A point-by-point response to the newest Briggs-related retraction demand

Notice and Demand for Correction and Retraction

Dear President Hirshman, KPBS, and KPBS’s Broadcasters and Publishers:

I, Sarichia Cacciatore, am writing to give you notice of my demand, and to make that demand, for correction and retraction of false, inaccurate, and/or misleading reporting that I first learned about from the KPBS Round Table on February 27, 2015.

During the Round Table, the following question was asked by Tom Fudge about me and Cory Briggs: “So so, Brad, what, what does this mean? I mean, the fact that she’s working for the city on these projects that he’s suing over, what’s wrong with that?” Brad Racino answered the question this way: “Well, it’s a huge conflict of interest. If you are either, if you are playing both sides, that usually needs to be disclosed in a contract, say, with between the port or the city and HELIX, or between her and her employer, and from what we can find from the contracts there, this was never disclosed. There’s potential for a lot of inside information to be passed along with these, to enact these lawsuits. So according to all the experts we interviewed, this is a huge problem.” Mr. Fudge immediately followed up with this statement: “Okay, well it definitely got the attention of the city attorney.”

Shortly thereafter Alison St. John asked this question: “I guess I was just wondering whether in fact the onus was on Cory Briggs’s wife then to disclose it, or, or was the onus on him to disclose it? Mr. Racino responded: “According to the experts, it’s, it’s on both of them. If you’re a lawyer that’s entered, that’s suing-there was a case that these lawyers cited, I think it was RICO, now I can’t remember, where it established that if you have inside information, you have to disclose that in a lawsuit, you have to tell the other side I have access to this information. Not again, on the record, not saying that he has inside information, just pointing the facts out there in terms of what we know.” Ms. St. John then stated: “And he says they did do what was necessary to avoid a conflict of interest but that’s not enough in this situation.” Mr. Racino responded: “Well, his open letter came out about an hour before we had the proof that she worked directly on these projects he sued, but he said in his letter, I believe, that they took all precautions to, yeah, avoid these conflicts and there’s nothing unusual about this arrangement.”

I want a retraction and correction of each of the following assertions, suggestions, intimations, and other statements and conclusions that a reasonable person might draw: (1) I was working on multiple projects that Mr. Briggs was suing over. (2) There was some kind of conflict of interest that arose from my employment at HELIX or from the lawsuits that Mr. Briggs has filed. (3) I was playing both sides, or Mr. Briggs and I were playing both sides, in connection with any development project. (4) No part of my relationship with Mr. Briggs was ever disclosed to HELIX. (5) Inside information of some kind was passed along by me to Mr. Briggs. (6) I would ever pass on, or would even consider passing on, inside information to Mr. Briggs. (7) Any of this is a huge problem. (8) There is any onus, obligation, or other burden on me to make any kind of disclosure that I did not in fact make. (9) There has been any kind of RICO (the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) violation in connection with me. (10) KPBS, Inewsource, Mr. Racino, or anyone else has proof that I worked directly on multiple projects that Mr. Briggs has sued over.

Sincerely,

Sarichia Cacciatore

shadow-ornament

Re: Notice and Demand for Correction and Retraction

Dear Ms. Cacciatore:

Thank you for your Notice and Demand for Correction and Retraction (Demand) dated March 19, 2015. Based on statements you identified in your Demand, which we respond to below, you ask for:

“retraction and correction of each of the following assertions, suggestions, intimations, and other statements and conclusions that a reasonable person might draw: (1) I was working on multiple projects that Mr. Briggs was suing over. (2) There was some kind of conflict of interest that arose from my employment at HELIX or from the lawsuits that Mr. Briggs has filed. (3) I was playing both sides, or Mr. Briggs and I were playing both sides, in connection with any development project. (4) No part of my relationship with Mr. Briggs was ever disclosed to HELIX. (5) Inside information of some kind was passed along by me to Mr. Briggs. (6) I would ever pass on, or would even consider passing on, inside information to Mr. Briggs. (7) Any of this is a huge problem. (8) There is any onus, obligation, or other burden on me to make any kind of disclosure that I did not in fact make. (9) There has been any kind of RICO (the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) violation in connection with me. (10) KPBS, Inewsource, Mr. Racino or anyone else has proof that I worked direct on multiple projects that Mr. Briggs has sued over.”

