John Moores paid disgraced Clinton pal Webb Hubbell $15,000 in "legal fees"

City councilman Juan Vargas attacks swingers club Thad Poppell

— Big Nick Canepa, star sportswriter for the Union-Tribune, is already hyping a downtown ballpark and demanding expensive changes in the press box at the existing Mission Valley stadium, all the while taking swipes at the taxpayer activists who asked for a public vote on whether to spend public money on the project. But the husky Canepa isn't the only one said to be going to bat for John Moores and his desire to build a baseball stadium on choice public land right smack on the harborfront. Padres owner Moores is a good friend of the President, so much so that Moores paid disgraced Clinton pal Webb Hubbell $15,000 in "legal fees," an occurrence being investigated by the Whitewater Grand Jury. Observers note that the Navy is now involved with the Port of San Diego in a so-called coalition to decide the fate of the northern Embarcadero. They look for top Pentagon brass to back a transfer of the valuable federal land to be used for the Moores ballpark, absent congressional intervention.

Ritzy living

At a time when the city library budget is coming up short, taxpayers are picking up the tab for a variety of moving expenses run up by the Chargers coaching staff during the stadium expansion. Furniture rental for temporary trailer offices for staff and coaches is running $44,200. Renting the trailers themselves is costing $112,710. Building pedestrian ramps, decks, interior partitions, along with "miscellaneous accessories" for the trailers, ran $70,000. Installing phones and TV satellite gear cost $13,019.35, and taxpayers are forking over another $7750 for "voice and data communications" from an outfit called Teledata. Under standard city policy, none of the work was put out for public bid.

Thad comes out swinging

City councilman Juan Vargas usually has something controversial to say on almost every topic, with mixed results. Last fall, Vargas weighed in with an attack on Elbert "Thad" Poppell, who runs a swingers club in Vargas's eighth district. Poppell, who had been repeatedly harassed by police and other city officials who were attempting to close him down, sued the city in federal court and won a total of $200,000 in damages against two cops, the city's zoning administrator, and the city itself. After the verdict, Vargas went on the offensive at a press conference near the club and in an interview with Los Angeles Times reporter Tony Perry, to whom Vargas claimed that Poppell "infests our community with nothing more than shaded prostitution and drugs." At the press conference, the councilman added that "I hope Poppell leaves the city on a bus with the jury." Now Poppell is shooting back in a defamation and slander suit against Vargas filed in superior court here last month. Poppell's attorney says that the remarks made by Vargas about prostitution and drugs are false and that "Vargas knew it was false and/or made the statement in reckless disregard of whether the matter was false." The suit adds that Poppell "is vehemently opposed to illegal drugs and does not allow any type of illegal drug in his club. Nor does plaintiff's club have anything to do with prostitution, as has been confirmed by the courts, the San Diego Police Department, and the San Diego City Attorney's office."

Not quite closed

Relatives of Ian Spiro, who along with his wife, Gail Spiro, 42, and their children, Sara, 16, Adam, 14, and Dina, 10, died in November 1992, are still looking for answers. Last week, after hearing claims that all five were murdered as part of a cover-up, John Taylor, an English coroner conducting an inquest near London at the relatives' request, returned a verdict of unlawful killing but declined to speculate on the identity of the killer. Gail and the children had been shot twice in the head as they lay in bed in their rented Rancho Santa Fe home. A few days later, Ian Spiro, 46, was found dead in the desert, a small bottle of cyanide nearby. The San Diego Sheriff's Department said Spiro killed his family and himself after failed business ventures left him $5 million in debt. The relatives argue that Spiro had ties to Oliver North and that Middle Eastern terrorists killed him.

Contributor: Matt Potter

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