The Vista Detention facility. / Photo by Jamie Scott Lytle

A former San Diego County sheriff’s captain who pleaded guilty last week to dealing firearms without a federal license was reprimanded and warned by his department years before the prosecution. 

In court documents, Garmo acknowledged that between 2013 and 2019 he made straw purchases of “off-roster” handguns and rifles that only members of law enforcement can possess, then transferred 98 of them to people he knew, including prospective donors for a future run for office. 

Before the federal government stepped in, the California Department of Justice recommended that local agencies prosecute Garmo, but the district attorney’s office passed. 

Jesse Marx got his hands on an internal sheriff’s report from 2017 and it reveals that Garmo’s supervisor made excuses for him at the time — acknowledging that Garmo broke the law but arguing that the state’s rules around firearm transactions were confusing and complex. 

Federal prosecutors had a completely different view of the situation. One U.S. assistant attorney declared that the case against Garmo, once in charge of one of the largest sheriff’s stations, “involved stunning and sustained violations of the public trust by a high-ranking law enforcement officer.”

The case wasn’t just about guns. The plea agreement notes that Garmo lied to authorities and tipped off a cousin about a raid on an illegal cannabis dispensary. 

Faulconer Wants $80 Million From Next Electricity Provider

With just over three months before San Diego’s deal with San Diego Gas and Electric to power the city expires, Mayor Kevin Faulconer finally penned the final terms of the bid San Diego hopes will attract healthy competition.

The prize is a franchise agreement to be the sole provider of electricity and gas to San Diego residents, a contract SDG&E has held since essentially the city’s inception. The price: $80 million, a one-time fee San Diego decided to tack on by suggestion of a city-hired consultant. 

Faulconer decided on a price that’s $18 million more than the consultant suggested. Advocates — especially those in favor of the city ditching deals with private companies and forming its own government-run utility — initially balked at the lower price tag, saying San Diego was underselling the value of its business. That could be especially true since Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway initially signaled its interest in buying out Sempra Energy-owned SDG&E.

Faulconer’s office issued a press release Wednesday hailing the final terms.

“The terms laid out deliver the best deal possible to help meet the City’s future demands for energy and climate goals,” the release states.

What it doesn’t include is a right for the city to buy SDG&E’s equipment should it want to form its own public utility. It’s what the consultant recommends it do. 

It leaves the old way intact, called condemnation, which can be a complex and lengthy litigation process.

“In order to prevent a situation where no utilities bid on the franchises, the language was revised,” to exclude the right to purchase language, said Rebecca Rybczyk, a spokeswoman for the mayor’s office.

County Backtracks on Plan for La Mesa Hotel

After blowback from La Mesa officials, the Union-Tribune reports that county supervisors decided to pull back an application for $19 million from the state’s Project Homekey program to convert a La Mesa hotel into homeless housing. Following that decision, a county spokesman on Wednesday told Voice of San Diego that the county is “not evaluating any proposals” to seek Project Homekey funds. The city recently learned it will receive $37.7 million in those funds to help it purchase two hotels.

  • Assemblyman Todd Gloria, who is running for mayor, on Wednesday called for the city to continue housing homeless San Diegans at its Convention Center through the end of the year. Gloria’s statement comes ahead of a Tuesday City Council meeting where officials are set to provide an update on the timeline for the shelter. In a separate statement, Faulconer’s office noted that the mayor had proposed funding the shelter through December and wrote that the city, its Housing Commission and the Regional Task Force on the Homeless are working to secure additional money to extend shelter operations at the Convention Center.

News Roundup

  • CalMatters reports that falsehoods about SB 145 have spread into races across the state, including the San Diego mayor’s race.
  • The Union-Tribune found new Black Lives Matter chalk drawings on La Jolla Bike path this week after the complaints led the city to power wash them.
  • The Padres are poised to revamp a portion of East Village and develop housing and shops near Petco Park after winning a city bidding process, NBC 7 reports.
  • A federal judge on Wednesday ordered the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to release records about COVID-19 outbreaks at the Otay Mesa and Adelanto immigration detention centers and Border Patrol stations, City News Service reports. VOSD’s Maya Srikrishnan has previously uncovered allegations of serious medical neglect at the Otay Mesa facility.
  • Fox 5 San Diego reports that Carlsbad is set to increase patrols to encourage residents and beachgoers to wear masks.

The Morning Report was written by Lisa Halverstadt and MacKenzie Elmer, and edited by Sara Libby.

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