San Diego environmental attorney Cory Briggs argues a case in front of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on Feb. 5, 2015.

[one_half]”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/207673416″[/one_half]

[one_half_last][box type=”shadow”]
Read this story completely backed up by primary documents by clicking here.

[/box][/one_half_last]

San Diego environmental attorney Cory Briggs, dressed in a suit and tie, stood before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in February to argue against one of the most potentially transformative and divisive development projects in the city’s history — a proposed 12-acre property along the downtown waterfront.

But just as Briggs began his opening remarks, Judge Harry Pregerson interrupted, asking him for details about his client, the Navy Broadway Complex Coalition.

“Who do you represent?” he asked Briggs.

“The appellant, the San Diego Navy Broadway Complex Coalition,” Briggs replied.

“And can you name any people?”

“No,” Briggs said. “It’s a nonprofit 501 C three or four — I don’t remember which one — association with a bunch of members who live in the city of San Diego.”

In some ways, the lawyer’s confusion was understandable.

Briggs and his law firm have sued on behalf of more than 30 charitable nonprofits, almost all of which he and his family helped create.  An inewsource review of public records found state and federal governments have suspended more than half of the groups, including the Navy Broadway Complex Coalition (which was later reinstated), for failing to file legally required documents showing finances, mission statements and board structures.

Nearly every nonprofit lists public “education” as its primary mission, yet most have no presence outside of court. One of the charities appears to do nothing other than take money from donors, including a developer, while others exist only on paper. According to the most recent filings, at least a dozen of the nonprofits have illegal board structures.

[box type=”shadow”]To see a comprehensive spreadsheet of the entire network of nonprofits, including each group’s name, status, officers, legal standing and more, click here.[/box]

One nonprofit governed by Briggs’ significant other and his cousin showed nearly a quarter million dollar loss with no explanation of where the money went.

Kristin Ford, spokeswoman for the California Attorney General’s Office, which regulates nonprofits in the state, wouldn’t comment on any specific nonprofit. But she said the “registration and reporting requirement is a critical element in the Department of Justice’s efforts, through enforcement actions brought by attorneys in the Charitable Trusts Section, to protect the public against both improper diversion of charitable assets and misleading and fraudulent charitable solicitations.”

Network of nonprofits

Briggs is a big name in San Diego: He and his firm are often found in the middle of the city’s biggest legal battles involving land, government accountability and the environment, and for several months, inewsource has published a series of stories about him and the ethical and legal questions surrounding his business practices.

Most of the stories revolved around money: Briggs’ environmental lawsuits against the city of San Diego and the resulting settlements, now tainted by conflict-of-interest allegations; as well as his law firm’s multimillion-dollar home loans experts called questionable and possibly fraudulent.

This latest inewsource examination also shows Briggs has collected attorney fees and settlements on behalf of a network of charitable, nonprofit organizations he helped form that, in many cases, repeatedly and persistently violated state and federal laws.

All but two of the nonprofits have shared the same mailing addresses — that of the Briggs Law Corp. in San Diego or Upland. One also listed a P.O. Box in Ocean Beach.

According to the most recent filings, Briggs’ cousin, Karin Langwasser, and his significant other, Sarichia Cacciatore, are on the boards of at least 10 Briggs-associated nonprofits, which are either 501c3 or 501c4 public charities.

[one_half][box type=”shadow”]Briggs-associated nonprofit: A nonprofit that lists its physical address as Briggs Law Corp. in state filings and/or Briggs, his significant other or his cousin sit on the board of directors.[/box][/one_half]

Thirty of the Briggs-associated nonprofits mention “education” or “educating the public” as part of their primary mission — 19 use exactly the same mission statement: “The specific purpose for which this corporation is organized is the promotion of social welfare through advocacy for and education regarding responsible and equitable environmental development.” Another’s is only slightly different.

In the past decade, the state attorney general has sent nearly 100 notices to the nonprofits to register or be revoked.

Nonprofit experts interviewed said Briggs’ network of charities suffers “a serious case of noncompliance.” A forensic accountant said several of the filings were “egregiously wrong.”

Judges, attorneys and municipal officials have long questioned Briggs’ motivations in using the tax-exempt organizations to collect substantial attorney fees during the past decade.

A law firm can’t seek damages on its own. It needs a client who has actually been damaged.

