Journalism won’t die if you donate. Support Voice of San Diego today!
On May 18, 2014, MaryAnne Pintar, the campaign manager for Rep. Scott Peters, sent the U-T a note.
She was frustrated that a paid staffer for Carl DeMaio, Todd Bosnich, had been allowed to run a letter to the editor in support of DeMaio on May 14. The letter looked like any letter to the editor, with no mention of Bosnich’s affiliation.
The U-T, she wrote, should put up a note that it was a mistake to publish the letter.
Adrian Vore, who edits the Local section and is the reader’s representative at the paper, responded to her a few days later saying that would not be happening.
“It turns out that Bosnich stopped working for the DeMaio camp in early May. The letter was submitted and ran about 2 weeks after he left,” he wrote. “Given, that I won’t run an editor’s note (sic).”
That was the story DeMaio’s team gave Vore. But Bosnich hadn’t left the campaign. DeMaio, in fact, was angry with him.
In a May 14 email, DeMaio sent a note to three members of his team: Bosnich, spokesman Dave McCulloch and campaign manager Tommy Knepper.
“Good that we got letters in — but bad that Todd submitted one in his own name,” DeMaio wrote them. “Todd, we absolutely do NOT allow that. it (sic) has to be third party individuals not tied to the campaign.”
That sounds like a reprimand to a subordinate. But Bosnich was supposedly no longer a subordinate. DeMaio says Bosnich was fired May 12.
DeMaio’s spokesman, Dave McCulloch told me in a statement: “On May 12 the campaign manager told Bosnich that he no longer was an official part of the campaign and would no longer be given paid work.”
Vore told me that he called DeMaio’s campaign May 20 — he can’t remember with whom he spoke — and was told that Bosnich was not a part of the campaign and had been let go two weeks before he wrote the letter.
“There was a weirdness to it. There was something there, something that made me feel uneasy. But then again, I believed them,” Vore said.
Why did DeMaio reprimand Bosnich, who he says was already fired two days before he wrote the letter? If he was no longer part of the staff, why couldn’t he send a letter in? Why had DeMaio’s representative told the U-T Bosnich had left its service weeks before even they say he actually left?
When, exactly, Bosnich left DeMaio’s team has become one of the central mysteries to emerge as we try to understand who lied in the scandal that consumed the 52nd District congressional race.
The confusion cuts both ways. The biggest problem with Bosnich’s story is his own timeline.
He says he confronted DeMaio on May 18 about sexual harassment.
The next day, May 19, Bosnich says, he showed up to work and the campaign manager, Knepper, told him he was fired. He says Knepper asked him to sign a non-disclosure agreement. If he did, he could collect $50,000.
Thus, this date — May 19 — is non-negotiable. If Bosnich is wrong about the date, then his entire story is questionable.
And there are a lot of problems with this date.
DeMaio’s New Mission
DeMaio says he’s done with politics but he’s desperate to clear his name. He’s living a nightmare, he told me.
To back up his version of events, he has released several exchanges his campaign team members had with Bosnich via social media and email that call Bosnich’s timeline into question.
Why did he not release these sooner, when they might have helped him during the campaign? McCulloch told an audience last week that it would have only made the scandal worse.
The social media and text messages DeMaio released do cast doubt on Bosnich’s timeline. They show him taking responsibility for a plagiarism scandal that embarrassed the campaign. They show him being apologetic.
Most importantly, they make his timeline questionable.
Bosnich has refused to explain them to me. Even Bosnich’s own Twitter postings cast doubt on his timeline.
It’s not just emails and social media conversations, however. The police, in their affidavit seeking a search warrant, told a judge Bosnich gave them an entirely different date of when he was fired.
If Bosnich really was sexually harassed by someone he looked up to and then fired unceremoniously and with an offer to buy him off, I can’t imagine how upset and befuddled it would leave him. I think you have to allow for that.
But a review of all the things we now know about his story does bring up some questions he does not answer.
The Intern with Access
DeMaio says now that Bosnich was not actually an employee of the campaign. He worked from November to March without pay. McCulloch said in a statement that Bosnich was an unpaid intern.
