Wednesday, September 01, 2010

KUSI reports campaign allegations as fact; is Prop D so incendiary that it causes KUSI to compromise its journalistic integrity?

How Political Spin Became Fact on KUSI
Keegan Kyle
Voice of San Diego
August 31, 2010

Here's a lesson from the budding campaign over Proposition D that shows how quickly political spin can become accepted fact.

Last week, journalists received an e-mail blast from opponents of Proposition D, the sales tax measure on November's ballot. The opponents announced a meeting with "over 300 business and community leaders" for the "launch of (a) grassroots effort." They took a stab at Proposition D supporters, too.

[Excerpt from email:] Proponents of Prop D will have $1 million or more from labor unions and special interests to spend in their campaign ... We cannot match that special interest money. Fortunately, our "No on Prop D" campaign has the support of the grassroots in San Diego -- a broad spectrum of hardworking small business owners, neighborhood activists and community leaders.

KUSI covered the meeting live and reported the campaign's claims to its audiences as fact. Here's one excerpt from the exchange between anchor and news reporter (emphasis is ours):

Anchor: I understand the Prop. D campaign has quite a bit of money behind it to see it through.

Reporter: They do. They have about a million dollars for those supporting Proposition D, for their campaigns. Some of that is funded by some of the unions around San Diego city and county as well. The campaign here, the No on Prop. D campaign, does not have that kind of money. This is a purely grassroot effort. This is a fundraiser tonight so they're actually trying to get some people to donate to their campaign, but what they're to do is get as much support behind this as they can. They've already got a substantial portion of the business community supporting the No on Prop D campaign.

Anchor: Sounds like they're putting up a pretty good fight, though. Alright, Tom, thank you.

In those four highlighted sections, the reporter presented the same talking points about unions, special interests, business and grassroots efforts that came from the anti-Prop. D press release. He claimed the pro-Prop. D campaign had $1 million, which actually went a step further from the press release, which only forecasted that sum...

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Fox news hammers another nail in the coffin of fair and balanced reporting: $1M gift to Republican Governors Association

News Corp. defends $1M gift to Republican Governors Association
By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
August 17, 2010

Rupert Murdoch, who has never been shy about making his political views known, has voted with his sizable checkbook.

Murdoch's News Corp. has made a $1 million donation to the Republican Governors Association, triggering swift criticism from Democrats that a contribution of that magnitude casts a shadow on his media properties, particularly Fox News.

"For a media company -- particularly one whose slogan is 'fair and balanced' -- to be injecting themselves into the outcome of races is stunning," Nathan Daschle, executive director of the Democratic Governors Association, said Tuesday. "The people owning Fox News have made a decision that they want to see Democratic governors go down to defeat. It's a jaw-dropping violation of the boundary between the media and corporate realm." ...

The NCT may have fooled some readers into thinking that a MiraCosta College mediator spoke with the authority of a judge

See MiraCosta College posts.

San Diego's retired judge David B. Moon, Jr. is not a judge, he's a mediator-for-hire. He is famous in some circles for his successful efforts to help employers get away with mistreating employees. However, when the employee in question is someone who has run an organization, and has worked closely with the lawyers for the organization, it seems that Mr. Moon does his best to get the employee an extremely good deal. In the case of MiraCosta College, a appeals court has ruled that the deal Moon got for former college president Victoria Richart was so generous that it was illegal.

Mr. Moon's statements should be given no more weight than those of any other mediator who is paid to be biased. But the North County Times, by focusing on his status as a retired judge, makes it sound like his personal opinion has some special value:

"...before the 2007 settlement, a retired judge retained by the college board found that Richart had a valid claim for damages against MiraCosta and some of its trustees worth 'in excess of $2 million'" (emphasis added).

Reporter Paul Sisson should have described Moon as a mediator, not a judge.

Across town, the San Diego Union-Tribune has broken the link to the following story it published on the same subject:

"This is Google's cache of It is a snapshot of the page as it appeared on Aug 14, 2010 00:28:07 GMT. The current page could have changed in the meantime.

Judge says former MiraCosta president must repay $1.3 million
Friday, August 13, 2010 at 5:05 p.m.