The San Diego City Attorney’s Office is currently trying to persuade a judge in Superior Court that one of Briggs’ most litigious nonprofits, San Diegans for Open Government, is a “mere alter ego” of its counsel.

[one_half][box type=”shadow”]San Diegans for Open Government filed a suit against the city of San Diego in 2013 challenging its approval of business improvement district assessments. In a motion filed in March, the city laid out a series of points arguing that the Briggs Law Corporation uses the nonprofit “to litigate for profit.” It backed up the claims with more than 1,200 pages in a three-volume compendium filed with the San Diego Superior Court.[/box][/one_half]

Briggs did not respond to an emailed interview request on May 15, which included details about the main elements of this story. On May 9, Briggs emailed inewsource’s lawyer requesting a “discontinuance of contact” with inewsource reporters due to the “ethical impropriety of such communications.” inewsource’s lawyer responded on May 14 saying “neither I nor my client inewsource consider inewsource’s requests for you to comment for news stories to be in violation of any law or ethical prohibition.”

Briggs, Cacciatore, Langwasser, and Briggs’ associates, who taken together account for the bulk of most of the organizations’ boards of directors, did not answer requests for interviews.

San Diegans for Open Government

One of Briggs’ most frequent clients, which has filed more than two dozen suits against the city of San Diego, is San Diegans for Open Government — a nonprofit formed in 2008 to “promote social welfare” regarding “responsible and equitable environmental development.” Its high-profile cases have fought hotel and business improvement district taxes and demanded access to public records such as government officials’ emails.

Although it formed in 2008, San Diegans for Open Government did not provide the state attorney general’s charities division with five years’ worth of state or federal filings until April 2014, after the division threatened to revoke the group’s tax-exempt status.

Its officers have stated under oath that Briggs Law Corp. oversees and pays for nearly every aspect of the group’s operation:

According to depositions and other court filings, Briggs and his firm hold and maintain all the group’s corporate records; file and pay for its lawsuits, its annual registration fees and filings with the state and federal governments; control its Facebook and Twitter accounts; and collect all settlements and judgments when the group prevails in court.

[one_half][box type=”shadow”]San Diegans for Open Government sued inewsource after it published 10 stories about Briggs. San Diego State University (where inewsource is located) and other university-related entities also are defendants in the case, which alleges conflict-of-interest violations and problems with inewsource’s lease terms at the school. For the first time in the history of San Diegans for Open Government, court records show, it is not being represented by Briggs, but rather an Orange County environmental lawyer who has sued with Briggs before. As of publication, inewsource had not been served with the lawsuit.[/box][/one_half]

San Diegans for Open Government doesn’t have a penny to its name — nor has it recorded any revenue or expenses with the federal or state agencies, according to government records.

Ofer Lion, a partner at Seyfarth Shaw in Los Angeles and member of the American Bar Association’s Exempt Organizations Committee, looked over the group’s state and federal filings, as did Reynolds Cafferata, a nonprofit lawyer and partner at Rodriguez, Horii, Choi & Cafferata in Los Angeles. Both are recognized experts in the field of nonprofit law.

Lion and Cafferata both found the organization’s lack of transparency and failure to file legally required documents problematic. Lion said the group’s failure to report any income since its formation despite being awarded hundreds of thousands of dollars — if not more — in court settlements over the years, is “really a disclosure and transparency problem at heart.”

inewsource asked the state Attorney General’s Office if it was looking into the matter, and a spokeswoman responded that the office “can’t confirm or deny our investigations in order to protect the integrity of those investigations.”

The group’s mission

San Diegans for Open Government started out nearly seven years ago as the All People’s Breakfast Organizing Committee, with the late activist and environmentalist Ian Trowbridge at one point serving as its CEO, secretary and treasurer.

Under state law governing charities, it’s illegal in California for one person to serve as a nonprofit’s CEO/president while also serving as its secretary or treasurer in order to discourage the public benefit corporation from being used for personal gain. At least 12 Briggs-associated nonprofits show an illegal board structure in their most current filings, including one in which Briggs held both positions and another in which his cousin did.

The All People’s Breakfast Organizing Committee, which shares the exact same mission statement as 19 other Briggs-associated nonprofits, changed its name to San Diegans for Open Government in 2009.

That year, the group challenged the city’s use of an emergency exemption from the California Environmental Quality Act for maintenance work in the Tijuana River Valley. In the years since, the nonprofit has filed dozens of lawsuits, many against the city.

