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You’ll remember yesterday I noted that somebody must not be telling the truth about this situation. Sunroad Enterprises says the city told it to stop giving money to the city as part of a charitable program to fund the fire helicopter. Here’s how the Sunroad spokeswoman put it to my colleague in the news department, Andrew Donohue:

“We are right here at the beginning of the fire season, and the Mayor’s Office has asked Sunroad to stop its fundraising activities,” said company spokeswoman Karen Hutchens.

Then reporter Will Carless followed up with this response from the Mayor’s Office:

Nobody from Mayor Jerry Sanders’ office has asked Sunroad to call off its planned donations to the city of San Diego’s Fire-Rescue Department, the mayor’s spokesman just told me.

Fred Sainz said Sunroad spokeswoman Karen Hutchens is incorrect in saying that the city has asked the company to call off its final $200,000 donation towards the city’s Fire-Rescue Department’s helicopter.

So I observed, I don’t think incorrectly, that somebody simply wasn’t telling the truth.

I guess if I’m going to say someone lied, I better find out who.

Not so easy.

Sunroad’s Hutchens said she was tired of this “unproductive” discussion. Never mind, of course, that she’s the one who said the mayor was about to let the city burn.

Sunroad, a few years ago, committed to sending the city $1 million over time to fund the fire and rescue helicopter. You’ll note this isn’t an entirely selfless act on the part of Sunroad. The company’s name appears on the side of the helicopter. Not charity, the city calls it a “marketing partnership.” You can watch a Fox6 video treatment of the helicopter here — notice the Sunroad logo in the profile shots of the helicopter.

Hutchens said she did not know who or how the city communicated to Sunroad to, as she alleged, stop sending the checks for the helicopter.

She said that, every year, the company hosts a golf tournament fundraiser every year to help pay for its annual $200,000 donation to the cause.

“That fundraising activity was placed on hold and it was not necessarily our intention to put it on hold,” she said.

In other words, I guess she’s trying to say the city told them to do it?

No, she wouldn’t commit to that.

“I think enough has been said about this today. The most important thing is that we get the fundraising back on track,” she said.

But she had alleged that the mayor was putting the city in danger and refusing Sunroad’s money for the helicopter. Didn’t she want to substantiate that claim? Tell us who, from the city, told Sunroad its money was no longer welcome?

She said she didn’t know.

I asked if she could find out.

She said she’d get back to me.

Also today, I heard from the mayor’s spokesman, Fred Sainz. He wrote in an e-mail that “it’s time for Ms. Hutchens to back up her allegations.” And he alerted me to some correspondence a Sunroad affiliate had with the city last month that he said was not material, but looks like it is somewhat related to me.

The city sent out a Request for Sponsorship for all vehicles the city uses.

According to the request, sent out by Jennifer Wolff, the development director for the city’s Corporate Partnership Program, the sponsor would get to be the “Official Vehicle Partner of the City of San Diego.”

Some of the marketing benefits available to the “Official Vehicle Partner of the City of San Diego” include marketing directly to the City’s 10,000 employees and their families, 6,000 retirees and their families, visibility with 22 million visitors on the City’s beaches and sponsorship of special events and promotions. We plan to complete our process by early Fall.

Wolff sent this to representatives of Pacific Honda. And she and they were working toward a deal when she realized that Pacific Honda is owned by Sunroad.

Unfortunately, the City has a policy in place which states we can not engage in a new marketing partnership with parties involved in a law suit with the City.

Here’s a copy of that city policy.

Now, Sainz said this only affects new partnerships. Here’s what he wrote to me:

The marketing partnership with Sunroad on the fire helicopter is in force and we have made no moves to amend it. Until yesterday. Ms. Hutchens’ comments sensitized us to whether or not the City should continue its partnership with the company. As a result, I have spoken with the City Attorney and asked him to advise on the legal and and/or perceptual conflicts, if any. The City is very grateful to Sunroad for their charitable contributions for our fire helicopter. My disagreement with Ms. Hutchens should in no way overwhelm the good work that Sunroad has done on this project.

So, apparently, the city is hesitating in accepting the money from Sunroad to fund the helicopter. If city officials think that’s the right move for now, they should just say so and be proud of it. But there were two types of hesitation: The one that was resistant to a new partnership with Sunroad; and the one that came after Sunroad’s spokesman said the mayor wanted to let the city burn to the ground.

Hutchens said if Sanders had no problem with Sunroad’s partnership, the company would continue “the activities” that would enable it to send over some money to the city.

Now the ball’s in the city attorney’s court.

I’m sure he’s going to recommend the city do whatever makes Sunroad happy. Right?


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