A judge has ordered the former president of MiraCosta College to repay about $1.3 million in compensation she has received from the college district under a 2007 settlement in which she agreed to step down and waive her right to sue over employment issues.

Victoria Muñoz Richart and the district agreed to a $1.6 million settlement after the faculty cast a no-confidence vote against her over her investigation into the illegal sale of palm trees that belonged to the college.

Leon Page, an attorney who lives in Carlsbad, quickly sued, contending that state law prohibits public agencies from granting more than 18 months’ worth of salary and benefits in terminating contracts.

He lost at the trial level, but in November the 4th District Court of Appeal agreed that the deal was an unconstitutional gift of public funds and declared the settlement contract void. The appellate court sent the case back to Superior Court to sort out what to do next.

In his ruling, Judge William S. Dato said the solution is to return the parties to the status they had before the agreement was reached, ordering Richart to repay the money within 90 days and reinstating her right to pursue legal claims against the district.

“Technically, she is also relieved of her obligation to step down as president of the district, but the significance of that fact is far from clear,” Dato wrote, noting that the college has a new president (since March 2009) and that “it is unlikely Richart would want to resume the position even if the district board was willing to permit it.”

The ruling also ordered the district to withhold the approximately $300,000 remaining to be paid under the settlement.

Neither Richart nor her attorneys could be reached for comment Friday.

“This was an abusive, corrupt bargain,” Page said of the deal he torpedoed, saying his role was to stand up for the college and taxpayers “since nobody else did.”

Although he has no role in any future dealings between Richart and the Oceanside-based district, Page said, “I think now this can very easily be settled.”

He said he envisions a scenario in which Richart is able to “hold back” some of what she has been paid.

“I don’t think it’s necessary to squeeze every last penny out of Victoria,” Page said.

Michael Gibbs, an attorney for the college district, said that while there have been no discussions since Dato released his ruling Thursday, a settlement is possible.

“I am sure there will be a good-faith effort to reach a resolution,” he said.

And if that doesn’t happen, there “may well be” more litigation in the case, he said.

Friday, August 06, 2010

My apology regarding SDUT's Sign On San Diego website

San Diego Union-Tribune

I apologize for my mistake about how
the SDUT published comments. I've
erased this page, and am working on
a full explanation which I will
publish in this space. I mistakenly
thought I posted a comment on one
web page of the SDUT, but I had
actually posted my comment on
another page. I kept looking at the
first page (the one that had everyone
else's comments), waiting to see my
comment, and, of course, my
comment never appeared.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Why did the San Diego Union Tribune talk about Francisco Escobedo's other school district, but never mentioned Lowell Billings' other district?

New CVESD superintendent Francisco Escobedo

Who is in charge of the San Diego Union-Tribune's editorial policy regarding Chula Vista Elementary School District? The editor who (mis)handled the story of the "Castle Park Five" was Don Sevrens.

Once again, the SDUT fails to give the full story about Chula Vista Elementary School District. Until he was voted out of office in 2008 (and replaced by Russell Coronado), CVESD board member Patrick Judd was an employee of CVESD Superintendent Lowell Billings in another school district, The Accelerated School (TAS) in Los Angeles. At TAS, Lowell Billings was on the board that chose Patrick Judd as executive director of the school.

But here's the big difference between the two situations: Escobedo didn't personally hire Coronado. Lowell Billings, on the other hand, was personally involved in the hiring of Patrick Judd, and Judd was personally involved in hiring Lowell Billings.

The board minutes for CVESD do not indicate that Patrick Judd recused himself from voting for Lowell Billings' employment, nor does it appear that Billings recused himself from voting for Judd's employment.

See blog posts about The Accelerated School (TAS) in Los Angeles.

Shame on the San Diego Union Tribune for cherry-picking the facts it gives to readers. This story reminds me of the "Castle Park Five" story, in which the SDUT was outraged that five teachers were transferred, but never told readers that several of those teachers were deeply involved in illegal actions. The district had paid $100,000s to defend them. The teachers weren't grateful for the district's assistance in covering up their wrongdoing, however. When they were transferred, they filed a complaint against the district!