Briggs Law Corp. has represented the nonprofit in every court case it has filed with the exception of a suit against inewsource, filed less than two months after its series on Briggs began.

[one_half][box type=”shadow”]inewsource’s examination of Briggs’ nonprofits began in October 2014 and used publicly-available information from corporate filings with the Internal Revenue Service, California Attorney General’s Office, California Secretary of State’s Office and the state Franchise Tax Board, as well as land records, lawsuits, depositions, social media accounts and blogs.[/box][/one_half]

After Trowbridge died in 2013, Briggs’ associates and family were appointed to the board of San Diegans for Open Government. The group’s policy states it will “maintain the privacy of its members and personnel to the maximum extent permitted by law,” and Briggs has vigorously defended that privacy in court.

Its board members include: Langwasser, Briggs’ cousin, who has been on the board of at least eight other Briggs-associated nonprofits; Richard Lawrence, a retired pastor, civil-rights advocate and friend of Briggs who has been on the board of at least ten other Briggs-associated nonprofits; and Pedro Quiroz Jr.

Theresa Quiroz is an officer of three Briggs-associated entities and sat on San Diego’s 2010 Redistricting Commission.

Sarichia Cacciatore, Briggs’ partner and a former environmental biologist who serves on three  Briggs-associated nonprofit boards, was listed as a member of San Diegans for Open Government in a 2012 lawsuit against the city. Briggs said Cacciatore was included in the lawsuit “by mistake.”

Nevertheless, a signed two-page declaration with details about her standing as an apartment owner was included in the group’s court filings. Seven months later, in a related deposition, Cacciatore said she knew nothing about the organization’s mission.

Other members who have appeared in court filings over the years include Linda Perine, director of community outreach under former San Diego Mayor Bob Filner; Dell Cunamay, Trowbridge’s partner before he passed away; Diane Faulds, a bookkeeper and tax preparer; and Mat Wahlstrom, a general manager of an electrical company in Hillcrest.

The primary purpose of San Diegans for Open Government, according to its filings with the California Attorney General’s Office, is to promote social welfare through advocacy and education. But its most prominent public function has occurred as a client of Briggs in cases pushing for open government and compliance with municipal and environmental laws. The group hosted an “open government bootcamp” in Chula Vista in March.

As a charitable organization, San Diegans for Open Government is required under federal law to adhere to the mission it proposed to the IRS to obtain tax-exempt status.

When asked during a deposition how the group educates the public, Quiroz, the CEO, answered, “Well, it’s what is put on the — I kept saying — Facebook. What I’m trying to say is the Internet, articles, accomplishments, links, that type of thing.”

San Diegans for Open Government’s officers meet regularly, Lawrence, its secretary, said in a deposition, but despite the group’s bylaws requiring it, they keep no record of meeting minutes — one of the “Top 9 Ways to Get Investigated” according to the California Attorney General’s Office — nor annual reports. The treasurer, Langwasser, said she had never attended a board meeting.

“Over the years,” Langwasser said during a deposition, “I haven’t been asked to do anything.”

Who filed the tax returns?

“Cory’s office,” she said.

However, her signature appears at least 10 times on documents the group has filed with state agencies.  On at least one occasion, the city of San Diego has written a check to Briggs Law Corp. Trust Account “FBO [for the benefit of] Karin Langwasser” for Briggs’ attorney fees.

The Money

San Diegans for Open Government has no checking or savings account because it wants “to operate as simply and cleanly as possible,” said its secretary, Richard Lawrence, during a court deposition.

In an open letter posted on the nonprofit’s blog on June 12, 2014, Lawrence and Quiroz explained the group has,

“…never accepted money in case settlements or in judgments we have won. The media and losers of those cases claim that Mr. Briggs has made himself rich from our cases. But what really happens is simple. When we lose a case, Mr. Briggs does not get reimbursed for his time or expenses. He is willing to risk substantial loss to fight the well-funded groups he takes on for us. When we win a case … Mr. Briggs is reimbursed for appropriate legal fees.”

Cafferata, the nonprofit lawyer, told inewsource, “That really isn’t how it works.”

Here is how he said it is supposed to work: When a lawyer takes a case on a contingency basis — as the arrangement between Briggs and San Diegans for Open Government appears to be — he usually requires no money up front in the hope that if he wins, he’ll get a percentage of the settlement or reimbursement of attorney fees. Typically, according to Cafferata and Lion, that percentage can be as high as 40 percent. The plaintiff would keep the other 60 percent. Judges typically take issue with a lawyer keeping more than 50 percent, Lion said.

