Official exposure

— It's no secret that officials from many agencies of local government are cracking down on taxpayer access to public information. The latest evidence is the refusal by departing San Diego city attorney Casey Gwinn to turn over records about the relationship between La Jolla councilman Scott Peters and the scores of city hall lobbyists who have been seeking his favor. Back in July, Thomas J. Zane Jr., campaign manager for Phil Thalheimer, who is running against the one-term councilman, wrote Gwinn asking for Peters's office calendar and various telephone and e-mail records. Gwinn replied with a stern denial: "A broad request for a calendar of a public official is not legally permissible, because exposing an official's calendar for a period of time is harmful to the deliberative process, as well as harmful to the official's safety, because it potentially exposes the official's pattern of activity." Zane then narrowed down his request to a hundred or so lobbyists, developers, and builders who he believed might have had contact with Peters, including Julie Dillon, Yehudi Gaffen, and Janay Kruger. Still no dice, Gwinn fired back. Zane's latest request, seeking calendar and contact information on just ten big financial interests with dealings with Peters -- including the Corky McMillin Companies, Evans Hotels Corporation, SeaWorld/Anheuser Busch, and Barrat American Homes -- drew a promise from Gwinn to produce only some of the documents, but with a gaping catch 22: "The Council Office does not always include the business affiliation in its calendar entries for meetings with individuals....They may not be able to identify all of the calendar entries for individuals associated with organizations unless you provide the names of the individuals you are interested in." Despite Gwinn's promises, Zane says he has yet to receive any documents from his months-long quest.

Just call him Jumbotron Dick Are local broadcasters in cahoots with Mayor Dick Murphy? They no doubt would insist not, but Colleen Rudy, who succeeded Elena Cristiano as Murphy's press secretary, appears to feel otherwise. How else to explain a four-page memo, addressed to "local media outlets," in which Rudy said she was "exploring your interest in covering or participating" in "San Diego Gives Thanks," an event at Qualcomm Stadium held last Sunday, ostensibly to "thank our fire and law enforcement heroes who battled the San Diego County fires." Rudy's memo offered to share more than a bit of the glory with the broadcasters themselves. "Radio and television stations are invited to join the event by providing family-oriented activities, giveaways, and/or information within the footprint of the event venue on the Qualcomm Stadium field. Suggested activities include: astro jumps, climbing walls, clowns, balloons, face painting, art stations for creation of cards and signs, and sponsor giveaways." If that weren't enough, the memo said, "Each television station from the region is asked to submit a five-minute video that will be played on the Jumbotron at various times during the event. Potential themes include: footage of the fire, fire and police heroes, and citizens uniting to support the region. Submit all video to David Hicks in the Mayor's office no later than close of business November 12." Backers of mayoral challenger Peter Q. Davis complained that the event was scheduled to conflict with their candidate's campaign kickoff in Balboa Park. But TV news featured both Murphy and potential mayoral foe Ron Roberts and also managed to fit in the Davis announcement. Coverage itself showed sparse crowds.

Out the door In what seems a bad omen for San Diego Unified School District superintendent Alan Bersin, his strongest ally on the board of education, Ron Ottinger, declared in his departure announcement, "Now my role is to aid the transition to a new board that likely will select the next superintendent." ... Democratic foes labeled Trisha Hunter, an ex-aide to ex-governor Pete Wilson, "the tobacco nurse from Sacramento" for getting campaign money from cigarette interests, but now she's back for a fourth try at running for state assembly in yet another district. This time her $990 filing fees were paid by a check drawn on the campaign of fellow GOP-er Shirley Horton, assemblywoman from Chula Vista ... Lynn Schenk isn't the only member of her extended family to pick up an appointment from Schenk's outgoing boss, ex-governor Gray Davis: her 40-year-old sister-in-law Shari Schenk made the state's Economic Development Commission. Lynn herself got two plums from Davis: a seat on the state's Medical Assistance Commission and one on its High Speed Rail Authority, touting fast-rail routes across the state and a multibillion-dollar bond to pay for them. Old-timers will remember that Schenk and her old San Diego Democratic associate, Dick Silberman, once were paid by a Japanese billionaire for hyping a failed bullet-train route from San Diego to L.A. Other locals to get last-minute Davis appointments include Joan Jacobs, wife of Qualcomm founder Irwin Jacobs, a big Davis donor. She is now on the California Council on Humanities. Others: private investigator David MacGregor, 66, to the Private Security Disciplinary Review Committee, and Dianna Benson, 44, to the State Council on Rehabilitation ... After keeping an exposé of San Diego's troubled sewage-recycling plants bottled up for more than six months, the Union-Tribune finally ran the story in the Saturday edition, a traditional dumping ground for stories that top management doesn't want widely read.

-- Matt Potter

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