim the park hides practices of drugging its orcas, forced inbreeding, food deprivation, and confinement in inadequately sized pens from customers who pay to see them perform.
Lead plaintiff Valerie Simo says in her complaint that the park’s marketing pushes an “illusion” that “masks the ugly truth about the unhealthy and despairing lives of these whales,” according to a Courthouse News Service report. “This is a truth that, if known to the purchasing public at the time families make the decision to visit SeaWorld…would lead them to seek entertainment elsewhere.”
The suit, filed in a San Diego federal court on May 7, goes on to rehash many complaints that first came to light with the 2012 release of investigative reporter David Kirby’s Death at SeaWorld and gained traction in the public eye with the release of the documentary Blackfish the following year.
A Sweet Deal for the Chargers
I have to assume things aren’t going too well for the city in their attempts to work out a deal to keep the San Diego Chargers from moving north to LA…
The San Diego Chargers were paid nearly $3.3 million by the city to play at Qualcomm Stadiumfrom 2006 through 2013, thanks to rent credits and reimbursements from a settlement that made the stadium compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act…
…Or perhaps the Associated Press and the local media outlets that have given play to a story about how the team is currently being paid to play here simply missed a story saying the same thing two months ago at the Voice of San Diego.
(And the Voice of San Diego story also points out that Qualcomm Stadium operated at a net loss of $12 million last year.)
Even More Bad News for Civic San Diego
Noticeably absent for my stroll around the local media this morning is any further reporting on a San Diego Daily Transcript story about Civic San Diego’s expanding legal woes.
Civic board member Murtaza Baxamusa and the San Diego County Building & Construction Trades Council have amended their lawsuit to include an injunction preventing Civic SD from making planning and permitting decisions until additional oversight exists.
UT-San Diego ran with an editorial this past weekend parroting the “legislature’s interfering in local affairs” line being put forth by CivicSD apologists, while failing to note that no other city in California sought to use a similar mechanism.
Why? Probably because these other cities have lawyers who told them it wouldn’t stand up to a court challenge…. I’m sure we’ll see the requisite whining about judicial activism when and if CivicSD gets shot down in court.
And then there’s this from the Daily Transcript article:
His clients’ amended complaint also mentions the recent resignations of Andrew Phillips, Civic’s chief financial officer and chief operating officer, and Cynthia Morgan-Reed, a board member.
The suit alleges the two were responsible for the oversight of the corporation’s risk plan and budget submitted to the U.S. Treasury for federal New Market Tax Credits, which Civic has allocated to fund local projects.
“We anticipate investigation during discovery in this case to determine any conflict of interest issues, and the reason and timing of these resignations,” the amended complaint states.
Both Phillips and Morgan-Reed previously told The Daily Transcript their departures were not related to the lawsuit.
Bonus Rumor Time: A little birdie keeps whispering in my ear that Mayor Faulconer’s willingness to expend political capital on preserving the status quo for CivicSD is tied to a concern that a certain legislator is using the issue as a launching pad to for a mayoral campaign. This, of course, is ridiculous, because everybody knows that legislator has loftier ambitions.
Convention Center Gives Up Expansion Option
According to an article in UT-San Diego the San Diego Convention Center Corporation has terminated a deal allowing it to expand on property contiguous to the current location.
At issue is a six-acre parcel of land behind the center that was seen as a crucial acquisition needed to make an expansion of the center possible. While the financing plan for that project has since fallen through because of a court ruling, city leaders haven’t given up yet on a bayfront expansion.
Their optimism faded, though, after learning on Thursday that the Convention Center Corp. decided to default on a final payment due of nearly $13.8 million to the private business group that holds the land through a lease with the Port of San Diego. The money needed to cover the payment would have come from revenues raised for the expansion project, but a hotelier-approved room tax that was the linchpin of the financing plan has been ruled unconstitutional by an appellate court.
The story quotes Steve Cushman, president of the convention center board, saying that they’re awaiting the results of a $90,000 study before deciding their next move.
The Convention Center Corp. spent $3 million keeping an option open on the land before ending the deal.
Don’t worry kids, the drive to Anaheim for Comic Con won’t be that bad…
Supe Dave Roberts is in Trouble
Oy! The only Democrat on the San Diego County Board of Supervisors has some ‘plaining to do.