A case against San Diego developer Sunroad Enterprises, in which Briggs represented San Diegans for Open Government and another nonprofit, CREED-21, which counts Langwasser and Lawrence as officers, resulted in a $135,000 “settlement of all claims.” Court records show the check was to be made payable to Briggs Law Corp. Trust Account, which lawyers typically use to hold money for clients, but neither group has reported revenue to the state Attorney General’s Office.

Since 2011, records show, the Briggs trust account has recovered nearly $250,000 from the city alone through lawsuits filed on behalf of San Diegans for Open Government.

But settlements involving private companies sometimes are kept secret, meaning it’s sometimes impossible to know how much money he and his network of nonprofits might have been awarded in lawsuits against developers. The nonprofits Briggs has represented in those cases do not list assets or revenue in their state filings.

Because no money is being reported — “and it really should be,” Lion said — these nonprofits wouldn’t be targeted for an automatic government audit.

“There’s nothing really for the IRS to latch onto,” he said.

Southwest Center on Renewable Energy

Another nonprofit associated with Briggs is a 501c3 called the Southwest Center on Renewable Energy, or SCORE. It appears to exist only on paper, despite reportedly raising more than $855,000 in contributions and grants since its inception and spending more than $450,500 on “research,” “advocacy” and “organizing.”

After an extensive online search, inewsource found the name of the group only in one place — its government filings.

SCORE’s governing board is comprised of Briggs’ partner, Cacciatore, his cousin, Langwasser, and his associate, Bill Powers, a prominent environmentalist and advocate for solar energy. It was incorporated in 2008 and Briggs is listed in federal filings as the person in charge of its books. Like 33 other Briggs-associated nonprofits, SCORE shares an address with Briggs Law Corp.

According to its filings with the IRS, SCORE was formed “to provide public education regarding the availability and feasibility of renewable energy resources in place of traditional, carbon-based energy resources,” and had big plans for the future:

The group’s IRS application said it would provide educational materials and training sessions. Its directors would work “approximately 50 hours per month.” It would hire an executive director earning a $100,000 salary and solicit funding “primarily through grants from government agencies” and private sources.

According to its application for tax exemption dated May 2009, SCORE received a $250,000 donation “from a developer to promote more renewable energy in land-use proposals.” The developer was not identified (nonprofits generally are not required to disclose donors). The next year, the group reported spending $20,000 on “consulting fees.” However, the zero-dollar balance at the end of that year gave no explanation as to where the remaining $230,000 went, as required by federal law.

After several warnings, the state Attorney General’s Office suspended SCORE in 2014 for failing to file disclosures, and the group’s status remains “delinquent,” according to the attorney general’s website.

The group did file 2013 and 2014 returns showing it received $605,171 in contributions during those two years, and spent $184,490 on “research” and $266,011 on “advocacy and organizing.”

Langwasser, a certified public accountant, serves as SCORE’s chief financial officer.

Paul Scott, a forensic certified public accountant and co-founder of Full Spectrum Consulting in Carlsbad, examined the group’s filings with the IRS. He called them “egregiously wrong.”

“That’s an invasion on the entire profession when I see CPAs doing this kind of work,” Scott said. “Clearly they’re out of integrity.”

SCORE’s chief executive officer, Bill Powers, did not respond to multiple phone messages. Neither Cacciatore nor Langwasser responded to requests for interviews.

To see a comprehensive spreadsheet of the entire network of nonprofits, including each group’s status, officers and more, click here.

Brad Racino is the assistant editor and senior investigative reporter at inewsource. He's a big fan of transparency, whistleblowers and government agencies forgetting to redact key information from FOIA requests. Brad received his master’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri...

Brooke Williams

Williams is a veteran award-winning investigative reporter who specializes in data-driven journalism. She is currently a contributor to The New York Times, and her work has appeared in the Center for Public Integrity, inewsource, the San Diego Union-Tribune, KPBS, ABC World News and the New Republic.