He said that Bosnich asked for pay in March and the campaign decided to pay him to pursue a report that would end up being called Pension Double Dippers.
That was the report that, once published, National Journal said was plagiarized from their own investigative journalism. It was a major embarrassment to the DeMaio campaign.
A review of campaign financial disclosures corroborates this. Bosnich was paid $1,000 on March 27 and $500 every two weeks after that until May 14.
DeMaio now admits that he wrote “two to three pages” of the report. But the crucial data on members of Congress who were collecting both a salary and a pension was lifted from National Journal without citation.
I haven’t seen anything that makes me question this. It appears Bosnich did lift the data and, at the very least, failed to warn his colleagues adequately that National Journal deserved citation.
This failure is why DeMaio says his campaign manager fired Bosnich on May 12.
But strangely, for someone who was fired in disgrace, Bosnich was not shut off from the campaign. DeMaio claims Knepper felt bad for Bosnich and allowed him to stay on as a volunteer. Crucially, DeMaio’s spokesman told me Bosnich kept his access to email and their system for at least 10 more days.
‘Keep Your Chin Up’
DeMaio’s partner, Johnathan Hale, said he would stop by the campaign every day. He would bring the workers sweets. He said DeMaio didn’t update him on everything that happened in the campaign.
And that’s why he said that, on May 20, when he went into the campaign, he did not know that Bosnich had been fired. According to the campaign, this had happened more than a week before. According to Bosnich, it had happened the day before.
Hale said that a campaign worker, Chase Kassel, told him Bosnich had been let go.
So Hale sent him a message via Facebook.
“Keep your chin up. Campaigns are brutal. Carl and I appreciate your (sic) so very much!” it shows Hale telling Bosnich.
“Thanks. I really appreciate that. I just feel bad because I let you all down and I’ll (sic) I want to do is whatever I can to help the campaign,” Bosnich wrote back.
Benjamin Katz, a local IT expert and entrepreneur, independently reviewed Hale’s computer and concluded the exchange was authentic.
You can see why DeMaio would think this is a kill shot. If Bosnich had just confronted DeMaio May 18 and been fired May 19 so unjustly, why would he be so contrite and supportive on May 20? Why would he say he still wants to help the campaign?
But there are other questions too: Remember, according to DeMaio, Bosnich was fired May 12. He was told that day, according to the DeMaio team, that he was no longer part of the campaign and would not be getting any more paid work.
So a “keep your chin up” message would seem most appropriate that day. Why would Hale tell Bosnich to keep his chin up eight days later?
Hale told me he didn’t learn of the firing until then. This is hard for me, because the plagiarism scandal was very high profile and the DeMaio team had told the media that someone was fired for it.
I talked to Kassel, who confirmed DeMaio and Hale’s version of events. He said Bosnich had only come in a couple of times after he was fired May 12. But he could not remember how many or when the last visit was.
“We did not ostracize him when it happened,” Kassel said.
The Confrontation with DeMaio
There are many other problems with Bosnich’s timeline.
Let’s start with the confrontation he said he had with DeMaio.
In the interview he gave Mike Slater from KFMB June 2 — a discussion that did not air — Bosnich detailed how, he said, DeMaio had been aggressive to him sexually and exposed himself. Then he said this:
Bosnich: On May 18th, I told Carl, I had a meeting with him, and I told him that this behavior needs to stop.
Slater: You met with Carl?
Bosnich: Yes I met with Carl and then told him this behavior needs to stop that he’s going to be found out one way or another. He’s going to not only embarrass himself, his family, everyone on his staff and bring disrepute to the Republican Party. That, um, he just either needs to quit the race or stop his behavior immediately. And he acknowledged what I said. He said, “That’s fine.”
That night, May 18, Bosnich and I had a Twitter exchange. I had just received a mailer from the Kirk Jorgensen campaign. It was an ugly attack on DeMaio’s manliness.
Bosnich baited me to go further to defend DeMaio and denounce Jorgensen.
