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Now, most of the information that the Kroll report contains is not new. That’s an important point. Reporters, consultants, and attorneys have gone over this stuff for nearly four years.
What the Kroll report may add is weight behind conclusions that these others have made over time. Now, San Diego needs to ask itself whether that was worth $20 million.
One of the facts not yet totally accepted, for instance, is the conclusion that the first and most important part of a three-year cover-up of the city’s pension crisis began with the manipulation and disregard of a committee of citizens meant to investigate the city’s financial situation. Former Mayor Dick Murphy set up the group called the Blue Ribbon Committee on city finances.
Now Kroll chimes in with an opinion about what happened to that committee. The committee was supposed to complete its work by September 2001, but it didn’t present its report until February 2002.
Although memories differ about the reasons for the delay and about any influence exerted on the tone and content of the report, it is clear both that the Committee’s work was postponed, and that the language of its report was toned down, in order to avoid interfering with the City’s Ballpark Bond offering. The bond offering closed on February 14, 2002, and the City was plainly concerned that a public report highlighting serious problems with the funding of SDCERS would make the bond offering more difficult or impossible.
Again, this is old news (Andrew Donohue published this on voiceofsandiego.org’s first day online. And there was Dan Strumpf who published this in the CityBeat last year) but the power of the Kroll report will be to make things like this accepted fact. I thought we were coming close in 2004 to accepting certain facts about what happened in the past. We weren’t. We continued to argue about various points and about whether the city even had a problem.
We used to argue, for example, about whether officials – like former City Manager P. Lamont Ewell – had deliberately misled the city and tried to cover up the problems. Some thought that maybe he had good intentions and was simply mistaken on a few issues.
We should put that to rest now. Ewell and other city officials did deliberately mislead us, and if the Kroll report doesn’t make this an accepted fact, it’s hard to imagine what will.
We knew that on the Blue Ribbon Committee, members like businessman Dick Vortmann were starting to get more and more suspicious of the city’s fiscal health.
The Kroll investigators unearthed this (correct me if I’m wrong but it’s the first time I’ve heard this little tidbit):
After a draft of the Blue Ribbon Committee Report on City of San Diego Finances (“BRC Report”) report was completed in mid-January, Assistant City Manager Lamont Ewell congratulated (Terri) Webster for “mastermind[ing]…an incredible attitudinal turn around of the committee.”
In other words, not only were they deliberately manipulating a supposedly independent committee, they celebrated successful attempts to hide the truth.
Doing something like this may get you run out of town eventually, but it also apparently makes you all the more qualified to run cities like, say, Santa Monica.