34 replies on “Briggs-associated nonprofits flout state, federal laws”

  1. This looks like all the other half baked articles attacking people
    fighting for the little guy against corrupt politicians and special
    interests. For instance you say the Southwest organization is listed as
    delinquent by the Attorney General. Did the reporters go to the Attorney
    General’s website? http://rct.doj.ca.gov/Verification/Web/Search.aspx?facility=Y

    You can see the delinquency notices to the organization, but you can also
    click on links to see the delinquent items were turned in over a year
    ago. Did the reporters again cherry pick a few negative “facts” and then
    stop looking because they got enough to write another hit piece on
    these people? The real story sounds like another slow government office
    that hasn’t updated its website, which wouldnot be anything new.

    The reporters say there was a zero dollar balance at the end of 2010 tax
    year, but the return linked in your article shows the $232,954 as the
    “Net asset or fund balances at end of year” on line 21. Did you ask the
    IRS if it did an audit or thought it was a typo on line 27 since the
    same number is on line 21? It looks like your reporters chose to
    highlight it because it fits the negative story they want to tell? But
    you can’t really say the money disappeared when it is listed immediately
    above what you highlighted. Is this sloppy reporting or yellow journalism?

  2. You
    also reported that Briggs said he couldn’t name any people, which he said
    starting around the 1:07 mark in the court’s video. Your “evidence” is
    again cherry picked. Did your “reporters” listen to the rest of what he
    said not even 90 seconds later? Starting at the 2:22 mark he asked if
    the judges wanted him to name the two people on his client’s executive
    committee who direct him, and the judges said no because they had
    declarations from those people already. Based on the entire conversation
    its obvious he meant he could not name people because his client is not
    a human but is a nonprofit corporation and he was willing to give names
    of the people who run the nonprofit if the judges want to know, which
    they didn’t.

    What you wrote at the beginning of the article is
    misleading, and what you wrote at the end is wrong, I bet that the “facts” in the middle are also incorrect.

  3. I’m organizing a CORY BRIGGS appreciation event to honor him for his great work on behalf of the environment, social justice, and good government. Those that want to join the event committee should contact me. John Stump, City Heights

  4. As one who has incorporated and served in leadership positions in several California 501(c)3 nonprofits I find the abuses alleged here quite concerning. If indeed Mr. Briggs has been doing so he sullies not only his own reputation, but that of the important causes and the people he represents. It’s important I think to separate the causes from the methods. The causes will be celebrated by some, reviled by others; but it is the methods that deserve attention. Alas the nonprofit sector in California is very poorly policed. Many of the aberrations described which relate to timely reporting and appropriate leadership structures are endemic to fringe organizations in the nonprofit sector.

  5. Ms. Stevens,

    Thank you for your comment. To answer your questions from
    the top down:

    1. The point of the quote taken from the video was that Mr.
    Briggs could not remember whether the group he was representing that day was a
    501c3 or a 501c4. Hence the quote: “It’s a nonprofit 501 C three or four — I
    don’t remember which one — association…” followed by the sentence, “In some
    ways, the lawyer’s confusion was understandable.” To drive the point home, we
    link the words “was understandable” directly to the spreadsheet showing a
    network of 15 501c3 groups, 19 501c4 groups and eight “unidentified” groups Mr.
    Briggs has represented in court that identify themselves as nonprofits but are
    not registered with the state or federal government.

    2. In reference to your term half-baked: this is a 3,000
    word article with a completely-hyperlinked version to primary documentation
    behind each sentence (available here:
    http://inewsource.org/2015/05/28/briggs-associated-nonprofits-flout-state-federal-laws-with-links/).
    The article is accompanied by a spreadsheet with 946 cells drawn from 36 sets
    of state and federal filings — all public. We’ve linked to all of it.

    3. “Cherry-picking a few negative facts” — Again, please see
    spreadsheet.

    4. Attorney General delinquency for SCORE: Per the AG’s
    website, this group is still delinquent. According to the revocation letter,
    the AG required a 990 filing and an RRF filing. You are correct in that SCORE
    did submit those filings, and I do not know why it is still delinquent — it is
    possible SCORE did not pay the accompanying late fees — but since no one from
    SCORE, including its CEO, its CFO, its secretary or its bookkeeper would call
    us back, we went with the official government record. Also, SCORE is just one
    of 23 Briggs-associated nonprofits that are either suspended, revoked or
    delinquent. But we have put a call in to
    the AG to confirm per your comment.

    5. “Zero dollar balance” — If the missing $230,000 was a
    typo, there would be a reconciliation of those funds in the following year’s
    federal/state filings. That was not the case, per the following years 990s:
    https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/2085413-score-990s-merged.html. Those
    funds were never accounted for. To be sure we were not missing something, we
    had a forensic accountant look over these filings. He came to the same
    conclusion and called them egregiously wrong. If you know something we don’t,
    please don’t hesitate to let me know.