When I looked back at this, I was stunned at the timing. The exchange would have happened right after Bosnich allegedly had this amazing conversation with DeMaio.
A day later, he defended DeMaio again on Twitter.
I asked Bosnich about it.
“That was an incredibly tumultuous, upsetting and difficult part of my life and I can’t remember some of the tweets or other stuff I did during that time,” he wrote me in an email. “However, I would still stand by that tweet you sent me since I think some of the homophobic groups and attacks that Jorgensen linked himself to were disgusting and reprehensible.”
Bosnich’s Police Problem
The tweets aren’t the only problems with Bosnich’s timeline.
There’s also the police.
Bosnich said he was fired May 19 after this confrontation with DeMaio.
In affidavits unsealed after pressure from NBC 7 San Diego and U-T San Diego, police say Bosnich told them he confronted the campaign manager, Knepper, during the week of May 19 and that he was pulled into Knepper’s office and fired May 26.
That’s a major discrepancy. I asked Bosnich what can explain the difference.
He would say only that he did tell police he was fired May 19, not May 26. He said police recorded their conversation with him.
The police department refused to release this recording to me. “The recordings of conversations with Todd Bosnich are part of an investigation. They are exempt from disclosure according to Government Code (GC) section 6254(f),” wrote Jericho Salvador, an officer and the chief’s liaison for public records.
It’s a major piece of evidence in this mystery and it’s out of our reach solely on the discretion of the police chief, whose officers have communicated that the investigation is over.
But back to Bosnich’s interview with KFMB.
Bosnich went on to describe what he says happened.
Bosnich: And the very next day, May 19 I met with Tommy Knepper, he called me in his office for a meeting, and he told me that Carl had lost his trust in me. And that I could no longer be part of the campaign. They offered me a job in the San Diego County Republican Party and also offered me $50,000, to sign a non-disclosure agreement which I rejected.
There is precedent for the Republican Party job offer. Logan Casteel, a driver for DeMaio during his 2012 mayoral campaign, complained so angrily about how DeMaio treated him — he told me he was treated “like a doormat” — that the campaign arranged for a job for him with the Republican Party.
An Email Comes from Bosnich’s Account Well After He’s Fired
On May 23, Bosnich emailed his mother from his official campaign email account. In the message, he told her to leave him alone.
“I don’t want to talk to you until you apologize and the last week and a half has been the worst of my life. I was responsible for a huge fuck up and had to be fired as Policy Director,” he wrote. And then he pasted a link to the plagiarism story.
But it was actually Bosnich who gave this email to police, saying he did not send it. He said he received it as part of a threat that his words would be used against him if he continued to talk.
That he did not send the email is completely plausible, considering the culture of shared email identities in DeMaio’s campaign. Bosnich said he was fired May 19 and cut off from the system at that point.
DeMaio claims Bosnich had access to the email system for more than 10 days after he was fired. He was allowed to keep posing as a campaign staffer and that’s when he sent the email, DeMaio says.
It wasn’t the only email that came to Bosnich. He says he received other threatening messages advising him to take the $50,000 and save his career.
Frankly, he said, he was considering taking the money and just leaving. That might explain some of the messages he sent.
It is also why he says he met with Pintar, Peters’ campaign manager.
“I reached out to Pintar because I was thinking about taking the money, but even if I did, I still wanted to pass along information that would be helpful to the Peters campaign since I still didn’t want to see someone who was so clearly unfit for office win,” he wrote to me in an email.
It is one explanation of the many problems with Bosnich’s story. He says a damning email is fabricated, a police affidavit is not accurate and most importantly that he was confused and upset after what he says happened to him.
The problems with his story are exactly why another accuser’s story is so powerful and important in the scandal. A second accuser was devastating, and would confirm a pattern. If Bosnich is DeMaio’s worst nightmare, then a man named Justin Harper is a close second.
I’ll work on what we know about Harper next.
Click here to read our earlier stories on Peters’ role in the DeMaio scandal, and the DeMaio campaign’s deceptive emails.