Chula Vista superintendent candidate had inside track
The president of the school board works for him at another district
San Diego Union Tribune
August 2, 2010

One candidate for superintendent of Chula Vista’s elementary school district had an inside track — one of his employees is the president of the school board.

Francisco Escobedo last week was named the sole finalist for the job, which paid its last occupant $247,000...

It wasn’t mentioned in the news release, but The Watchdog has learned that Escobedo is Coronado’s boss at the South Bay Union School District. Escobedo is assistant superintendent of educational leadership there, a post he has held since 2007. Coronado is the director of student services.

Coronado was one of two board members on a selection committee, which also included a parent, a principal, a labor representative and a taxpayer. That committee passed along three finalists to the board, which narrowed the field to one by a unanimous vote that included Coronado.

Coronado on Monday said his relationship with Escobedo at the South Bay district was not a conflict-of-interest and had no bearing on the recruitment at the Chula Vista Elementary district...

Still, Coronado said, he has decided to recuse himself from the final vote to hire a superintendent, possibly on Aug. 17, “so that there wouldn’t be any misinterpretation.”

Escobedo said he sees no conflict with applying for a job controlled in part by a subordinate.

“I wouldn’t say that is the case,” Escobedo said. “[Coronado] has two roles to play: one as the school board president when he works for Chula Vista. He does an exceptional job at differentiating what his roles are in those two positions.”

Larry Cunningham, the other board member who served on the selection committee, said the relationship between Coronado and Escobedo was “not a discussion item” but that he was aware that they worked together. Asked whether he knew that Escobedo was Coronado’s boss, he said, “I don’t know what the structure is.”

[Maura Larkins' comment: Come on, Larry. Don't be so afraid to admit the truth. If Escobedo is the superintendent, then he's the boss of every employee in the district. I wish you would start giving straight answers to questions. This evasiveness is getting to be a very bad habit.]

Jim Groth, former president of the teacher’s union for the district, said he was unaware of the connection.

“As far as my reaction to it, it’s not uncommon, but it would be proper for a board member not to vote on the process,” said Groth, now a member of the California Teachers Association board. “Everybody in leadership kind of knows everybody else in leadership. To directly supervise them though, in the state of California, I am sure it happens, but as an elected official, you need to be very careful.”

[Maura Larkins comment: But you didn't want Lowell Billings to be careful, did you, Jim? At least not regarding issues that you and he were hiding from teachers and voters, right?]

The successful candidate will replace Lowell Billings, who will retire midway through his ninth year as district superintendent in December. His salary is $247,000, although a replacement with less experience might be paid less.

At South Bay Union, Escobedo’s salary stands at $144,000, and Coronado’s is $124,000.

Escobedo, who has a doctorate in education and has worked in education for 22 years, should not be excluded from the Chula Vista job because a board member happens to work for him, Billings said.

“Do you exclude someone that you really really like because you have a history with them? He is a really good educator,” Billings said. “You have to look at the track record of the candidate that has been selected, and it is immaculate.”

Billings said there was no problem with the news release quoting Coronado praising Escobedo, without disclosing their outside relationship.

“I think you have to put it in the context of how pleased the other board members are,” Billings said. “One board member is not the board. He is not giving his sole opinion. He is voicing the consolidated opinion of the board. He doesn’t speak for himself.”...

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Daniel Schorr's Legacy: Speaking Truth To Power

Daniel Schorr's Legacy: Speaking Truth To Power
by David Folkenflik
July 24, 2010

He wasn't the most handsome, nor the most famous, of the dashing "Murrow Boys" of CBS News, the ones who defined ambitious broadcast journalism in the middle of the last century.

Nor was Daniel Schorr among the first. It took years of freelancing abroad, and even a brief try-out at The New York Times, before Schorr caught the attention of Edward R. Murrow and was hired by CBS in 1953.

But Schorr, who died Friday at 93, left two unquestionable journalistic legacies all his own.

First, he exemplified the mission of bearing active witness to history, in his case, the decades that chronicled America's rise after World War II. His reporting and interpretation of developments provided important insights for generations of readers, viewers and listeners.

