Breaking Stories

Carter's last stand The staid old San Diego State University Research Foundation was rocked to its roots last Friday when longtime board member Tom Carter, the former San Diego Federal Savings exec, real estate investor, and mayoral candidate, stood up at a board meeting and quit, saying the foundation was disastrously mismanaged.

"First I have to say I am going to resign from the board today," Carter announced at the beginning of the foundation's quarterly meeting. "I have served on almost any kind of board you can imagine. I take it very seriously when I'm on a board of directors. The word 'fiduciary' is always something you must remember. What I have seen happen here in the past year is foreign to the kind of operations I have been accustomed to."

He went on to say that plans to sell off much of the foundation's cash-producing real estate, being suggested to the board by its president, SDSU president Stephen Weber, were ill-advised. "We are starting a downward spiral," Carter warned. "This foundation is the largest contributor annually to the university -- $2.5 million. That's not going to be there anymore. When we start selling real estate, that money won't be there in the future. I see a downward spiral that will be very difficult to turn around. I don't want to be fighting with President Weber. He knows where I stand on these matters." Then, with an abrupt nod in Weber's direction, Carter turned and headed out the door. "I bid you adieu and wish everybody well."

After Carter departed, Weber proceeded to introduce tentative plans to sell such foundation-owned properties as Fraternity Row, Sorority Row, parking lots, and commercial buildings to pay off some of the $23 million in debt and related bank-credit lines left over from Weber's de facto cancellation last year of the foundation's Paseo redevelopment project.

That development, which had the backing of the City and campus neighborhood groups, was to include student housing and a shopping center. Weber asserted that new state university policies requiring use of public rather than private debt to finance such projects doomed the foundation's proposal, but critics such as San Diego city councilman Jim Madaffer contend that was just an excuse to wrest the development away from the foundation and place decision-making power with Weber himself. In the ongoing tug-of-war, the City's Redevelopment Agency has since moved to take control of the project from the university, soliciting new developers.

In yet another blow to the foundation, it was also announced Friday that KPBS, the public broadcasting operation owned and operated by SDSU and in which Weber has taken a personal interest, was pulling its cash-management business out of the foundation and giving it to another SDSU-affiliated nonprofit, Aztec Shops, which runs the campus bookstore and food concessions. "It appears that they are definitely planning to move their business," said foundation CEO Frea Sladek. Money managed for KPBS represents 6.4 percent of the foundation's assets, she told the board.

Money trail The other shoe may finally be about to drop in the long-running saga of the secretive charitable fund set up by San Diego schools superintendent Alan Bersin. The Superintendent's Fund for School Innovation funneled a total of $524,000 in donations from a variety of local benefactors to Bersin, who used the money to pay for consultants, travel, and housing as well as "meeting and entertainment" expenses for himself and other district officials. Political and PR guru George Mitrovich picked up $12,000.

After Bersin left the district and a new board majority came to power last fall, it released a list of expenditures and donations. Bersin called the information "old news," but the board quietly hired a Los Angeles law firm to further investigate the ex-superintendent's role. Now a report of the investigation's findings is said to be almost ready and could be made public at the first school board meeting this month, just weeks ahead of state senate hearings in Sacramento on whether to confirm Bersin's nomination by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to the state board of education.

Hunter hunting The Randy "Duke" Cunningham bribery scandal and George W. Bush's problems in Iraq have stimulated some local Democrats into mounting an unlikely challenge against Cunningham's fellow GOP House member Duncan Hunter. Though Hunter's district is packed with Republicans, that hasn't dissuaded La Jolla Democrat Derek Casady, former aide to ex-state senator Jim Mills, from taking on Hunter, the powerful chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. Another possible contender: backcountry environmental champion and antiwar activist Duncan McFetridge. ... Missed your car lately? If it's been stolen, it's unlikely you'll ever see the thief behind bars, based on statistics the City of San Diego released last week. Although the "clearance" rate last year was 88.2 percent for murders, it was just 1.4 percent for vehicle theft. Burglary clearances stood at 13.7 percent. While property theft in general was up 1.7 percent, vehicle theft jumped 9 percent.

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