We reveal the details of a bizarre City Hall story: a top San Diego administrator made the city a partner in potentially lucrative landfill deals in India, apparently without the permission of his bosses.

As we report, “the agreements appear to have bound the city to provide technical support in building potential landfills in two Mumbai neighborhoods. The city official, former Deputy Chief Operating Officer Elmer Heap, also gave the company the power to act on the city’s behalf in both cases.”

There’s more: “In return, San Diego would have received a 26 percent stake in the landfills for the deals’ first five years, according to documents obtained by voiceofsandiego.org. The stakes were high. The city of Mumbai awarded one of the landfill contracts to a different Indian company for the equivalent of $922 million.”

Our story reveals the details of the deals and the reactions of city officials who say the partnerships are void and the product of an administrator who went rogue. He’s refused to be interviewed.

In other news:

  • Big news on the schoobrary front: “The San Diego City Council gave the green light Monday to an unusual agreement with the San Diego Unified School District that would set aside two floors of the planned downtown library for a middle or high school.”

    The inclusion of a school is a lifeline for the delayed library. But three council members voted against moving forward, with one saying the move will hurt branch libraries (which have seen hours drop significantly in recent years) and another complaining that no one knows how much the library will cost. We should be finding out the latest cost estimate soon.

  • The county has long done a poor job of getting food stamps in the hands of those who are eligible for them. As our recent Out of Reach investigation revealed, there’s a wide gulf between the county’s social services and poor people they’re supposed to help.

    Now, the feds have announced that they aren’t happy with the county’s efforts to improve the food-stamp situation. As we report, “San Diego County’s new system for more efficiently processing food stamps applications falls short of actually increasing efficiency, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service.”

  • What do a wig, a rat and 48,007 cigarette butts have in common? Our environmental reporter has the answer
  • Yesterday, we told you about a two-part 60 Minutes report that accused Stowe Biotherapy, a La Mesa-based clinic, of offering “21st century snake oil” to people with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease.

    As a follow-up to the 60 Minutes story, I’m looking into the history of medical quackery here. If you can shed light on this topic, drop me a line.


  • The father of Amber Dubois, the teen murder victim, was recently summoned to a meeting with the D.A. As the NCT reports, it wasn’t any ordinary meeting. He had to go to “a parking lot a couple of blocks from the county courthouse. He was told to look for a man in a red Ford Taurus.”

    The NCT has more about the remarkable meeting, where Maurice “Moe” Dubois learned that the suspect in the case had admitted to killing Dubois’ daughter.

  • Mayor Jerry Sanders has adamantly fought the idea that bankruptcy should be talked about for the city of San Diego. However, his office is fighting a union-backed attempt by Sacramento to force cities to get permission from an “obscure appointed state agency” before filing bankruptcy. (UT)
  • A few weeks ago, we told you about ex-basketball star and Helix High graduate Bill Walton, who’s reinventing himself by taking part in local business ventures. The U-T tells the story of another side of Walton: the excruciating back pain that led to 36 surgeries and nearly drove him to suicide. 
  • The NCT also takes a rather skeptical look at the much-touted arrest of 282 people during anti-gang raids in the county over the weekend. There were 51 felony arrests.
  • During a trip east on Interstate 8 a few weeks ago, I marveled at how huge the wind-farm turbines are out by Campo, and I wondered how they’re maintained. Not surprisingly, they’re potentially dangerous. Yesterday, three men were struck by electric current while working on them, and one was airlifted to medical care. An official told the U-T that the wind farm had only recently begun operating again after a December storm caused damage.
  • Also in the U-T: “Officials for San Diego City on Monday launched a $47 million road repaving project aimed at improving more than 1,000 city blocks.” The work is supposed to be done pretty quickly, in about a year. Here’s a PDF of where the work will be done. 
  • Local historian Bill Fark, a longtime arts writer and one of North County’s most colorful characters, has died at the age of 91. The NCT, where he wrote about theater until 2005, reported that in addition to working in a traveling tent show and serving as a tail gunner, he “said he pumped gas, combed coal, picked melons, fought fires, ran a greenhouse, owned a hair salon, built ships and houses, and worked on Chrysler’s assembly line.”

    As a theater reviewer, “I rarely trash a performance,” he said in a 1998 interview. “I may not praise them, but I can’t trash any actor who’s out there working hard.”

  • The international fan base of Molly, the San Marcos owl seen live on the Internet, can relax: She’s not missing. (KFMB-TV)
  • Finally, a clarification: Scott Lewis, the fearless VOSD leader, linked to a U-T story in Monday’s Morning Report and declared, “I’ve always wanted to do this.”

    The link sent readers to a story about a cliff rescue. So does Lewis really want to fall down a cliff and get scooped up by emergency personnel? That would be a bit odd, even for Lewis.

    Naw. It was the wrong story. He actually wants to jump off the Ocean Beach pier

    That could be arranged. Anyone know when Gently Throw Your Boss Off the Pier Day is this year?


Dagny Salas was web editor at Voice of San Diego from 2010 to 2013. She was an investigative fellow at VOSD from 2009 to 2010.

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