Faulconer staffer Greg Block flees through revolving door

Mayoral spinmeister jumps to help spouse Rachel Laing's firm

Greg Block, now with ThreeSixty Public Strategies, operated by his wife Rachael Laing
  • Greg Block, now with ThreeSixty Public Strategies, operated by his wife Rachael Laing

Add another name to the growing roster of ex-staffers for termed-out San Diego Republican mayor Kevin Faulconer ahead of next year's November election, widely expected to result in a top-to-bottom political house cleaning by whoever manages to get elected to city hall's top spot.

One of the latest to depart is Greg Block, hired by Faulconer in September 2017 to spin 2017's homeless hepatitis meltdown, one of many challenging public relations moments for the mayor who once aspired to make a quick ascent to higher office.

Long employed by San Diego State University, Block got $175,629 per year as chief communications officer at the school before departing in February 2017 for a fleeting eight-month stint as communications director for the Scripps Research Institute.

Picked up by Faulconer in September 2017, the spinmeister collected a total of $123,388 in pay and benefits during 2018 for his gig in the mayor's office, according to TransparentCalifornia.org.

Now he has moved on to ThreeSixty Public Strategies, the newly renamed lobbying and political consulting outfit operated by his wife Rachael Laing, herself once employed as a city hall media handler during the GOP mayoral reign of Jerry Sanders, currently top honcho at the Greater San Diego Chamber of Commerce.

"We're welcoming Greg Block as partner in the firm," says ThreeSixty's website. "Greg brings decades of experience in public relations and community and government affairs."

Officially registered with the city clerk's office as Laing Strategic Communications dba ThreeSixty Public Strategies, the company's recent clients include the non-profit Balboa Park Cultural Partnership, which coughed up $7000 to "protect funding in FY2019 budget," says the firm's third quarter lobbying disclosure report filed October 31.

Laing personally lobbied Faulconer aides Matthew Awbrey, Conrad Wear, and Francis Barraza regarding the matter, according to the filing.

In addition, Laing got $8148 from the city planning department for providing "stakeholder education and outreach" services, per the disclosure.

The biggest customer of the firm was electric bike purveyor Wheels Labs Inc. of West Hollywood, seeking approval of "a shared mobility service in the city of San Diego," which paid Laing's company $18,000.

She lobbied Barraza and his fellow Faulconer aide Lee Friedman, along with Raquel Torres and Elyse Lowe of Development Services, the document says.

Under Faulconer, the company's bikes have enjoyed a mini boom here. “According to a recent study in San Diego," reported the Chicago Tribune in May, "Wheels claimed a 41% share of rides in the city: far more than either Lime’s 27% or Bird’s 15%.”

How Block's prior work comes into play at his wife's company is yet to be seen. According to ThreeSixty's website, while employed by Faulconer, Block was "responsible for developing the city’s first set of regulations of the shared dockless mobility industry. Concurrent with that effort, Greg played a key role in the creation of dedicated on-street parking spaces across the city for dockless bikes and scooters."

Newly separated city workers are governed by the city's so-called cooling off period, which lasts a year from the employee's day of departure and bans influence peddling contacts between ex-employees and former city associates.

"The Ethics Ordinance's post-employment provisions prevent former City Officials from exercising, or appearing to exercise, improper influence over City decision making," says an Ethics Commission fact sheet.

"Employment with the City should not be seen as an opportunity to learn confidential information and build relationships that may later be exploited for private gain."

On May 28, 2013, ethics commission executive director Stacey Fulhorst expanded on the limitations when she answered a request for advice from recently departed mayor Jerry Sanders regarding lobbying for his new employer, the Chamber of Commerce.

"Influencing a municipal decision includes any attempt to affect any action by a City Official on one or more municipal decisions by any method, and includes providing information, statistics, analysis or studies to a City Official."

"Municipal decisions include: any decision made by the City Council, a Council Committee, or a City board; ordinances and resolutions; contracts; quasi-judicial decisions (land use, permits, and licensing); and reports by a City Official to the City Council or a Council Committee."

On the political front, Laing co-hosted a September 30 fundraiser for Democratic city councilwoman Georgette Gomez's bid to replace Susan Davis in Congress, bringing in $9550.

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So citizens can rightfully expect a moratorium on Laing's company or any of its associates lobbying the city until no earlier than November 2020? Or will they be given the usual chummy pass by their fellow insiders, who always know better yet still do their worst?

As one's political career comes to an end like a sinking ship the rats will be leaving.

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