Tuesday, February 06, 2007 | Sanders Crosses the Factor Part II

Mayor Jerry Sanders just wrapped up a segment on “The O’Reilly Factor” in which he discussed his plea to President Bush to transfer the land on which the Mount Soledad cross sits on to federal control.

John Kasich, who filled in for host Bill O’Reilly, expressed his outrage that the city could be forced to take the cross down.

“Who could be driving past that thing everyday — who could be bothered by having that cross up there that honors people who were killed or injured in action?” he asked Sanders. “What kind of a person would be — I mean how do you get worked up by this?”

Sanders replied by telling Kasich that “there are always some people who get worked up about everything,” and that the cross was very important to the military families in San Diego.

The segment airs again on the “The O’Reilly Factor” at 8 p.m. on Fox News.

SAM HODGSON

Sanders Crosses the Factor

San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders will appear on “The O’Reilly Factor” tonight to talk about the Mount Soledad Cross, the Mayor’s Office said today.

The program airs at 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. on the Fox News Channel.

Read about recent news regarding the cross, including a court order to take it down by August and Sanders’ plea to the president to have the land transferred.

— EVAN McLAUGHLIN

Ethics Panel Fines Lobbyist

Maloni, the commission found, did not disclose, on lobbyist registration forms, that he worked for two clients — Lennar-Greystone Homes and Reino Parking Systems. Maloni was lobbying city officials about Lennar-Greystone’s efforts to demolish several buildings in the Sports Arena area for a condominium project and advocated on behalf of Reino’s plans to submit a bid for managing downtown parking with on-street pay stations.

Maloni is vice president of Public Policy Strategies  a division of Tom Shepard and Associates. He was also a political consultant to Mayor Jerry Sanders during his campaign for the post last fall.

Ethics Commission Chairwoman Dorothy Leonard said Maloni had misunderstood the city’s regulations.

“Although these violations arise from a misunderstanding, Mr. Maloni is an experienced lobbyist who should be fully versed in the City’s lobbying laws,” Leonard said in a press release.

EVAN McLAUGHLIN

Cross Meeting Time

In our story about the Mount Soledad Cross today, we told you the day and the location of the community forum on the cross, but we didn’t tell you what time it’s happening.

The meeting, which is being organized by the City Attorney’s Office, will be held at 6 p.m. on Thursday, May 18, in the City Council Chambers, 12th floor, 202 C Street in downtown San Diego.

Sorry for any confusion.

— WILL CARLESS 

County Pension Case Dead

The California Supreme Court decided this week that it will not hear two county retirees’ appeal that the county retirement plan unfairly recalculated the pension deficit to benefit the county, effectively ending the case.

The Fourth District Court of Appeals ruled in January that the San Diego County Employees Retirement Association was allowed to take a snapshot of the fund’s health right after the county infused pension bond money into the retirement plan. The new snapshot allowed the Board of Supervisors to pay less into the fund after the $550 million bond infusion, which attorney Michael Conger’s clients challenged and lost.

The appellate court said in January that the SDCERA board was properly exercising its fiduciary duty by refiguring the pension deficit that resulted in a smaller payment at the end of the year because the board had a responsibility to protect the system’s beneficiaries — the 1,500 employees who the county said would lose their jobs if the deficit didn’t reflect the bond money.

The appellate court’s favorable opinion may have repercussions for the cases involving the city’s pension deals as well. Read about the possible impacts here.

— EVAN McLAUGHLIN

Ultimate Geekdom

OK, I think I have finally become a full-blown geek.

I just watched this video 

It’s a parody done by the wacky guys at Columbia Business School about Ben Bernanke, the new chairman of the Federal Reserve. It’s a pretty big file, but it’s worth waiting for.

— WILL CARLESS

The Suit Behind the Suit

The city of San Diego’s request to reconsider a January ruling that ordered the city to pay the legal bills of former and current city employees who are named in several pension-related lawsuits was denied this week.

Judge Linda Quinn ruled that state law requires the city to provide legal defense for fingerprint examiner John Torres, management analyst Sharon Wilkinson, firefighters union President Ron Saathoff, former Assistant Auditor Terri Webster, former Human Resources Director Cathy Lexin and former Deputy City Manager Bruce Herring.

City Attorney Mike Aguirre proposed that the council retroactively strip form the city’s scrolls a resolution indemnifying and defending pension board members, but the council decided to only repeal the resolution for future trustees.

The city employees who sought the legal-fee reimbursements are named as defendants in Aguirre’s lawsuits targeting pension deals that were struck between the retirement board and the city in 1996 and 2002. Aguirre contends those defendants, who are also pension board members, illegally profited off the agreements, which allowed the city to skirt its pension bills those years.

EVAN McLAUGHLIN

Airport Game Plan

The San Diego County Regional Airport Authority has announced its game plan for what promises to be a busy week in the site-selection process. Here’s what’s in store.

May 16: The authority is releasing to the media the analyses of three military sites studied in-depth: Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Naval Air Station North Island, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton. The authority is also releasing a less detailed study of Lindbergh Field, which shows several concepts’ impacts on surrounding homes. While the military studies detail such major items as environmental impacts (and required mitigation), the Lindbergh study won’t.

From May 15 to May 19, the authority is holding an on-line dialogue to allow residents to offer input on the final analysis. Submit questions and read up on all things site-selection at future.signonsandiego.com.

