Newsletter: July 24, 2013

Less than 10 years ago, San Diego was under the microscope nationally for its financial debacle that prompted the New York Times to call it “Enron by the Sea.” San Diego is once again under scrutiny across the country with sexual harassment allegations against Mayor Bob Filner. Businessweek labeled the story “Scandals by the Sea.”

inewsource has been working closely with our partner KPBS — often round the clock — to advance this story with credible accounts and solid explanatory journalism. At the same time, we continue other government accountability investigations and push, on your behalf, for access and transparency.

It’s thanks to you that we are able to do this important work.

Remind your family and friends: Truth matters. Help us find it! Share this email.

— Lorie Hearn, Executive Director | loriehearn@inewsource.org

The Filner Files: He’s now been sued

The allegations of sexual harassment against Mayor Bob Filner became more specific and more high profile this past week, and inewsource worked hand in glove with KPBS on coverage. That reporting dominated the KPBS list of its most popular stories as well as many local political conversations. Our Brad Racino talked to the experts and took our audiences behind the scenes of managing political crises.

Monday, Filner’s former communications director, Irene McCormack Jackson, stepped forward to sue him on charges of sexual harassment, with Gloria Allred as her attorney. That development elevated the story on the national stage, with reporting by traditional media, new media and entertainment media, including The New York Times, an Associated Press article and these Huffington Post accounts here and here. The story also provided fodder for comedian Stephen Colbert, one of the first to make a sarcastic joke of the whole situation on national television in his July 18 show.

Filner, who had previously apologized and acknowledged he had a problem, said after Allred’s press conference that he doesn’t believe the claims are valid.

More Mello-Roos auditing ahead?

Our Mello-Roos reporting by Joanne Faryon and Kelly Paice hit the latest KPBS most-popular-stories list with an account of another homeowner using our interactive map to discover he’d been overcharged. He’s been ponying up extra fees for Poway schools; the previous errors were for a city Mello-Roos district in the neighborhood of Del Sur, where inewsource turned up more than two dozen discrepancies in Mello-Roos fees because of differences in the reported square footage of homes.

Council member Mark Kersey has already called for an independent audit of Mello-Roos fees in Del Sur. Watch our website to see if he requests the same rechecking of Mello-Roos fees for Poway schools.

Keeping or purging records

We lost a round in the battle for open government when the North County Transit District board changed its policy on emails, allowing staff members to decide which could be deleted after 60 days instead of two years. But it was exhilarating to see how strongly you support our efforts on behalf of government transparency. In all, 125 people signed the petition asking the transit district to change the policy.

This advocacy effort on behalf of transparency was a first for us, but it probably won’t be the last. We’re committed both to producing impartial, nonpolitical journalism and also to keeping government open and accountable.

It’s an important fight because emails often document official public business, making them key elements of our research, as they’ve been in reporting on the transit district. The California Public Records Act in Section 6252(g) specifically defines emails as public records.

Our efforts to fight the transit district’s proposed new email policy drew attention beyond San Diego. The National Freedom of Information Coalition cited our investigations that have benefited from access to emails. Transit consultant Susan Bregman’s online publication about the transit industry, The Transit Wire, mentioned that the policy change came amid inewsource’s investigations and quoted from our story by Brad Racino describing how we’d used public records to document “a precipitous decline in service, safety, management and reputation.”

Truth matters. Help us find it.

Give today.

shadow-ornament

We'll let you know when big things happen.

About Lorie Hearn:

Lorie Hearn is the founder and executive director of inewsource.