He covered the Army-McCarthy hearings in 1954; a few years later, as Moscow bureau chief for CBS, Schorr won the first sit-down television interview with Soviet Premier Nikita Krushchev — the first by a television news outlet from any country, including the U.S.S.R. He covered the Cold War from West Germany, too; and the Johnson administration's anti-poverty efforts when he returned to the U.S.; and, perhaps most famously, Watergate and the ensuing revelation of CIA abuses.

Schorr took a pride in his name's appearance on President Nixon's infamous "enemies list" that could not be underestimated. It served as a verbal talisman during his later appearances on NPR, particularly as he observed some parallels between the pushes for secrecy in the Nixon years and in the administration of President George W. Bush (especially as embodied by then-Vice President Richard B. Cheney).
Dan Schorr Memorial Special

Then, there is his second legacy: He uncompromisingly stood up to power.

Murrow famously tangled with network executives — all the way up to CBS chairman William S. Paley himself. But to the outward observer, Schorr seemed as fearless as his mentor...

Monday, July 05, 2010

Truly independent American journalists don't work for big organizations

Jul 4, 2010
America's good, subservient press
On Independence Day, noting that the truly independent American journalists don't work for big organizations
By Dan Gillmor

Journalists tend to take themselves too seriously, and their craft not seriously enough. So it is apt that some famous and obscure quotations and aphorisms about the value and function of a free press adorn the tiled walls of the restrooms at Rhodes University's African Media Matrix -- the building that houses what is widely considered the continent's top journalism school.

One of those quotes is from Nelson Mandela, spoken in 2002, and it feels dismayingly correct today:

“A bad free press is preferable to a technically good subservient press."

In the wake of a major journalistic scandal in the United States, broken open in the last week, I have to say that America's establishment press has never been technically better, but never more pathetically subservient. My hopes increasingly ride on an often bad free press that is getting better all the time.

Let me also say, upfront, that there are honorable exceptions in the top ranks of America's major media organizations. But in what may well be seen someday as a seminal event in U.S. media history, senior people at the two newspapers widely considered to offer the most comprenensive political coverage have admitted -- and, God help us, defended -- their technically good subservience to the American government.

Salon colleague Glenn Greenwald has discussed in detail the truly disheartening response to a Harvard study showing that the Washington Post and New York Times skewed their coverage of America's post-9/11 torture policy, using the Bush administration's newspeak language -- "harsh interrogation techniques" was a favorite -- instead of plain old "torture," the word they'd previously used to describe the same acts.

And then, when asked why, top editors and spokespeople at both papers effectively said that once the Bush administration and Republican allies had pushed for the new language, the news organizations were duty-bound to use it, too, or else be seen as slanting the news.

That the news organizations had changed their language was itself disgraceful. That they then compounded the damage, with a defense that was almost the definition of a subservient press, was heartbreaking.

But George Orwell was rolling in his grave -- perhaps with joy that he's been proved so right, but also pure despair...

The New York Times and Washington Post have done wonderful work through their modern existence. But their failures are so profound in recent years that it's hard to maintain any confidence in them.

So for all of the excellence they've fostered, the editors at these famous institutions who refused to call torture what it was -- bowing to the bogus and odious idea that channeling partisan propaganda was serving their readers -- harmed their organizations with those cowardly word games.

And when they defended their acts of cowardice and dismissed criticism as tendentious, they went beyond harm. Their pride in subservience was a disgrace.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Gary Stoller of USA TODAY reveals planes with maintenance problems have flown anyway

Planes with maintenance problems have flown anyway
A jet takes off from Indianapolis in this 2000 file photo. Since 2003, 65,000 U.S. flights with maintenance problems have taken off anyway.
By Gary Stoller, USA TODAY

Alerted by a brake warning light in the cockpit, the captain on a U.S. airline flight last August warned passengers he was making an emergency landing and called for firetrucks to be standing by.

The trucks weren't needed, it turned out. The Boeing 767-300 jet landed safely, the pilot said in his account to NASA's Aviation Safety Reporting System, which allows airline employees to report incidents confidentially and without identifying the airline or the flight.

The pilot reported that he later was told by mechanics that the incident was caused by a landing-gear wheel that was missing a part and had been installed incorrectly.

The passengers on the unidentified international flight were on a jet that should never have left the ground. Improper repair work made it unsafe to fly. It was no isolated incident.

