Going bye-bye

— Staffers loyal to former San Diego Unified superintendent Alan Bersin are quickly following him out the door. District flack Peri Lynn Turnbull is heading over to the Red Cross to work for Veronica "Ronne" Froman, a retired admiral and onetime Bersin financial lieutenant whom mayoral hopeful Jerry Sanders says he would hire as his top aide. Departing district lawyer Ricardo Soto is heading north to work for Bersin, now state secretary for education under Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Scott Himelstein, 47, president of San Diego READS, a Bersin-backed effort to collect used books and champion the ex-superintendent's pet projects, is also going to Sacramento. He's the new deputy secretary and Bersin's chief of staff. Karen Heinrich, Bersin's longtime personal secretary at the school district, is deputy chief of staff.

According to tax filings for the 12 months ending June 2004, the most recent available, San Diego READS paid Leslie Fausset, currently the district's acting superintendent, a $63,452 consulting fee. Himelstein himself collected $88,412 in salary and $19,851 more in benefits. In all, San Diego READS paid out more than $360,000 in salaries and another $278,000 for "contracted services," along with $22,780 in travel. It made only one grant -- $10,000 to the Lemon Grove School District for a "literacy campaign" -- and ran up a total of $1,218,828 in expenses. The nonprofit received $1.3 million in donations from unidentified sources. Himelstein's new state job pays him $118,000.... Democratic mayoral candidate Donna Frye has collected the endorsement of Democracy for America, a political action committee founded by Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean. "Democracy for America stands ready to help Donna Frye, and the other stars of the DFA-List," writes Dean's brother Jim, who now runs the group, in a fund-raising letter on its website.

David's deal Union-Tribune publisher David Copley, who has long battled coronary artery disease and recently ended up with a new heart, has of late been adjusting his real estate portfolio. In April he sold ten separate Borrego parcels totaling 590 acres to fellow La Jollan Norm Roberts, 84, a wealthy veterinarian, investor, and onetime national cochairman of Ronald Reagan's presidential campaign, for a grand total of $861,500. "I don't know what I am going to do with it," Roberts says. "I bought it because it seems too cheap, and I don't like the stock market particularly right now." The land is adjacent to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, and Roberts says he might donate or sell some of the land to the state, depending on tax considerations. "They wanted cash," says Roberts. "I figured I might get 50 percent [profit in a real estate deal] in a couple of years; that would be better than the 10 percent I might get in the market."

The records also show that Copley rearranged his corporate house a bit before going under the knife last month. On May 23, his lawyers filed with the California secretary of state to shut down an outfit called Kaboom, Inc., which had been incorporated less than three weeks before, and set up Kaboom II, LLC, described in the registration statement only as "a holding company of LLC interest." In view of the death of his mother last August and his own poor health, speculation has swirled about the ultimate fate of the newspaper chain Copley controls. Rumors abound regarding whether at least some of the small publishing empire might eventually have to be sold off to pay death taxes.

Branding iron San Diego city councilman Jim Madaffer has dispatched an e-mail to his constituents in which he attacks San Diego State University and its controversial development activities. "Something strange is happening on Montezuma Mesa at SDSU," he says. "There are two issues that residents both north and south of the University are up in arms about. They are The Paseo project and the University Master Plan Expansion that includes impacts to Adobe Falls and Alvarado Road.... In fact, sadly, there are some rather influential supporters of SDSU who simply dismiss community concerns as NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) excuses." According to the memo, a power struggle over the Paseo, a giant commercial development project, is going on between SDSU and the nonprofit foundation it ostensibly controls. The project is run by Frederick Pierce, ex-president of the city's scandal-ridden retirement fund.

"The University intends to change the project from being run by the SDSU Foundation (which has a wonderful relationship with the community for fulfilling its promises, addressing mitigation and answering community concerns) and instead replace it with the University itself." Madaffer also asserts that university officials have misrepresented their true intentions: "The University is content to give community folks what I call 'happy spin' -- basically telling people the Foundation will still 'run' the project in the hopes residents might feel good and just go away. If they are so intent on running things, at minimum there needs to be an oversight committee between the Community, University and the Foundation to assure the project is as promised: a non-SDSU branded project adjacent to the University...."

Madaffer concludes with a threat: "Unless these issues are addressed, there is no way the community, the City and the Redevelopment Agency will deliver land and $26.5 million in subsidies only to watch the University once again breach its commitments."

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