May 18: Two meetings. The authority’s advisory committee meets at 9 a.m. at the Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina. The committee, which is made up of military, government and business representatives, strictly serves in an advisory role and is expected to vote on its own recommendation for a site at the meeting. The meeting is open to the public and public comment will be allowed.

That afternoon at 1 p.m., the authority’s Public Working Group will discuss the final analyses. The public can comment here, too. The stakeholder meeting is being held at the same Sheraton.

From May 20 to May 25, the authority will hold a series of what it’s calling “Community Conversations.” You can get an overview of the selection process, the results of final analyses and have the chance to chat with the airport’s consultants about those analyses. For information on times and locations, check out: www.airportsiteselection.org.

ROB DAVIS

On to the Senate

The House of Representatives approved the $512 billion defense spending package today that includes a provision prohibiting commercial airlines from using three local military bases.

Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton and Naval Air Station North Island are off-limits, according to the provision that U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-El Cajon, attached to the 2007 defense spending bill.

The 396-31 vote must still be reconciled against the Senate’s spending bill, which has not yet been approved.

For background, check out our earlier story.

ROB DAVIS

SD To Bush: Save The Cross

San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders announced at a press conference this morning that he and Congressman Duncan Hunter, R-El Cajon, have written to President Bush asking for help with saving the Mount Soledad Cross.

Sanders’ letter was essentially an endorsement of Hunter’s letter. The congressman’s letter essentially asks the president to begin condemnation proceedings that would bring the cross into the federal park system.

That’s basically what Proposition A, which was approved by 76 percent of the city’s voters last July, would have done. The proposition was ruled unconstitutional, and therefore null and void, by Superior Court Judge, Patricia Yim Cowett.

So far, there’s been no word from the president as to whether he’s going to weigh in.

We will be running a full story on this tomorrow, check back.

— WILL CARLESS

FBI: Corruption a Priority

The New York Times reported today that the FBI has made public corruption investigations a high priority over the past few years, as more than 2,000 probes into public officials and governmental agencies are currently in progress.

FBI officials said that they have been able to focus on public corruption after shifting away from single-victim fraud cases, nonviolent bank robberies and localized drug rings.

San Diego has its share of public corruption cases, including the Duke Cunningham bribery case that is highlighted in the article. Cunningham is serving time for taking at least $2 million from defense contractors.

The region also observed the “Strippergate” case, which involved the premise that San Diego City Council members were taking bribes from lobbyists and strip club owners who tried to overturn a city law banning exotic dancers from getting too close to the patrons. Councilmen Michael Zucchet and Ralph Inzunza were convicted last July, although Zucchet was cleared of most charges and will stand trial again on the remaining counts.

This month, former Southwestern College Superintendent Serafin Zasueta and veteran political consultant Larry Remer pleaded guilty on lesser charges that they violated campaign finance laws after the jury deciding their case was hung a month earlier.

Also indicted are five former pension officials who are charged with profiting off a 2002 deal that allowed the city to skirt its pension bill. Investigations into the city of San Diego, apparent from subpoenas, also focus on the city’s wastewater rate structure.

— EVAN McLAUGHLIN

Not in the Top 50

San Diego’s not in the top 50 best places to live, according to Kiplinger’s magazine.

The city of Logan, in Utah, is. So is Fargo in North Dakota.

Hmm — Fargo or San Diego?

That’s a tricky one.

The magazine’s reasoning? Check it out:

“To come up with this list of cities, we began by surveying you, our readers, to see what factors you consider most important when choosing a place to live. The top two were cost of living and cost of housing.”

Ah, suddenly it all makes sense.

— WILL CARLESS

Court Date Set

A federal judge set Feb. 6 as the trial date in the corruption case against five former San Diego pension officials today.

Assistant U.S. Attorney John Owens said the court deferred judgment on a defense motion for a change of venue, which was made on the grounds that excessive media attention to the pension affair would preclude defendants’ ability to receive a fair trial.

The City Attorney’s Office also argued in court today, questioning whether defense attorney Michael Attanasio can represent former pension system legal counsel Lori Chapin because he previously advised the city of San Diego on issues in the federal investigation.

A judge has set a July 19 hearing for a decision on the Attanasio matter.

Prosecutors allege that firefighter union President Ron Saathoff; former Assistant Auditor Terri Webster; former Human Resources Director Cathy Lexin; former retirement Administrator Larry Grissom and Chapin committed fraud and conspiracy in enacting a 2002 pension deal that boosted Saathoff’s retirement check by an estimated $30,000 a year.

The defendants have all pleaded not guilty.

ANDREW DONOHUE

Italiano Retires as President

Judie Italiano, the president and general manager of the 6,000-member Municipal Employees Association, said she is retiring from the presidency she has held for two decades because she expects the city’s retirement board to approve her bid for retirement.

Italiano filed for retirement in 2004, and tax attorneys have been reviewing the application for two years because of a special benefit bestowed upon the union president that allows her to base her retirement on her union — rather than city — salary. She recently received word that retirement system staff and tax attorneys had approved her retirement and that the retirement board is scheduled to finalize it May 19.

She will continue to serve as the union’s general manager during a “transitional period.”

Check tomorrow’s issue for more on this story. Read Italiano’s resignation letter 

— EVAN McLAUGHLIN

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