The Edward J. Schwartz federal courthouse building in downtown San Diego / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

Back in August, Maya Srikrishnan reported that a migrant being detained in San Diego had been held in custody even after a judge had ordered his release, and that there were likely others in the same boat.

Now, in a new story, Srikrishnan reports that documents bear that out: Court documents in another case show at least 20 people have been held after they should have been released since the start of the government’s zero tolerance policy at the border this spring.

“Over a 130-day period this summer and fall, this has resulted in a cumulative total of 150 days in unlawful detention,” Srikrishnan writes.

The zero tolerance policy, in which the government files criminal charges against every migrant who crosses the border outside of an official port of entry, has overwhelmed San Diego’s federal courts, leading to all kinds of failures and problems, including:

State Officials Find Potential Fraud in Sweetwater

A harsh report by state officials has discovered evidence of a “cover-up” in Sweetwater Union High School District’s ongoing budget crisis.

The report, presented Monday by the state’s Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team, also revealed severe mismanagement and confirmed some of Voice of San Diego’s previous reporting.

FCMAT’s chief financial officer Michael Fine told board trustees that 302 suspicious entries in the district’s financial accounting software made the district’s budget look much better than it actually was. Fine suggested the San Diego County Office of Education will likely initiate a fraud audit in the coming days.

If the county finds of evidence of fraud, district officials could be charged with serious financial crimes, including securities fraud. That’s because the district sold $28 million worth of bonds last April at a time when its books looked fine, but they clearly weren’t.

Fine also confirmed that Sweetwater is set to break state education code by over-borrowing from its Mello-Roos fund this year, as Voice has previously reported. He said the district is set to borrow some $70 million that it has no way of paying back.

Fine said he no longer considers the district a going concern (which in financial speak means it is likely to go bust). He indicated that a state takeover may be in the district’s future.

School Officials Don’t Think City’s Pipe Issue Is to Blame for Lead

Data recently revealed the city of San Diego doesn’t know what an astonishing number of its water pipes are made, which means some could be made of lead.

Meanwhile, the San Diego Unified School District is conducting ongoing testing in schools to determine whether water there contains lead.

So far, school officials don’t believe the city’s issue has contributed to any lead findings, Ry Rivard explains in this week’s Environment Report.

“If there was an issue with the city’s water quality, we believe that those issued would be revealed in the district’s water sampling results,” San Diego Unified spokesman Samer Naji told Rivard. “Results received by the district from a certified lab have not produced an identifiable pattern that would indicate a systemic issue.”

Trump Changed Local Elections in California

Last week, VOSD’s Scott Lewis pulled back the curtain on a meeting of GOP and business leaders in the wake of the November election. They were trying to ponder a path forward after voters ousted Republicans at all levels, up and down the state.

Former Councilwoman Lorie Zapf wasn’t interested in reflecting on her loss with Lewis, but it’s clear that President Donald Trump loomed large in that election, in which Jen Campbell defeated Zapf by double digits.

In a statewide assessment, the L.A. Times’ Mark Barbarak makes it clear that versions of that D2 Council race happened in local governments across the state.

“Reasonably or not, candidates for mayor and city council were tied in many voters’ minds to the polarizing president, his hair-trigger persona, divisive policies and scorching rhetoric on issues such as race relations and immigration. That was deathly for Republicans in a state where Trump’s approval ratings hover in the pallid 30% range,” he writes.

San Diego Still Has No. 4 Biggest Homeless Population in the Nation

San Diego County once again has the fourth-largest homeless population in the country, behind New York, Los Angeles and Seattle, according to a new Department of Housing and Urban Development report. The annual report to Congress breaks down statistics from each region’s annual January point-in-time count.

San Diego County held steady with the No. 4 ranking despite the decision to exclude hundreds of people living in RVs and enrolled in programs at the San Diego Rescue Mission from this year’s point-in-time count.

Now, at federal officials’ urging, the regional group that coordinates the count has revised its methodology for next month’s count. Volunteers overseen by the Regional Task Force on the Homeless are set to survey far more homeless San Diegans over a few days rather than simply count the people, tents or RVs they encounter on a single day and then later survey a fraction of those living on the street.

The Union-Tribune reports that nonprofit Dreams for Change has opened a safe parking lot for homeless San Diegans in RVs, likely the first of its kind in the region for a group often ticketed for parking on city streets or lots.

In Other News

The Morning Report was written by Sara Libby, and edited by Scott Lewis.

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