    Thank you.

  6. I haven’t always agreed with some of the people you cite in these never-ending reports, but It’s astonishing to me that INewSource has spent such an inordinate amount of time, energy and staff resources to investigate a few people- private citizens, not public officials- whose main vice (or virtue) is having the temerity to challenge San Diego’s entrenched and monied status quo.

    Moreover, with each installment, you continue to drag others through your digital mud, including a local community leader who got his start in civil rights by marching with Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma 50 years ago.

    I’m certain MLK would have been found to be up to no good by your standards… he also questioned the status quo of the times, and probably kept terrible financial records.

    If you took a fraction of the resources you’ve invested in this vendetta to look at, say Doug Manchester’s or certain Mission Valley hotel owner’s willful violations of zoning laws that have permanently destroyed public lands in Mission Valley, or CIvic San Diego’s efforts to clandestinely subvert and thwart community redevelopment, or the expensive water schemes that continue to come out of the city of San Diego’s water wasting machinery…. if you looked at any of these major policy issues that impact San Diegans on a daily basis, and found similar causes for concern- I would consider this a somewhat credible line of attack.

    But you have chosen to research a few people who question many of the flawed policies that will shape this city and region for decades to come. They have not initiated bad acts- but they have forced agencies and organizations to reconsider at least one illegal scheme (Convention Center funding), and may force others.

    Again- I’ve had my disagreements with some of the people in this report. But the lengths you have gone to discredit them is beyond understanding, when there are so many other “upstanding citizens” in this region who are worth much more scrutiny.

    To paraphrase Joseph Welch: ”
    … may we not drop this? We know he belonged to the Lawyers Guild. Let us not assassinate this lad further, Senator. You’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”

  7. Ms. Saldana,

    By your own argument, isn’t Doug Manchester also a private citizen? I disagree with your assertion that everything we do should revolve around government officials. I think everything we do should revolve around powerful individuals, be they in government or not, who have a major say in shaping the future of this city.

    And I know nothing about the character of those associated with Mr. Briggs, only that they are strongly connected to the network we describe and that we gave them ample opportunity to speak to us about this. We have let the facts speak for themselves in this one.

  8. Yes, I used Manchester as an example, since he is a developer, and part of a powerful, monied group of- yes- private individuals. He and his colleagues have often acted behind the scenes to shape major policies impacting San Diego, in ways not everyone values or agrees with. A report on is actions would be appreciated

    At least Briggs and his colleagues are doing their work in public, and filing public reports as the law requires, incomplete though they may have been.

    As for “facts”- You are handpicking certain items to place prominently in these reports, while leaving others out. Facts don’t “speak” until you call them out- as you’ve done, selectively.

    Linking to the full documents and expecting people to follow and read every word is not objective journalism- it’s counting on the reader to do their own investigation beyond what you have chosen to provide.

    As a former public official, I experienced similar “investigations” and selective fact finding. It was part of the job. I was fortunate to have the staff resources to counter them at times.

    However, the motivations to use investigative “reports” against elected officials are usually transparent: to discredit, disempower and even disgrace, so they are not in a position to raise funds, get elected, author laws and enact policies certain people disagree with- often, the same people funding the “reports.”

    So- is that your strategy here, vs. Briggs et al? Are the things that motivate these ongoing investigations the effort to discredit, disempower and disgrace?

  9. I’m sorry that we disagree here, Ms. Saldana. And that’s completely fine. But this is what we do, we investigate powerful people and hold them accountable. If the findings from this series — which have included multiple and repeat violations of state and federal laws, nondisclosures that have resulted in reimbursements to taxpayers, business practices that one of the country’s top fraud experts said are “never done in honest business dealings,” in addition to personal stories about a husband and father who told us Mr. Briggs “put him in the ground” with a real estate deal — are not enough to convince you that these are important stories to tell, I think we’ll just have to agree to disagree. If you can provide us with an independent expert who, after looking at this objectively, does not agree with us, I’d be more than happy to talk to him or her. But because Mr. Briggs is so ingrained in the fabric of this city, with strong supporters who allege we have personal vendettas instead of looking at all of the facts throughout all of the stories, that’s hard to do in this town… which is why we reached out to LA for this one.