During the past six years, millions of passengers have been on at least 65,000 U.S. airline flights that shouldn't have taken off because planes weren't properly maintained, a six-month USA TODAY investigation has found.

FAA FINES TELL TALE: Number, total show extent of problem
BAGGAGE FEES: Extra money no guarantee of better handling, tracking

The investigation — which included an analysis of government fines against airlines for maintenance violations and penalty letters sent to them that were obtained through the Freedom of Information Act — reveals that substandard repairs, unqualified mechanics and lax oversight by airlines and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) are not unusual...

Friday, June 25, 2010

Jim Hilkevich, Chicago Tribune reporter, should correct statement about 767s flying themselves

The cockpit automation myth that won't die

There's plenty of blame to go around for why bad information trickles out to the public and becomes "fact"
By Patrick Smith
June 24, 2010

Illegitimi non carborundum

Picking up from where I left off ...

For the longest time I've toyed with the idea of renting out a simulator and recruiting volunteers in order to demonstrate the immense difficulty a nonpilot would have at the controls of a jet. Logistics and cost, unfortunately, would make this extremely difficult (the tab would likely be in the tens of thousands of dollars).

Recently I learned that something like this has already been done. Several years ago, researchers in Denver gathered together 112 private pilots and put them to the test in an old Boeing 737-200 simulator. Of the 112, only 23 managed to get the plane from 35,000 feet to a reasonably intact landing -- in clear weather, with instruction from the ground. Approximately 50 percent were unable to manage anything at all. Mind you these were FAA certificated pilots.

Anyway, I never heard back from Jim Hilkevich. That's the Chicago Tribune reporter who, in covering the story of the American Airlines flight attendant pressed into cockpit duty after one of the pilots fell ill, said of the Boeing 767: "In fact, the sophisticated plane, equipped with an array of computers, can fly and land by itself."

I e-mailed Mr. Hilkevich a note of cordial disagreement. I'm not sure what to make of his silence. As both an air travel writer and a pilot with more than a thousand hours of 767 time under my belt, I felt that my protest would carry some weight and credibility. Alas it was met with silence. Perhaps big city reporters don't take kindly to lowly airline pilots explaining what it is they actually do for a living. I suppose I wouldn't mind so much if not the fact that Hilkevich is the paper's transportation writer, and in that capacity, with its presumed expertise, he ought to be more careful...

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Journalist-turned-commentator Marsha Sutton reveals her biases regarding school attorney Dan Shinoff and Del Mar USD's firing of its superintendent

See all posts re Del Mar Union School District.

Five will get you ten that Marsha Sutton was all worked up emotionally after talking to Dan Shinoff when she wrote the article below. Did the whole MiraCosta College fiasco completely slip her mind when she wrote it? In the article Ms. Sutton wrote one of the most bizarre sentences I have ever read from a school journalist:

Can we use common sense and ask ourselves why the board would proceed with firing McClain if it were not evident – not unanimously evident – that there have been legal violations?

Good heavens, Marsha. You know very well, and have failed to report, that other school administrators have committed legal violations and not been fired. And most firings are done for political reasons. So the answer is NO, Marsha. We can not assume that there have been legal violations.

Shame on you for publishing such a statement. Do you also assume, Marsha, that everyone charged with a crime has committed one? I have to wonder if you're taking your instructions, as seems to have happened in at the San Diego Union Tribune and North County Times as well as the Chula Vista Star-News (click on name of paper to see examples) from Del Mar USD attorney Dan Shinoff. A judge found that Shinoff himself had violated rules of professional conduct when representing MiraCosta College, but Shinoff wasn't fired. So why are you pretending that a school firing is necessarily due to legal violations as opposed to politics? And why are you pretending that illegal actions normally lead to firing?

Later in the same article Marsha comes up with another doozy:

And why is one speaker’s offhand comment that this action could cost the district $500,000 repeated in the press as if it were an accepted fact? How often, if ever, was it pointed out that not a dime would be spent if McClain was released for cause? Five will get you ten that that $500,000 pulled-from-the-air figure will grow to $800,000 or even $1 million before the month is out.

