Dinner at eight

— Embattled San Diego Unified school superintendent Alan Bersin is already trying to make amends with those three new board members elected against his wishes who will take office next week, but his first olive-branch offering may have come close to violating the state's open-meeting law, otherwise known as the Brown Act. In an e-mail message dated November 17, Bersin's second-in-command Leslie Fausset invited the new board to a fancy dinner in San Francisco, where an education conference is being held, on Tuesday, November 30, or Wednesday, December 1. "We're looking forward to spending some time getting to know each other and opening lines of communication. Thank you!!" Newly elected board member Luis Acle replied: "I am very much in favor of getting to know each other and opening lines of communication. Would all five (next term) Trustees be present at the same time? Is there a Brown Act problem? Would an objective observer conclude that we are not going to discuss 'business'? P.S. Dinner in San Francisco sounds extremely attractive, but could it be that we might better open our lines of communication in an open office setting?" Responded Fausett: "The dinner that we are proposing is purely social. We would certainly not discuss district business or policy and would, in fact, stay away from discussion about education. I have asked our General Counsel to provide some guidelines for us so that we will all be protected. The San Francisco location was recommended because we will all be in the City, I believe." That brought a response from board veteran John de Beck: "I would suggest that a reporter representing some San Diego media be invited to assure the 'social context.' At a minimum, they should be notified of the time and place of this meeting. This needs to be monitored by more than our good will. Folks will refer to this meeting as evidence of 'untold conspiracies', no matter what we say. A media witness is essential." To which Fausset replied: "Absolutely!" This Tuesday de Beck reported that, because of the questions raised by the board members, the dinner had been cancelled.

Going both ways La Jollan Larry Remer, the longtime Democratic political consultant who worked for such law-and-order types as former district attorney Paul Pfingst before managing to get himself indicted for wire fraud and conspiracy in connection with a campaign-funding scandal at Southwestern College, saw a sharp drop in business this campaign season. Before his August 21 indictment, Remer's company, Primacy Group, was on a familiar roll, getting $24,000 from rookie assembly candidate Lori Saldaña's campaign along with his regular $2200 a month or so from assemblyman Juan Vargas, as well as $18,224 from Patty Davis, who was running an ultimately failed race against Republican assemblywoman Shirley Horton. Post-indictment, however, Saldaña and Davis dropped Remer; Saldaña, who went on to win, replaced Primacy with none other than Cornerstone Strategies, the outfit tied to Democratic ex-state senator Steve Peace and his onetime aide de camp, Arturo Casteneda. Records show that on October 7 Saldaña paid Cornerstone $89,287 for consulting and TV-commercial production work. Coincidentally, Cornerstone also has a $60,000, six-month contract to do political consulting for the San Diego Regional Airport Authority, set up by a Peace-authored bill. Davis switched to San Diego's Drew Consulting, which records show got $56,330. Drew, owned by C. Ray Drew (who formerly ran the Family Pride Coalition, which advocates the legal rights of gay, bisexual, and transgendered parents), had a record year. In addition to D.A. Bonnie Dumanis and Republican mayor Dick Murphy, whose daughter Kelly has been employed by the firm, Drew clients included Democratic assemblyman Vargas (who paid him $24,445) and the GOP's county central committee, from which Drew got $21,637. The campaign for Yes on 1-A, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's local agency funding deal, paid him $16,000. In addition to Drew, Davis paid Chase Public Policy Consultants $6833 and McKinley + Pillows, a Sacramento-based fundraiser, $12.089.

Rotten designs Architect Hal Sadler, a big-shot in the local architectural world, also sits on the Centre City Development Corporation board, where he has been voting regularly on at least one project that his firm has a contract to design: Mayor Dick Murphy's proposed downtown library. But that was before city hall watchdog Mel Shapiro lodged a complaint with the city's ethics commission, which has launched an ongoing investigation into the situation. Last week the sometimes voluble Sadler was forced to stand aside as his CCDC fellows "re-voted" without him to re-approve the project's funding. The move was reminiscent of those city council "re-votes" to uphold multimillion-dollar city subsidies to Padres owner John Moores in the wake of the resignation of council member Valerie Stallings, for whom he had done financial favors ... Last week's sudden Thanksgiving-eve ousting of SDSU football offensive line coach Damon Baldwin has caused tongues to wag again about the school's troubled athletic program. The controversial Baldwin -- who once ran a summer "sand training" camp for SDSU players at Mission Beach, which he videotaped and offered for sale on the Internet, leading to a probationary slap from the NCAA -- may not be the last to go, insiders speculate.

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