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The San Diego Union Tribune
February 27, 2010

The San Diego County arrogance chronicles: chapter 4

By Chris Reed

Chapter 1 in the San Diego County Arrogance Chronicles was Chief Administrative Officer Walt Ekard saying it was "dangerous" and "silly" for a U-T reporter to ask about the propriety of his using government resources - his work e-mail newsletter - to rip a proposal on the June ballot to impose term limits on county supervisors. So what if this was in plain violation of clearly written state law - Ekard didn't care.

Chapter 2 of this ugly saga was San Diego County Chief Counsel John Sansone providing cover to Ekard by citing the California Supreme Court's 2009 ruling in the Vargas v. City of Salinas case in which justices said it was OK for a public official to pop off about a pending election measure.

What Sansone omitted: The ruling said Salinas did not break the law in its presentation of information on a proposed tax because the city's "communications ... did not urge voters to vote in a particular manner." Ekard urged voters to vote in a particular manner using public resources. In other words, he broke the law.

Chapter 3: I pointed this out to Sansone in an e-mail and never heard back. Why? Perhaps it's "dangerous" and "silly" to dare to question the county's top attorney, just as it is "dangerous" and "silly" to dare to question its top bureaucrat.

Chapter 4 came to light in a Feb. 19 U-T story, which detailed how independent New York-based auditor Michael Kessler was hassled by county officials after submitting a report pointing out major shortcomings in Treasurer-Tax Collector Dan McAllister's office.

Kessler's auditing firm had been vetted before it was hired, the story noted. But last year, after the audit was submitted, officials who report to Ekard began making inquiries about his credentials. This allegedly was done because then-chief auditor Ken Mory "didn't like how Kessler's final report was written."

I twice e-mailed Mory, who is now the chief auditor for the city of Austin, Texas, seeking further explanation. I can't get a response.

It's "dangerous" and "silly," I guess, to expect a San Diego County official, past or present, to explain himself.

Whether the requested explanation involves breaking plainly written state law, ignoring plainly written state law or hassling outsiders who dare to depict the county in a negative light.

I know the term limits measure on the June ballot is a union power play. But I'm more tempted than ever to support it as a stand against the arrogance that suffuses the upper ranks of the San Diego County government.

Model Plaintiff? Try Model scoundrel

As a libertarian lite who supports gay rights, I voted against Prop. 8, the successful 2008 measure banning gay marriage. As for the present legal effort to overturn Prop. 8, I haven't been following it that closely. But my interest in the court fight was piqued by a New Yorker article about the case that hailed the legal team targeting Prop. 8 for coming up with a model lead plaintiff in Kris Perry. (The case is Perry vs. Schwarzenegger.)

Who is Kris Perry, model plaintiff?

Executive director of First 5, the agency meant to help children under 5 that was established by Proposition 10 in 1998 after a campaign led by Rob Reiner.

Executive director of the agency that pulled off one of the most brutal scams against taxpayers in modern California history in the winter of 2005-06, spending $18 million in taxpayer funds on a "preschool for all" TV ad campaign while Reiner was gathering signatures for his "preschool for all" initiative.

This scam was reviled by editorial pages up and down the state. It prompted a scathing state audit of First 5 as well as a lengthy criminal investigation by Sacramento County District Attorney Jan Scully, who ended up deciding not to file any charges.

This scandal should haunt Kris Perry the rest of her life. It always reminds me of Iran-Contra. Oliver North thought it was a "neat idea" to sell arms to Iran and then funnel the proceeds to the Contras in Nicaragua. Rob Reiner and Kris Perry thought it was a neat idea to use taxpayer funds for election purposes.

Yet Perry tried to pretend it was a coincidence. What a farce. At least Oliver North was honest about his scheme.

Here's hoping this detail about Kris Perry starts turning up in media accounts of the Prop. 8 legal fight.

She's not a model plaintiff in my book. She's a poster child for scandal, arrogance and contempt for taxpayers.

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