Maybe, Marsha, the speaker knows that Shinoff advised MiraCosta College to give $1.6 million to Victoria Richart when she hadn't even filed a claim. And you know very well that releasing someone for cause often results in expensive lawsuits.

Finally you let us know that you are relying on the authority of a single man whom you cravenly admire. Why didn't you refer to actual cases in writing this article? Here are you own over-the-top words:

Can we ask why one of the most highly regarded education attorneys in San Diego, Dan Shinoff, feels confident that McClain violated her contract, and perhaps the Brown Act and other breaches as well? Does it make sense that the board would, on a whim, do this without solid legal grounds?

Marsha, school board generally do what Dan Shinoff tells them to do. They rely on him. But neither the Superior Court nor the California Court of Appeal always backs up Shinoff's determinations. Schools who do what Shinoff tells them to do often end up much poorer. Did the whole MiraCosta fiasco completely slip your mind when you wrote this article?

Marsha, I don't see how you can pretend to be an unbiased journalist regarding legal affairs in schools in San Diego after writing this article. You should stick to commentary from now on. And I am disappointed in SDNN now that I know what kind of an education editor it hired. It seems that Voice of San Diego is the only major publication in San Diego with any journalistic ethics.

Sutton: Can we withhold judgment on Del Mar?
By Marsha Sutton, SDNN
April 9, 2010

It was during my just concluded 10-day vacation in Washington, D.C., visiting all the historic sites and the exquisite cherry blossom trees (by chance, we caught them blooming during the three days each year when their breathtaking floral beauty is at its peak), that the Del Mar Union School District exploded into the news. But unlike the blossoms, this explosion is hardly of the beauteous kind.

For months I’ve been asking and waiting and asking again, to see when and if the deed will get done, only to learn that the board took action and released former superintendent Sharon McClain while I was away.

I’ve covered the Del Mar Union School District closely for the past 15 years, and have witnessed the rise, and fall, of former superintendents Rob Harriman and Tom Bishop. Both men reigned supreme until they were both dismissed by their school boards under clouds of suspicion, the reasons for which were never formally revealed. And now we have the demise of a third.

The reports so far on this latest firing have offered readers an infuriatingly limited presentation of the problems confronting the DM district.

San Diego: I would ask all those who are following this drawn-out saga to suspend judgment until all the facts, those facts that professional journalists should have reported but failed to extract, can be revealed.

Depressingly, the reports to date reflect a hell-bent, torches and pitchforks mission that does little to provide people with accuracy and balance. I plead for patience because everything I’ve read so far has served only to increase hysteria.

During these last few days of spring break, can we have patience? Can folks hold off on condemning this board until more facts have been exposed?

Can we use common sense and ask ourselves why the board would proceed with firing McClain if it were not evident – not unanimously evident – that there have been legal violations?

Can we ask ourselves why board president Comischell Rodriguez, after months of apparent agreement, would suddenly decide at the last board meeting to switch her position and vote against the board majority? Is this an act of integrity, to suddenly flip-flop and play to the political arena? Or was there some new evidence revealed that only she was privy to?

Can we ask why Steven McDowell inexplicably abstained? What’s up with that? Cowardly? Or something borne of conviction?

Do Rodriguez’s and McDowell’s actions now put the board at greater risk for litigation? A unanimous decision to vote her out is quite different than a 3-1-1 vote. By flopping and flipping and crumbling to please the crowd, without regard to the law, is McClain’s case strengthened?

Can we ask why one of the most highly regarded education attorneys in San Diego, Dan Shinoff, feels confident that McClain violated her contract, and perhaps the Brown Act and other breaches as well? Does it make sense that the board would, on a whim, do this without solid legal grounds?

Read more education stories

And why is one speaker’s offhand comment that this action could cost the district $500,000 repeated in the press as if it were an accepted fact? How often, if ever, was it pointed out that not a dime would be spent if McClain was released for cause? Five will get you ten that that $500,000 pulled-from-the-air figure will grow to $800,000 or even $1 million before the month is out.

Questions to ponder.

