Two former officials with a city of San Diego urban-renewal agency pleaded guilty yeserday to charges that they embezzled public funds. Their move came more than three years after secret bonus scheme first came to light.

Under a plea agreement, prosecutors will ask for a year of jail for Carolyn Y. Smith, the former president of the Southeastern Economic Development Corp., and former Finance Director Dante Dayacap, along with repayment of about $700,000. Other counts against them were dismissed.

The redevelopment agency oversees urban renewal efforts in southeastern San Diego, home to some of the city’s poorest neighborhoods. As our investigation first showed, Smith — the daughter of the prominent Rev. George Walker Smith — paid out hundreds of thousands of dollars in hidden bonuses to herself and staff without knowledge of her board or the San Diego City Council.

Our Will Carless looks at Smith’s progress from cool denial to admittance of guilt: “Through accusation, resignation and arrest, she seemed to believe she could make the serious allegations against her wither and die with little more than an eloquent rebuttal letter on SEDC’s once-ornate stationery, or with the disdainfully cold smile she saved for her critics.”

On the day of her plea, she had no comment.

Portrait of a District Adrift

• Chances are you’ve been in a dysfunctional workplace or two. Or three or four. (Hold on while I count how many jobs I’ve had.)

So picture this: You work at a place where managers can overrun their budgets with no accountability. Almost half the workers don’t get evaluated on a regular basis, and many never get evaluated after a probation period. Bosses are afraid to deal with problem employees and untrained in how to give positive feedback to good ones. (You might as well just be terrible: your boss is too afraid to sack you, you’re not going to get any benefit from being good, and hey, your boss might overrun the budget to pay your salary! It’s a lose-lose!)

Sound familiar? It might if you work for the San Diego school district: a new report exposes huge gaps in holding school workers accountable. Even when rules are in place, the district hasn’t necessarily been following them.

“It all somehow collapsed in the execution,” Superintendent Bill Kowba said. “We simply didn’t follow it.”

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He promises change, and says that by next summer, “everybody who could have or should have an evaluation will have an evaluation.”

• The five people in charge of that district have some major decisions ahead of them in the next month or so as they face budget cuts that could lead them to insolvency. So what’s their plan?

We asked the school board members for what they’re willing to cut to close the minimum projected deficit of $60 million and the maximum projected deficit of $136 million. We got responses from three of the five. One thing that’s clear: they’re relying on teachers and other workers giving back some of what they have.

Up, Up, and Not-So-Away

Here’s something you don’t see every day: a crane hoisting a 70,000-pound cottage onto the roof of an office building. That’s just what happened yesterday in front of a crowd of students, staff and media at UCSD as artist Do Ho Suh’s “Fallen Star” artwork fell into place.

We’ve been telling you about the odd, challenging and even vertigo-inducing project, which is designed to reflect the artist’s disorientation upon arriving at graduate school in the U.S. Check our more than 20 photos of yesterday’s hoisting of the crooked and complicated house.

Ex-City Employee Gets $200K Settlement

The city of San Diego will pay $200,000 to a former economic development official who sued and says he was fired after cooperating with investigations into the city, the U-T reports. The suit had become a top topic of chatter among city critics.

Former deputy director Scott Kessler alleged in a 2009 lawsuit that the mayor or one of his deputies fired Kessler because he was helping investigate contracting involving a mayoral supporter. The City Council had agreed to spend up to $450,000 to defend the case.

Understanding the Pension Reform Initiative

If you’re trying to get a handle on the pension reform initiative that will appear on the ballot next year, check our new reader’s guide. We explain what the initiative will do — and not do — in terms of 401(k)s, a pay freeze and Social Security.   

Residents React to Road Mess

Our media partners at NBC 7 San Diego take a look at how the city’s roads have declined during the tenure of Mayor Jerry Sanders, despite his talk about fixing them. Residents appear too.

Look for our Liam Dillon in the piece: he explains how the mayor’s office isn’t exactly setting high standards for accountability. As his reporting has shown, the Mayor’s Office has missed spending and repair deadlines.

“There’s no candor or explanation as to why some of these delays have happened,” he says. “There’s only after-the-fact apologies for why these things happen, and the apologies only come when someone catches them.”

Sit, Stadium, Sit. Good Stadium.

As we’ve told you, the 500-foot titanium-and-steel sculptures proposed for the waterfront have been described as wings, sails, bunny ears, vases and a feminine hygiene product. Now, feel free to cast your eyes on a giant mid-century love seat — er, proposed football stadium.

That’s the artist’s new conception of Farmers Field, the stadium that’s in the works for downtown Los Angeles. Its developers want construction to begin in 2012 and end in time for the 2016 football season. That’s when a team — perhaps the Chargers — could be ready to play. (U-T)

It just needs a little extra something. I can’t quite put my finger on it. A little help, Matt Perry of the U-T? “Needs some 500-foot wings,” he tweeted yesterday.

Yeah, that’s the ticket!

Please contact Randy Dotinga directly at and follow him on Twitter:

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. Please contact him directly at and follow him on Twitter:

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