SDSU and Delaware North officials made moves Tuesday to deal with the fallout of our reporting that they were letting a phantom nonprofit manage concessions in a program meant to help charities in San Diego fund services.
Background: In many sporting and concert venues, nonprofits operate and staff concession stands. In exchange, they receive around 10 percent of the revenue generated at those stands.
But earlier this week, Voice of San Diego uncovered that one of the nonprofits with the biggest presence at Petco Park doesn’t exist and it was also providing workers at Snapdragon Stadium.
The bogus nonprofit, Chula Vista Fast Pitch, operated an average of a dozen stands at Petco for more than nine years. To grasp how much money the operators could have collected over that time, receipts reviewed by Voice indicated they may have pulled in more than $370,000 over a period of just five months.
That was Petco Park. When it comes to Snapdragon Stadium, the individuals who operated Chula Vista Fast Pitch didn’t need to go through a rigorous verification process. They just signed a document attesting they represented a real nonprofit.
Immediate changes: In the wake of those revelations, SDSU officials barred the nonprofit from working future games, announced they would stop accepting new nonprofits and would re-evaluate their process for verifying charities.
Delaware North, the company that manages concession stands at Petco Park and a number of other professional sports stadiums, also decided to kick out Chula Vista Fast Pitch. It did not confirm whether changes will be made to its verification process going forward.
The questions remaining: We don’t know yet how much the people claiming to represent the girls softball league pulled in or how they staffed the concession stands. If the workers weren’t volunteers for the nonprofit, who were they and how were they paid?
We also don’t know exactly what proof the Padres or Delaware North demanded from nonprofits applying for the roles.
One former baseball exec isn’t buying it: The Padres told us they have nothing to do with the nonprofit program and it was all on Delaware North. David Samson, the former president of the Miami Marlins, called that “horse hockey.”
“When it’s your own ballpark … guess what? You’re damn right you have oversight,” Samson said on his podcast. “Why would you have a business where you’re not in charge of who interacts with your customers?”
San Diegans Pay More for Electricity Than Anyone Else in the Country
SDG&E’s rates have shot up significantly in just the last five years and San Diego’s electricity rates are higher than anywhere else in the country. Even the public power companies now serving San Diegans that pledged to bring down prices charge more than other community-choice aggregators in the state.
They built a lot of things and it has to go far: Fewer people pay big power bills now with their solar panels and San Diego is relatively small compared to other major power territories. But the utilities and community provider still have to pay off big bills for new power lines, the dismantling of San Onofre, remote solar projects and burying of power lines.
While power providers have for years seen a consistent decrease in sales, an increase in building and vehicle electrification may produce an uptick. And the only way investors in the utility make profits is by building more infrastructure.
Related: State Audit Raises Questions on SDG&E Profits
State auditors confirmed some of the reasons why utilities said energy bills were so high last year, while raising some new questions over SDG&E’s spending.
Amid complaints of ever-increasing electricity bills, San Diego Assembly members Tasha Boerner and Brian Maienschein called on state auditors to investigate last spring. The state auditor released their investigation into SDG&E and three other utilities Tuesday.
They reiterated cost drivers utilities already broadcast: The war in Ukraine caused the price of natural gas to spike, and, when paired with an unusually cold winter in California and problems with domestic pipeline infrastructure, natural gas prices went through the roof.
But state auditors also say that there isn’t enough watchdogging over how much utilities are spending.
They pointed to the California Public Utilities Commission, which OK’s SDG&E and other investor-owned utilities spending plans, and the California Public Advocates Office (government-appointed utility watchdogs) aren’t reviewing enough of the utilities’ various accounts to pinpoint places where they could tighten their belts. Auditors specifically called-out SDG&E alleging that, for those reasons, the utility could be earning more in profit than the CPUC signed off on – maybe $29 million more.
What they had to say: SDG&E’s president and chief financial officer, Bruce Folkmann, told Voice of San Diego the company would “cooperate with whatever action the CPUC feels is necessary to respond to this report.”
Matt Baker, director of the Public Advocates Office, said in an emailed response: “The Auditor’s report is right – customers of the largest energy utilities have faced higher rates in recent years and there have been many contributing factors. Our continued focus is to evaluate costs for reasonableness and accuracy.”
One Question Answered About Judge Suing the County
Voice contributor Greg Moran reported Monday that a sitting San Diego Superior Court judge is suing the county over his eligibility to apply to be the county’s next Public Defender. His lawsuit is holding up the selection process.
Not only that: The suit complicates Michael Washington’s current job.
He is a sitting judge, after all, and presides over cases where the defendant is represented by the very people he hopes to supervise. This was a question that was up in the air, as Moran wrote.
The update: Washington’s cases will be assigned to other judges in the North County Division if the Public Defender serves as counsel, as directed by San Diego Superior Court Judge Michael Smyth.
Song of the Week
Dave Mead’s musical bona fides date back more than a decade to local heavyweights and strobe light indie rock purveyors Cuckoo Chaos and psych rockers Chairs Missing. While he spent much of his time behind the drum kit, in 2019 he traded in his drum sticks for a guitar and the mic and booted up Crasher, a post-punk project whose 2020 EP included one of my favorite local jams of the year in “Whatever Dude.”
Crasher, “Iced Tea”: Mead and multi-instrumentalist Jordan Krimston – one of San Diego’s busiest musicians – are back with a forthcoming full-length album, “Speaking Terms.” The first two singles showcase the varied sonic intensity at play. “Static” is a blast of noisy, frenetic energy while “Iced Tea” is a whispered and melancholic affair, imbued with a sense of regret and contemplation. A cool drink of a song for the hot week we’ve endured.
Like what you hear? Check out Crasher at Casbah on Sept. 1.
Do you have a “Song of the Week” suggestion? Shoot us an email and a sentence or two about why you’ve been bumping this song lately. Friendly reminder: all songs should be by local artists!
In Other News
- The race to replace Nathan Fletcher on the San Diego County Board of Supervisors elicited a historic amount of outside spending. The $1.4 million outside groups dumped into the August special election outpaced the $1.2 million spent in the 2018 primary that led to Fletcher’s election. (inewsource)
- San Diego Democrat Ton Atkins, who’s termed out of the state senate, will step down as president pro tempore, clearing the way for a North Coast Democrat to take her place. (Union-Tribune)
- Rady Children’s Hospital broke ground on Tuesday on a $1 billion expansion. (Fox 5)
- The San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to support a bill that would make it harder for water districts to leave the San Diego County Water Authority. Republican Supervisor Joel Anderson joined his Democratic colleagues Supervisors Nora Vargas and Terra Lawson-Remer in favor. Republican Supervisor Jim Desmond voted against supporting the bill, saying if the legislation passed the Water Authority would become like Hotel California: “You can check out, but you can never leave.” (Voice of San Diego)
The Morning Report was written by Jakob McWhinney, MacKenzie Elmer and Andrea Lopez-Villafaña. It was edited by Andrea Lopez-Villafaña and Scott Lewis.