Meanwhile, I’m going to reflect on the memory of that one last look at the carpet of cherry blossoms falling off the trees like so much drifting, snowy confetti – grateful for the few days of respite, ironically taken in our nation’s capital, from the political turmoil of a tiny school district three thousand miles away.

[Maura Larkins' comment: You didn't smoke some of those cherry blossoms, did you, Marsha?]

Monday, April 05, 2010

SDCERA lawyers screw up big time, and Voice of San Diego's Rob Davis does their legal research

It seems that the California Bar Association has given law degrees to several people who shouldn't have them. But that doesn't explain why SDCERA would hire such people, does it? Perhaps the answer is suggested by the name of Rob Davis' blog: "In the muck."

Outsourcing to Pension Consultant Is Illegal, Attorney Says
April 1, 2010
Rob Davis
Voice of San Diego

Two weeks ago, when the county pension fund agreed to solicit offers to outsource its 10-member investment team, Lee Partridge planned to submit a bid.

Partridge, the San Diego County Employees Retirement Association's top investment consultant, had the blessing of the organization's attorney, Steven Rice. Even though Partridge had proposed creating the work, which would've paid his company more than $10 million annually, SDCERA's attorney said it was legal for him to bid. A perceived conflict existed, Rice said, but not an actual one.

Then I asked questions about whether Partridge's bid would violate a specific law that prohibits government employees from benefiting financially from contracts they're involved in creating. I found a state Attorney General's opinion that suggested it would be illegal.

I gave the opinion to County Supervisor Dianne Jacob, a pension board member, who in turn asked for a legal analysis of my questions.

Today, the board got its answer: What it wanted to do is illegal. Partridge can't get the work...

Friday, March 26, 2010

Why did the North County Times erase its 2003 puff piece on SDCOE attorney Daniel Shinoff?

The North County Times loves controversial San Diego County Office of Education Attorney Daniel Shinoff, or at least it seemed so when they created a pretty puff piece about him in 2003. So why have they erased the story from their archives, and in such a clumsy manner?

My guess: because he asked them to do so.

Why? Because it contained information that proved that Shinoff filed a false (or at least highly misleading) document as an exhibit for his declaration in a defamation suit. It was an important declaration. The judge relied on it to make her decision in a summary judgment.

In some cases Stutz doesn't seem to evaluate the law and the facts of the case, just whether their public entity client can get away with wrongdoing.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Shannon Lopez of the San Diego Union Tribune is my journalistic hero of the month

See all Sally Smith posts from San Diego Education Report blog.

Ever since Sally Smith got ousted from the Serra High School site council, I've been trying to find a story I read a few months ago about a woman who was ousted from a planning board, and reinstated by a judge.

I searched the SDUT archives and Google, all to no avail.

But today Shannon Lopez, Assistant to the Editor, answered my request for help.


Veterinarian kicked off panel prevails in court
by Greg Moran
Sep 27, 2009
Dr. Almeda Starkey of Pine Valley sued to regain her seat on a county conservation program committee after county officials ousted her.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

SDNN refused press passes by police until they “prove” themselves

San Diego really is a police state: SDNN refused press passes by police until they “prove” themselves
OB Rag
March 26, 2009
by Pat Flannery

I recently got dramatic proof of this shortly after joining a team of young journalists at San Diego News Network, SDNN, a new online news journal. I was supposed to become its political analyst and columnist. I was looking forward to probing the underbelly of San Diego politics with young idealistic journalists. Unfortunately it was not to be.

Unbelievably, the Mayor, through his Police Chief, refused them press credentials until they “prove themselves”. He has put them on a six months probation! After six months of reporting the news to his satisfaction, he may extend press credentials to them. SDNN acquiesced. I quietly withdrew.

In a way, I am not surprised. I was already aware of the control the Mayor and the police have over the local media. They are used to it. There has been only one real training ground for print journalists in San Diego for decades and that has been the Copley press. Many Mayoral and City Council staff are ex-UT people, all nurtured in the same symbiotic coziness. They tear up anybody, like Mike Aguirre, who will not be cozy with them.

What surprised me was how quickly these young SDNN people, barely out of journalism school, accepted it all. How are San Diegans ever going to learn the truth about their city government if the police department, directly under the Mayor’s control, licenses all who may ask questions at city press conferences? Should a journalist be foolish enough to displease somebody important at City Hall (e.g. by asking “impertinent” questions) an editor will quickly assign somebody else to kiss up to the offended potentate.

