Ex-con makes smart lobbyist

— What do ex-convicts do when they get out of the joint? In the case of one famous San Diego money-laundering felon, he becomes a lobbyist for a big San Diego defense contractor angling for a San Francisco public-transit contract. It's none other than Richard T. Silberman, ex-aide to Governor Jerry Brown and ex-husband of former San Diego mayor Susan Golding. Silberman was hauled off to the federal lockup in the desolate high-desert town of Boron following his 1989 conviction. Golding divorced him in 1991, shortly after becoming mayor. Silberman, now 74, got out of prison almost exactly ten years ago, on October 26, 1993. He subsequently moved to the Bay Area, where he married Lisa Layne, 47, a self-styled "management consultant." They have a small child. According to Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) officials, Silberman has been lobbying on behalf of Cubic for a number of years. His activities became public this fall during a dispute between Cubic and the Bay Area's Metropolitan Transportation Commission, which runs the "Translink" smart card fare program. In September, the Contra Costa Times reported that Silberman "sent scathing e-mails and reports to a BART director and the commission's elected panel" calling ERG, a Cubic competitor, "financially unstable" and "warned of more cost overruns, delays, and excessive operating costs" in a contract Cubic wanted to wrest away from ERG. According to MTC spokesman Randy Rentschler, that effort came to naught and ERG kept the contract after Cubic sued, then agreed to drop its case against the agency. A Cubic spokeswoman says Silberman was hired because "he's an excellent businessman and former head of the California Business and Transportation Administration." Coincidentally, Gray Davis chief of staff Lynn Schenk, a onetime Silberman protégé, is said to be in the running to become a member of the state's Medical Assistance Commission, a $99,000-a-year patronage plum that Silberman also was awarded after leaving Jerry Brown's administration back in the late 1970s.

Case of the overmedicated mobster The mysterious case of the late David Mark Ruzumna, 46, became even stranger with the release last week of the county medical examiner's report on the circumstances surrounding Ruzumna's August 22 death. Ruzumna had been scheduled to testify before the federal grand jury investigating San Diego city hall's Cheetahs strip-club scandal but had already ducked one appearance before turning up dead in his Carmel Valley condo. A former narcotics addict and ex-con who did three years in Boron's federal prison for running a rare-coin scam out of Phoenix, Arizona, in 1996, Ruzumna was paroled to San Diego in 1999, where he reportedly hooked up with Cheetahs manager John D'Intino. An associate of various local criminal luminaries, D'Intino pleaded guilty in the city-council bribery case and a related gun-running matter and is in protective custody awaiting sentencing. Ruzumna, who roomed with his cousin, Stewart Weingarden, another D'Intino associate who was also called to testify before the Cheetahs grand jury, was not so lucky. "Weingarden departed the condo for errands and the racetrack at approximately 12:30, 08-21-03," says the M.E.'s report. "Weingarden alleges he returned to the condo at approximately 20:30, 8-21-03 and found Ruzumna seated on the living room couch slumped forward into a coffee table and his face was resting on a hamburger. Weingarden claims he spoke to Ruzumna and that he received a response from Ruzumna. Weingarden then went to bed for the evening, and when he awoke the next morning encountered Ruzumna in the same position as the previous evening." According to what his doctor, David Reynaldo, told examiners, Ruzumna suffered from diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and had recently undergone lower-back surgery, but the cause of death was "best classified as acute intoxication by the combined effects of hydrocone, oxycodone, diazepam, and carisoprodol." Contributing to his death was "hypertensive and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease." In short, the main cause of death was listed as a drug overdose by "accident." The report added that Reynaldo told police that "Ruzumna had also recently [been] hospitalized for an overdose of pain medications but Reynaldo could not specify exactly when. Several prescription medications at the scene included Tizanidine, Avandia, Advair, metformin, prevacid, lotensin, lipitor, albuterol, combi-vent, and ketoprofen. Ruzumna had declined narcotic prescriptions because of a previous drug addiction problem. Ruzumna appeared to be an active member of Narcotics Anonymous." Along with the drugs, police noted that they found "a small collection of pornographic material" in Ruzumna's "clean, well-organized, but spartan" bedroom. Ruzumna and Weingarden each gave $250 to the city-council campaign of indicted city councilman Ralph Inzunza.

Christian charity The Columbia Journalism Review has awarded one of its infamous darts to the Union-Tribune for its effusive treatment of Billy Graham's May appearance at Qualcomm Stadium. U-T coverage included "an adoring, eight-page special section (heralded on page one)," said CJR. "In all, from its first report about the newsworthy revival (December 28) to the final wrap-up on its great success (May 15), the Union-Tribune blessed Billy Graham's mission with an awesome 61 photos and at least 24,500 words."

-- Matt Potter

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