  10. LIENEWSSOURCE is what everyone calls you now, I hope you know that. This is such obvious pay back. You look ridiculous sellouts scratching and crawling at this guy.

  11. I note you have not addressed my question: what is the motivation behind this reporting?

    “Holding them accountable?” Finding of illegal acts is the work of law enforcement investigators and courts, not journalists. You may, with the best of intentions, report something one day that hurts someone’s reputation, then realize the next it’s inaccurate and/or misleading.

    And FYI, the AG’s office will be sending you Information shortly, regarding an error on their part that you reported as fact in this report.

    As for Manchester: he has many resources to overcome the publicity (negative or otherwise) you generate regarding him. The subjects of the reports in question here are not in the same position.

  12. Motivation: We’ve been hearing that a lot in this series as a disguised way of saying that we’re being financed by either hoteliers or the city attorneys office. It’s funny though — no one asked our “motivation” when we looked into Supervisor Bill Horn’s charity, or the North County Transit District, or Manchester, or subacute centers, or Customs and Border Protection, or Carl DeMaio, or the San Diego Opera, or San Diego Hospice, or Filner’s claims about the Port of San Diego, or a hundred other things. Our “motivation” is that we’re an investigative journalism organization that investigates things. The results may not be what you want them to be, but they’re accurate. As far as the AG’s Office, if their website or filings provided us with any bad information, we will correct it accordingly.

    And I couldn’t disagree with you more that “Finding of illegal acts is the work of law enforcement investigators and courts, not journalists.” I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a single journalist who would agree with you on that one.

  13. You are relying on others to inform you of the law(s) that the various subjects of your investigations may or may not have violated, or policies/regulations they may have failed to fully comply with.

    But a key difference between sworn law enforcement officers, attorneys, judges et al is: they have all taken an oath to uphold the law, and are professionally trained in various laws.

    I don’t believe those are requirements for journalists.

  14. “If the findings from this series — which have included multiple and repeat violations of state and federal laws….”

    Mr. Racino, by “findings” you mean falsely accusing Briggs and his wife of filing fraudulent real estate documents claiming they were “husband and wife” when they were not married? Did you ever publicly take back that false accusation? I doubt it.

  15. For example, you seem to believe failing to file a required form completely, correctly, and/or in a timely manner is “flouting” the law- at least that’s what your headline claims. However, it is an administrative error, not a legal issue. And it could be the result of any number of things- including deaths, lost records, mistakes on the part of those responsible for collecting the reports, etc.

    Stating these errors show Briggs “flouts” the law goes a step beyond reporting and into opinion.

    Objection! You are leading the readers, … and please don’t reply “another editor does your headlines.” That doesn’t make it fair to the people accused of “flouting.”

    As a former boardmember of a few non-profits, I remember that having people hold multiple board positions is a problem with many small organizations, struggling to recruit and retain volunteers to serve on boards.

    And frankly, reporting like this doesn’t encourage people to volunteer and take on additional civic responsibilities…

    So- Overall, these “violations” are technical, not criminal.

    And, if an incorrect report has been corrected, or a file is updated after you have investigated- will you have a headline as inflammatory as today’s, stating that fact? “Briggs Correct Record, provides all required information…!”

    And which do you think readers will remember?

  16. I think you are missing the forest for the trees here. This is not simply an “administrative error,” but even if that were the case, it is an error that has been repeated for nearly a decade at almost ever instance possible. The AG’s office has sent nearly 100 (I believe we counted 93) notices to these agencies over the years. If it was once, twice, five, ten, even 20 times, maybe it would be understandable. That is not the case here. Again, please see the spreadsheet and tell me how you can in any way argue that this is not a persistent case of someone ‘flouting’ state and federal law. It has become almost predictably at this point.

    If you have information about something that needs to be corrected, please forward it to my attention and if it is accurate we will correct it accordingly. Good information would be — where did the $230,000 go? What public benefit does this organization actually offer? Has the AG’s office been mistaken over the years in sending all of these notices? Why will no one associated with the group answer any questions that would put a stop to our inquiry?

    And if you’re going to say we wouldn’t publish it anyway, I would counter that you would have a terrific story about how terrible we are and you could bring that information to any number of outlets that would be happy to write about it.

    But I can’t spend any more time today arguing with you over what this story is about any more than I already have. But thank you for this discussion. It was very interesting to hear your thoughts.

  17. Thank you for your thoughtful replies. Perhaps the gap between going after a “terrific story” vs. producing and being committed to journalism for the public good is at the heart of our disagreement.

