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Every day, reporters on our staff are inundated by press releases full of information that people in power want the public to know about. But our strength and value as an organization comes from the opposite, uncovering and reporting the things that those people would prefer you didn’t know about.

The impacts of our reporting that you helped fund were felt throughout San Diego County last year, from Escondido to the border. If you missed them, here are 15 stories that changed policies; that uncovered wrongdoing, malfeasance or deceit; or that highlighted issues that would otherwise remain murky.

Without us, you wouldn’t know that:

  • A staggering real estate swindle happened in North County, involving fake buyers, duped lenders, forged documents and extravagant purchase prices. And despite happening in the post-boom economy, lawmakers and regulators ignored key warnings, likely leaving taxpayers on the hook.
  • How hiring works in the real world, where bosses pick the employees they want, doesn’t apply to the education world, where San Diego principals frequently can’t hire the teachers they want. That keeps schools from making the common-sense decisions to improve.
  • Mistakes and management problems continue to mount at the San Onofre nuclear plant, despite an unprecedented executive shake-up and a year-long effort to convince federal regulators and an industry ratings group that things are improving.
  • The flying public paid for Bob Watkins, the Airport Authority chairman to attend a Chargers’ game in London. (With seats on the 5-yard line.) Watkins didn’t accurately complete his required conflict-of-interest disclosure forms at the authority or in a previous appointed office.
  • The Airport Authority, while considering fee increases on the traveling public, hired a fashion model to pose for its annual report.
  • The Department of Homeland Security didn’t follow up on its promises to mitigate the environmental impacts of the U.S.-Mexico border fence near Border Field State Park. That changed after our story highlighted the problem.
  • Faced with a serious cutback in water supplies, Mayor Jerry Sanders’ top city water officials fabricated excuses about why they couldn’t choose fairer plans to cut water consumption.
  • Pushing a $750 million case to expand, convention center officials falsely claimed that two major conventions would come to San Diego if the building were bigger. 
  • San Diego claims it repairs every pothole within 72 hours of a resident making a complaint. That’s not true. In fact, it can actually take weeks. 
  • While traveling on school business, former superintendent Terry Grier bought venison and fine Japanese beef using federal money meant for poor students.
  • Mayor Jerry Sanders’ office overstated the size of other cities’ budget deficits when trying to suggest that San Diego’s $179 million shortfall wasn’t as bad as it looked.
  • Several City Council members didn’t keep their promises to cut their budgets — until we reminded them. That reminder saved taxpayers $148,000.
  • When the county education office’s top human resources official recommends that the agency should hire outside lawyers, her husband’s law firm almost always gets the work.
  • An investigation into misconduct at the California Children’s Services, a program run by the county of San Diego that provides wheelchairs to children with physical disabilities, led to disciplinary action against county employees and changes to the county’s ethics policies However, county officials refused to disclose the report the investigators produced and all the information it contains.
  • The FBI is continuing its investigation into wrongdoing at the Southeastern Economic Development Corp., which was launched in 2008 after we revealed the agency’s former boss was awarding herself bonuses without any oversight.

If you find these stories and the other work we do valuable, please consider a donation. We are a nonprofit that relies on donations from readers like you.


Scott Lewis

Scott Lewis oversees Voice of San Diego’s operations, website and daily functions as Editor in Chief. He also writes about local politics, where he frequently...

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