He’s largely dodged the bullet from a UT-San Diego story alleging his staffers were required to perform partisan chores. That account found an expert to say the tasks were in a “grey area.”
But the general media interest in Roberts isn’t occurring in a vacuum.
It seems as though his staff is voting with their feet. The recurring theme about the departures of eight or so staffers about their unhappiness has to do with a toxic work environment, unprofessional conduct and misused government resources, we’re told.
NBC7 News got one of those former employees to go on air:
At least two of those former staffers claim Roberts created a “hostile workplace.” NBC 7 Investigates has also confirmed those former employees have both hired attorneys and are considering lawsuits against the county.
Former staffers, Glyniss Vaughan and Diane Porter, say they were forced to leave because they asked tough questions about Roberts’ professional and personal relationship with Harold Meza, a young male staffer who was working as a Starbucks barista when Roberts hired him.
In an exclusive interview with NBC 7 Investigates, another former employee said Roberts refused to act on complaints from staffers that Meza was not qualified for the job.
“Harold was never wrong, according to [Roberts],” Brittany Shaw told NBC 7 Investigates. “We had to tip-toe around what we said. If Harold was doing something wrong, if we said something, Dave would get very upset.”
Shaw, who worked as an administrative specialist, and other former staffers said Roberts bent the rules to favor Meza. Shaw said Meza initially worked as Roberts’ chauffeur, until staffers pointed out no other county supervisors have a driver on staff.
The Board of Supervisors voted unanimously recently to turn down a request for a $75,000 request for settlement from Roberts’ former Chief of Staff Glynnis Vaughan.
The Supes made it clear yesterday that Roberts alone–and not taxpayers– would be paying any settlements with former employees. The also chided the District 3 supervisor for violating the Brown Act by publicly discussing his earlier vote on the proposed settlement.
And then there’s this, from the UT story (emphasis mine):
In her resignation letter, Vaughan said that the board’s vote was tantamount to denying the existence of problems in Roberts’ office. The board, however, said in its statement that they voted against her severance only because it believes that Roberts, not the public, should foot the bill.
Furthermore, the board said an internal investigation into Roberts office found issues that “need to be addressed.” Citing threats about litigation, the statement didn’t release details about the investigation.
I’m hearing that the investigation is about much more than staffing problems. This ain’t over.
Sorry About the Beating, Kid. Have a Turkey…
Despite all the noise (much of it deserved) that’s been made about the SDPD, I’ve always suspected the real problems waiting to be uncovered lie with the County Sheriff.
The excellent reporting of Kelly Davis and Dave Maass over the past few years at City Beat on the conduct of Sheriff’s Deputies assigned to local jails certainly seemed to indicate there were larger systemic problems within the Department.
Now 10 News has reported the County Sheriff’s Department is under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division.
Sources said the investigation is focused on potential violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the arrest and treatment of Antonio Martinez.
Martinez has Down syndrome — he’s 23 years old, but functions and communicates at a 7-year-old’s level. He was walking to his parents’ bakery in Vista in December 2012 when he encountered a sheriff’s Deputy Jeffrey Guy.
An arrest report shows Guy told Martinez to stop walking, but he didn’t. According to the report, Guy hit Martinez with his baton several times and pepper sprayed him in the face.
Guy then arrested Martinez and charged him with resisting arrest — a charge that was later dropped. The sheriff’s department then offered the family a turkey dinner with all the trimmings as an apology, but the family refused the offer.
On This Day: 1963 – Bob Dylan walked out of dress rehearsals for “The Ed Sullivan Show” when CBS censors told him he could not perform “Talkin’ John Birch Paranoid Blues.” 1984 – South African prisoner Nelson Mandela saw his wife for the first time in 22 years. 2008 – U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents raided the Agriprocessors, Inc. slaughterhouse and meat packing plant in Postville, Iowa, arresting nearly 400 immigrant workers. Several employees and lower and mid-level managers were convicted on various charges, but not the owner—although he later was jailed for bank fraud and related crimes.
Did you enjoy this article? Subscribe to “The Starting Line” and get an email every time a new article in this series is posted!
I read the Daily Fishwrap(s) so you don’t have to… Catch “the Starting Line” Monday thru Friday right here at San Diego Free Press (dot) org. Send your hate mail and ideas to DougPorter@SanDiegoFreePress.Org Check us out on Facebook and Twitter.