Morning Report: S.D. Unified’s Murky Probe Into Corrupt Official

By Randy Dotinga

Photo by Jamie Scott Lytle

Chargers cozy up to L.A. Rams, why the vote count goes on and on, the fired school chiefs who top the pay list, inside a fancy new hospital and a port commissioner brings “introvert eunuchs” into the public conversation.

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Marne Foster, the former president of the San Diego Unified school board, hasn’t been heard from since she resigned as part of a plea deal earlier this year. She left after wrongdoing exposed by Voice of San Diego led to a criminal investigation and her guilty plea to accepting illegal gifts as a public official.

But while Foster is gone, the mess she created lingers. As we’ve discovered, the school board broke a series of public promises regarding its investigation of Foster. And the probe cost taxpayers more than the public ever knew for reasons that remain murky months later.

As our Mario Koran reports, the school board violated the terms of its own investigation into Foster: The investigation would cost no more than $40,000; in fact, it ended up running $228,000. A full report would be provided within 30 days; in fact, it’s never been made public. And the district would bar whichever law firm it hired to conduct the investigation from doing business with the district and for an “extended period of time” to ensure the integrity of the probe; in fact, the district staff promptly tried to rehire the firm.

Why did an investigation that wasn’t supposed to cost more than $40,000 end up several times that much? There’s another issue too, as Koran reports: “There was no formal approval of the work until a month after Foster resigned from office and well after the investigation was complete.”

Ramming Through a Chargers Move

A head honcho at the Los Angeles Rams football team says it’s talking to the Chargers about moving the Bolts to L.A. “There are no hurdles to any deal,” the team’s chief operating officer tells NFL Network. “The relationship between the two owners is in a good place and, I believe the Chargers feel welcomed. Nothing stands in their way of moving if that is what they want to do. I would also say we have no insight on what their decision will be. It’s only that we have worked hard to make sure their L.A. option is a good one.”

As the NFL Network notes, “the deadline for a decision to relocate to L.A. must come by Jan. 15 — the Oakland Raiders would then have that option should the Chargers decline.”

Keep in mind that the NFL Network is owned by the league, which may explain this rosy explainer at the end of its story: “The NFL hopes the Chargers can remain in San Diego. If the team does move, they’ll have a welcoming partner in the Rams waiting in Los Angeles.”

Why the Vote Count Is Taking Forever

Why is it taking forever (and ever and ever) to count all the votes in California when many other states appear to be done? As in the past, we’re getting daily updates about close races and about how California’s ballots are boosting one presidential candidate’s national popular vote lead over the other.

The L.A. Times explains: The state “has more election laws designed to maximize a voter’s chances of casting a ballot.” That means there are more ballots that need to be checked out to make sure they’re legitimate. In contrast, “In some states, you still need a good reason to not show up in person on election day.”

Then there are the ballots that can show up, thanks to slow mail service, as many as three days after they’re postmarked Election Day.

There’s even more leeway: “If someone shows up at the wrong polling place, and thus votes on some races in which they’re not eligible, election officials will ‘remake’ that ballot to remove the ineligible choices and count the others.” Some states would throw out those ballots entirely.

According to the latest vote count posted Sunday afternoon, Encinitas Mayor Kristin Gaspar (Rep.) has pulled even further ahead of incumbent Dave Roberts in the race for a seat representing a coastal chunk of North County on the County Board of Supervisors: She has 99,579 votes, and he has 99,283.

Fired Poway Supe Was Tops in Pay Again

The U-T finds that John Collins, the fired superintendent of Poway Unified schools, was the highest-paid K-12 school employee in the county in 2015, and the second highest-paid district superintendent in the entire state.

According to Transparent California, Collins made $448,860 in 2005, including various extra like benefits. That apparently doesn’t include the “more than $345,000 in unauthorized vacation payouts, off-the-books vacation days, unearned pay raises and excess longevity pay” that the district accuses him of taking. It wants the money back.

The Poway school board fired Collins in July.

As the U-T notes, the second-highest paid superintendent in the county for 2015 was Randy Ward, the county superintendent of schools, who “also left office after alleged compensation abuses.”

VOSD’s Ashly McGlone broke the stories of both Collins’ and Ward’s exits and the accusations against them.

Quick News Hits: The Cruelest Cut

The L.A. Times examines how the president-elect could dramatically reform how public schools operate. Among other things, he could cut federal education funding, kill protections for students like undocumented immigrants and transgender people and cut investigations into school districts.

UCSD’s new luxurious Jacobs Medical Center in La Jolla “reflects an ambitious and expensive push to make hospitals more hospitable,” the U-T reports. It also notes that “counting Jacobs, five new or dramatically upgraded hospitals have opened since 2009, adding a total of 1,281 beds at a cost of about $3 billion.”

The U-T reports that “Port Commissioner Bob Nelson previously worked for one of the main developers of a $1.2 billion renovation at Seaport Village.” The ever-quotable Nelson says there’s no conflict of interest.

“I don’t have a problem voting against the interests of someone who is a friend or someone with whom I’ve had some past business relationship,” he tells the paper. “If I did, the only people that could serve in public office would be introvert eunuchs.”

Introverted eunuchs, eh? As if our drama-prone public officials aren’t operatic enough.

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