Please be advised that neither inewsource nor KPBS published the “assertions” you set forth above. We therefore address the statements identified in your letter that were published by inewsource and KPBS.

You first take issue with inewsource’s statements about your consulting work for the City of San Diego as a Helix employee while you were also the Vice President of Briggs Law Corporation, as follows:

Mr. Racino: “Well, it’s a huge conflict of interest. If you are either, if you are playing both sides, that usually needs to be disclosed in a contract, say, with between the port or the city and HELIX, or between her and her employer, and from what we can find from the contracts there, this was never disclosed. There’s a potential for a lot of inside information to be passed along with these, to enact these lawsuits. So according to all the experts we interviewed, this is a huge problem.”

Mr. Fudge: “Okay, well it definitely got the attention of the city attorney.”

inewsource’s reporting for these statements relied in part on official and judicial sources, as well as HELIX’s public statements and documents, as follows:

Your deposition testimony, taken under penalty of perjury on December 1, 2014, in San Diegans For Open Government v. City of San Diego et. al., Case No. 37-2012-00088065, which states in pertinent part at page 27, lines 2-7:

Q. Cory mentioned that you were an officer of the Briggs Law Corporation. How long have you been an officer of Briggs Law Corporation?

A. I don’t know. Twenty years.

Q. What – what office do you hold?

A. Vice president.

Accordingly to this testimony, as of your deposition in December 2014, you were acting as Vice President of Briggs Law Corporation and had been since sometime in 1994. You further testified at page 87, lines 3-5:

Q. Ms. Cacciatore, when did you quit working for Helix?

A. 2011.

Pursuant to Helix’s Agreement for As-Needed Environmental Professional Services on file with the City of San Diego, in order to get the City contracts Helix, for example, had to agree to the following provision:

4.10 Conflict of Interest. The Consultant is subject to all federal, state and local conflict of interest laws, regulations, and policies applicable to public contracts and procurement practices, including but not limited to California Government Code sections 1090, et seq. and 81000, et seq., and the City of San Diego Ethics Ordinance, codified in the San Diego Municipal Code at sections 27.3501 to 27.3595.

Furthermore, on February 25, 2015, the City Attorney in a letter to Helix’s CEO reaffirmed that Helix is subject to “all federal, state and local conflict of interest laws, regulations and policies applicable to public contracts and procurement practices, ….” and stated as follows:

“We have received information to the effect that Sarichia Cacciatore, an employee or former employee of Helix, was a long-time Vice President of Briggs Law Corporation, a law firm that has sued the City over 50 times, and has had a long-standing personal and financial relationship with Cory Briggs, the principal in that law firm. We believe some of those lawsuits concern projects involving Helix, including one such project on which Ms. Cacciatore was identified as a project manager.

We are not aware of any disclosure to the City of Ms. Cacciatore’s relationship with the Briggs Law Corporation or Cory Briggs.

Please accept this as a request that you provide the City with a full disclosure in writing by Wednesday, March 4, 2015, of the following …

1.         The time period during which Ms. Cacciatore was employed by Helix and her titles and job descriptions.

2. All disclosures of Ms. Cacciatore’s relationship with the Briggs Law Corporation or Cory Briggs ….

3. Efforts, if any, to wall off Ms. Cacciatore from City projects ….

4. A listing of City projects on which Ms. Cacciatore worked and an explanation of what she did, who she worked under and who she supervised, including outside contractors. ….

5. Please provide all communications, whether by email or otherwise, which mention Cory Briggs or Briggs Law Corporation.

In response to the City Attorney’s requests, Helix’s CEO confirmed that you worked at Helix from February 3, 2003, through July 14, 2011, that Helix was not aware that you had “any professional relationship with Briggs Law Corporation or was otherwise involved in Mr. Brigg’s legal practice while she was employed at HELIX[,]” and that, despite that your “terms of employment at HELIX required that [you] disclose this type of relationship … [you] never made such a disclosure. To the contrary, [you] verbally assured HELIX’s senior management that [you] were not involved in Mr. Briggs legal practice; Mr. Briggs was still making the claim that [you] have has not been involved in Briggs Law Corporation publicly as recently as his February 25, 2015, ‘Open Letter.’ HELIX only became aware of your position as a vice president at Briggs Law Corporation on March 2, 2015.”

