CSU San Marcos / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

A Cal State San Marcos professor who harassed students but was allowed to remain on the job has been reassigned following a Voice of San Diego investigation.

Kayla Jimenez reports that professor Chetan Kumar will move to a new job where he won’t directly interact with students after an onslaught of frustration from Kumar’s colleagues in response to the VOSD story documenting the investigation that found Kumar harassed multiple students. Jimenez revealed that Kumar managed to hold onto his job after the California Faculty Association filed an appeal, leading the school to backtrack on plans to fire Kumar.

Kumar had been set to teach two classes at the university this fall. A university spokeswoman told VOSD that CSU San Marcos has yet to decide on the specifics of Kumar’s new role or when it will begin.

The change follows an online petition created Friday urging the school to fire Kumar.

Governments Are Spending Big on PR Efforts

Many local governments have their own communications departments, but they’re spending more money on PR and marketing professionals to manage their image and messaging to the public.

Officials consider the PR work of outside firms to be separate from the day-to-day tasks of the communications employees on staff, arguing that it’ll help cash-strapped agencies get more bang for the taxpayer buck.

VOSD contributor Sofia Mejias Pascoe reviewed contracts between PR firms and public agencies around the county and found that the services these firms provide are varied. Sometimes it’s as simple as getting the word out about programs.

Other times it results in a “brand” campaign intended to push back against media narratives and correct what the agency sees as misperceptions in the world at large. Like a corporation, cities are trying to make themselves more visible while soliciting a wider range of feedback online.

In 2018, the city of San Diego spent $350,000 on a 15-second video that included SWAT officers bursting out of a tactical vehicle and cops on four-wheelers, speeding across a beach. It was produced one year after the police chief at the time blamed the press for having a hard time hiring new officers. The company that made it boasted of having improved the police department’s recruitment numbers. 

Campbell Isn’t Popular Enough to Be Recalled, Say Recall Supporters

The campaign to recall San Diego City Council President Jen Campbell acknowledged Tuesday that it has failed to gather enough signatures to put the issue on the ballot. In a statement obtained by KPBS reporter Andrew Bowen, the campaign blamed the pandemic, competition with other signature-gathering efforts and “Campbell’s low name recognition [which] proved to be an insurmountable challenge.” 

The recall campaign signaled that it would be pivoting its efforts to the 2022 election instead. 

The recall supporters were motivated by a few issues, but as Scott Lewis noted earlier this year, it would not have happened at all had Campbell not tried to forge a compromise to regulate vacation rentals.

Campbell’s political consultant called the recall effort “unwarranted and unnecessary, reckless and ridiculous, desperate and divisive” in a statement. 

Only 2 Percent of Local Rent Relief Funds Spent So Far

Earlier this year, the region received more than $211 million in state and federal dollars to aid landlords and low-income renters – and just 2 percent of those monies have since been doled out through mid-May, an inewsource investigation found.

Inewsource tracked the allotments to the county and cities of San Diego and Chula Vista and found long waiting periods have led to frustration and confusion for both tenants and landlords.

VOSD’s Maya Srikrishnan has also dug into the confusion surrounding the city and county’s rental relief programs and reported last week that the city and county don’t expect to be able to dole out all the funds they’ve received.

News Roundup

  • Lori Holt Pfeiler will be the next CEO of the Building Industry Association. The former Escondido mayor and leader of Habitat for Humanity will take over for Borre Winckel. A lot of local political insiders were both interested in the role and watching who would get it. We profiled what was at stake in a recent Politics Report. She’s the first woman to lead the group that champions the construction of housing and related policies.
  • The Union-Tribune profiles a taxpayer-backed county program to preserve agricultural lands that officials hope will grow by more than 4,400 acres over the next decade.
  • Scripps Health is starting to notify more than 147,000 patients and others that their personal and financial information may have been stolen by hackers, NBC 7 reports.
  • Drug overdose incidents are soaring at San Diego County jails, the Union-Tribune reports.
  • The city won’t pursue federal funds to put homeless San Diegans up in hotels after putting the call out to providers to see if they could help the city ramp up a program. Mayor Todd Gloria and Housing Commission CEO Rick Gentry explained their rationale in a May 17 memo obtained by VOSD.
  • San Diego police officers have new rules to follow when interacting with transgender and gender-nonbinary people. (City News Service)

The Morning Report was written by Lisa Halverstadt and Jesse Marx, and edited by Sara Libby.

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