New ownership at the U-T will not bring change and SDNN is not about to challenge the established order. That became painfully obvious this week. The faceless manipulators at City Hall will still exert their enormous power.

As I said, this is not new. A good example of how journalists become pawns of City Hall is what happened at South Eastern Development Corporation (SEDC) last year is. Will Carless, a journalist with Voice of San Diego, in answering a question from Tom Fudge on the KPBS radio program “These Days” in June 2008, revealed how it works. Fudge asked Carless why he started investigating certain bonus payments paid to SEDC’s President, Carolyn Smith. Carless revealed that he had received an insider tip.

Voice of San Diego then put Carless on the story full time for months. He doggedly pursued what were undoubtedly unauthorized payments to Smith, who was subsequently fired in disgrace. But was that the whole story? I doubt it. I had uncovered a dubious land deal involving SEDC’s chairman, “Chip” Owen and Jim Waring, the Mayor’s land use Czar at the time...

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Linda Rosas' Star-News covered five Castle Park teachers, so why did she keep secret the $100,000s in legal fees CVESD paid?

2005 Sweetwater District Alumni Hall of Fame Inductees: Standing, L-R: Sweetwater Board President Jim Cartmill, Duane Sceper, Board Member Arlie Ricasa, Linda Rosas Townson, Pedro Anaya, Vernor Vinge, Howard Chang, Board Member Pearl Quiñones, Superintendent Edward Brand; Seated, L-R: Dr. M. Brian Maple, Richard Lareau, Annette Peer, Roger Cázares, Vidal Fernandez, Don Wigginton.

See also Principal Ollie ("Oly") Matos

In 2004, the Chula Vista Star-News and the San Diego Union Tribune wrote story after story about the "Castle Park Five," but both papers refused to reveal how much money in legal fees the Chula Vista Elementary School District had paid to protect four of those teachers, Robin Donlan, Peg Myers, Nikki Perez and Stephenie Parker-Pettit in the Maura Larkins v. CVESD lawsuit. The case was the result of an odd confluence of circumstances, and at the same time it was a typical event in the system that prevails at many schools across the United States. This system values politics and personal loyalty among adults over the duty to educate and protect children.

See summary of case.


As fate would have it, however, my case
is back in court. CVESD’s law firm,
Stutz, Artiano, Shinoff & Holtz,
brought this case back to San Diego Superior Court
in 2007 by filing a defamation suit against me
for publishing this website.

So it’s still possible that justice and sanity
will find their way back to Chula Vista Elementary
School District.

by Maura Larkins

Monday, January 04, 2010

District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis is now the most powerful politician in San Diego

Voice of San Diego is following the important story of the District Attorney who got into office by campaigning as a centrist, then almost immediately moved to the extreme right. (Sounds like a national figure who ran for office in 2000, doesn't it?)

Voters don't seem to be paying attention to what Bonnie Dumanis does. I voted for her in 2002, and I confess I was bamboozled. So how did she get reelected? I guess the story below explains that.

In addition to the power described below, Bonnie Dumanis has an interesting relationship with San Diego County Office of Education.

How Bonnie Dumanis Became San Diego's Most Powerful Politician
January 3, 2010
Voice of San Diego

Sheriff Bill Kolender walked into Thornton Hospital in La Jolla two years ago to visit District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis' dying father. In one of the sheriff's signature moves, he removed his silver-star lapel pin, leaned over Abe Dumanis and attached it to the beaming 82-year-old's hospital gown.

"Don't worry," the sheriff told him. "I'm going to take care of your daughter."

And he has. No matter that years ago Kolender endorsed Dumanis' opponent, incumbent Paul Pfingst, in the 2002 election.

The immensely popular sheriff and the new district attorney went on to create a political and personal liaison like no other -- one that has elevated Dumanis to the highest level of political power in San Diego County and could catapult her into the San Diego Mayor's Office or beyond.

Kolender's recent retirement means the woman who began her legal career as a typist in the office she now runs is arguably the county's most adept and influential politician...