HELIX’s CEO further wrote that its senior management “was not aware of Briggs Law Corporation filing legal challenges to documents prepared by HELIX for the City of San Diego” until after your July 2011 departure. HELIX indicated it was continuing to gather information on city projects that you worked on and acknowledged its records showed you worked on City contracts for Helix for a total of 91.75 hours over a period of years.

HELIX also provided an excerpt from its 2003 HELIX Employee Handbook regarding “Conflicts Of Interest,” stating in pertinent part, “Each employee must avoid any agreement, business investment or interest or other activity that could be in conflict with [Helix’s] interests or that could interfere with the employee’s duty and ability to best serve [Helix} or which interferes with another employee’s relationship with [Helix].”

Accordingly, these official and judicial sources, as well as Helix’s statements and documents, show you had conflict of interest disclosure requirements, as did Helix, with respect to City and other government contracts. The City Attorney’s requests to Helix about your employment and work on City projects also show the facts got the “attention” of the City Attorney.

In your Demand, you next take issue with these statements:

Q. [Alison St. John] “I guess I was just wondering whether in fact the onus was on Cory Briggs’s wife then to disclose it, or, or was the onus on him to disclose it?"

A. [Brad Racino]: According to the experts, it’s, it’s on both of them. If you’re a lawyer that’s entered, that’s suing – there was a case that these lawyers cited, I think it was Rico, now I can’t remember, where it established that if you have inside information, you have to disclose that in a lawsuit, you have to tell the other side I have access to this information. Not again, on the record, and not saying that he has inside information, just pointing the facts out there in terms of what we know.”

Q. [St. John]: And he says they did do what was necessary to avoid a conflict of interest, but that’s not enough in this situation?

A. [Racino]: Well, his Open Letter came out about an hour before we had the proof that she worked directly on these projects he sued, but he said in his letter, I believe, that they took all precautions to, yeah, avoid these conflicts and there’s nothing unusual about this arrangement.”

Again, as to your obligations to disclose any “conflict of interest” as part of your employment with Helix, inewsource relied in part on the official and judicial sources, as well as HELIX’s public statements and documents, outlined above.

As to “projects” you worked on for Helix and the City, that became subject to litigation by Briggs Law Corporation, you were identified as a project manager on the city of San Diego’s master storm water maintenance program environmental impact report – according to HELIX invoices provided to the city. Mr. Briggs sued the city over that environmental impact report, and on Tuesday, April 7, the city signed a settlement with HELIX for $143,382 to reimburse its payment of attorney’s fees related to that lawsuit.

In a second case, you are listed as a “biologist” on the Final EIR for the Otay-Tijuana Cross Border Facility Development Project (SCH #2010121014). In January 2012, Mr. Briggs sued the city and the limited liability company acting as developer over that project as well, citing the Final EIR in San Diego Superior Court case 37-2012-00091341, “CREED-21; SAN DIEGANS FOR OPEN GOVERNMENT; and CITIZENS FOR RESPONSIBLE EQUITABLE ENVIRONMENTAL DEVELOPMENT V. CITY OF SAN DIEGO, OTAY-TIJUANA VENTURE LLC.”  Pursuant to the City Attorney’s request, Helix is still gathering information about other projects you worked on.

Finally, neither inewsource nor KPBS accused you of any RICO (the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) violation. Rather, Mr. Racino stated:

If you’re a lawyer that is suing, there was this case that these lawyers cited, I think it was Rico v. oh, I can’t remember. Where it established that if you have inside information you have to disclose that in a lawsuit. You have to tell the other side I have access to this information.

The case Mr. Racino referenced is California’s Supreme Court’s decision in ZERLENE RICO et al. v. MITSUBISHI MOTORS CORPORATION et al., 42 Cal. 4th 807 (2007). A copy of the case is attached to this letter.

Based on the present state of facts known to inewsource, as shown by these official government records and judicial testimony, as well as Helix’s statements and documents, we are unaware of any false fact stated in the news story to retract or correct.

Very truly yours,

Guylyn R. Cummins

for SHEPPARD, MULLIN RICHTER & HAMPTON llp

shadow-ornament

We'll let you know when big things happen.

About Brad Racino:

Brad Racino is a senior reporter and assistant director at inewsource. To contact him with tips, suggestions or corrections, please email bradracino at inewsource dot org.
 
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