Behind the Briggs investigation

Behind the Briggs investigation

and Brooke Williams

In early June 2014, inewsource began an examination of Cory Briggs’ lawsuits, real estate transactions and ties to corporations and limited liability companies. inewsource built spreadsheets of Briggs’ lawsuits, his LLCs, nonprofit groups and other entities, as well as real estate transactions he, his family and and his law firm were involved with in Southern California.

inewsource reporters Brad Racino and Brooke Williams also were working on separate projects during this time. As a result, the Briggs investigation did not have their full attention until September, when both reporters could dedicate themselves to it.

After obtaining real estate records filed with county offices, it became apparent that Briggs was listed as “husband and wife” with Sarichia Cacciatore. A Google search produced her LinkedIn profile, which stated she worked for Helix Environmental Planning. (That profile now says “n/a” where it used to list her current and past employment.) Since Helix has contracts to do environmental work for government agencies, inewsource cross checked Briggs’ lawsuits with Helix’s government work.

Below is a brief timeline of the reporting on the story about Helix and Briggs Law Corp.:

On June 24, inewsource identified a government project for which Helix did environmental work and Briggs’ sued over environmental matters. That was the city’s master stormwater management plan. It would be the first of three projects inewsource identified posing a potential conflict of interest.

During the next several months, on an intermittent basis, inewsource reviewed Helix’s contracts and invoices submitted to the city of San Diego and the Port of San Diego. Each record reviewed was in response to a Public Records Act request or downloaded from the agency’s website.

On Oct. 30, inewsource discovered Cacciatore had a Briggs Law Corp. email address, which she had used to register her business and included in two online newsletters.

On Dec. 9, inewsource found the first Helix contract or invoice to list Cacciatore by name. It was an amendment to an as-needed contract between the port and Helix that stated Cacciatore was a “project manager.”

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inewsource only shared these findings with ethics experts in February 2015. Days before publication, the reporters began contacting officials at the city, the port and other government agencies to ask about the potential conflict of interest.

inewsource waited until the last business day before publication to call the San Diego City Attorney’s Office. On Feb. 20, inewsource spoke with City Attorney Jan Goldsmith and his spokesman for the first time since reporting began in June to ask about the potential conflict of interest and any impacts to the city. At the end of that phone interview, inewsource verbally requested city attorney records mentioning Helix.

On Feb. 23, inewsource sent an email amending its request to also include “communication or documents (emails, faxes, papers, memos, etc) involving or mentioning” Briggs, Helix or Cacciatore.

On Feb. 25, Gerry Braun, the city attorney’s spokesman, provided records in response to inewsource’s request: a letter to Helix, an invoice showing Cacciatore reported working on the city’s master stormwater management plan and contracts with Helix.

On Feb. 26, Braun provided two court records in response to the request. Both involved the city attorney’s attempts, in court, to unseal a document he believed was responsive to inewsource’s request.

On March 2, Marco Gonzalez, attorney for Cacciatore, sent inewsource an email and copy of the document that was sealed. Shortly after, Braun sent inewsource the city attorney’s declaration filed in Superior Court earlier that day.

The city attorney’s office has provided no additional records to inewsource as of March 2.


We'll let you know when big things happen.

About Brad Racino:

Brad Racino
Brad Racino is a senior investigative reporter and assistant director at inewsource. To contact him with tips, suggestions or corrections, please email bradracino [at] inewsource [dot] org. You can contact him securely on Signal (845-553-4170).