    I’m still at a loss to understand what “public good” has been served by this exercise playing out on your website for the last few months.

    At some point, likely not today, could you answer this: as the result of all your document searching, paper reading, interviewing and research. what has Inews ultimately accomplished, besides raising eyebrows and profiles of various individuals who may have preferred relative obscurity?

    Many in San Diego believe Briggs et al have at least tried to prevent powerful, monied and influential (if not corrupt) forces from running roughshod over “community right to know,” taxation without representation, transparency, etc. and other odious practices that are all too common in San Diego and beyond.

    So, has your reporting on this person who has taken a position against these forces while is, admittedly, flawed himself, really served a public good?

  18. It’s not illegal to call yourselves “husband and wife” if you’re living together in a loving relationship but are not legally married. You made it sound like it’s a crime to do that.

  19. I’m waiting on the investigative reports from Racino and inewsores on the fake groups made by the Lincoln Club and Chamber of Commerce whenever there’s an election they need to subvert.

  20. A corporation or LLC is absolutely essential to shelter plaintiffs and their supporters from retaliation including SLAPP and other frivolous lawsuits which would chill public participation in the protection of the environment and the prosecution of other abuses.
    Since these efforts are usually severely under-funded a non profit makes the most sense.
    In our case there were three carefully selected officers Chair, Secretary treasurer who were suite-proof named, all the rest were anonymous and our anonymity was protected and is protected. Corry Briggs and other public interest attorneys are absolutely doing due diligence in protecting the people and not leaving them twisting in the wind or subject to harassment (following children and videotaping for example) or assaults which happened in a neighboring City.

  21. Elliana,

    As a retired California real estate broker I can tell you that there are very specific legal rights and privileges attached to civil marriage particularly with regard to real estate ownership. Title companies will often require documentary proof of civil marriage or divorce because of those important legal rights.

    Lenders and other interested parties rely on documents containing statements of marital status that were notarized and previously recorded at a County Recorder’s Office. Real estate professionals are responsible for determining the all-important marital status of a property’s owners before listing it for sale or originating a mortgage loan secured by it. Any discoverable factual discrepancies that later emerge could cause severe difficulties and liability for the broker. Equally any false claims of marital status made by the owners can cause titling difficulties for everybody involved. That is why the County Recorder’s Office is so vital in our industry. It is the only defense we’ve got.

    California is a “Community Property State”. This involves for example very specific rights of survivorship by legally married couples that are not available to non-legally married couples. There are also lien protections not avilable to non-married owners.

    Civil marriage is therefore far more than “living together in a loving relationship” as you suggest.

    I am currently in Ireland where we just went through a bruising referendum on same-sex marriage (which passed by the way). In the wake of that experience the Irish now fully understand the meaning and importance of “civil marriage” as distinct from “sacramental marriage” (à la the Catholic Church for example). If it were all as simple as you suggest gay and lesbian communities around the world would not be so actively striving for equality in the right to a civil marriage.

    I hope that helps.

  22. Mr Beltran:
    Please do any one of the following:
    1. Go to Google. Type in “Lincoln Club” and “inewsource”
    2. Go to the search bar at the top of this website. Type in “Lincoln Club.”
    3. Click on “Follow the Money” on the homepage.
    4. Click on “Follow the Money” on the sidebar of the homepage.

    Any one of them will bring you to EyeNewsSore stories, written by Joe Yerardi, about the Lincoln Club and their groups.

    Thanks.

  23. As a citizen, I find it abhorrent that you, a public official yourself, is coming on a comments blog trying to bully a media outlet into not investigating someone who is extremely influential in our community. As a private citizen, I find what this particular article reveals to be both disturbing and newsworthy. As a liberal Democrat, it dismays me when fellow Democrats are willing to overlook corruption of one of their own. You are on here raising questions about “motives” of inewsource. What about your motives for all these posts you have written? Are you not a personal friend or accuantaince of Cory Briggs? Has he donated money to your political efforts? (And keep in mind before you answer, it’s readily available with a simple Google search). Why don’t you – the politicians, insiders, and big name movers and shakers who are in Brigg’s personal influential circle quit your whining and let the media do its job so we nobody citizens actually know the truth about corruption in our city – corruption being committed by both the Republican slime balls that are well known as being dirty and apparently by some Democrats as well like Briggs. Just because many of his goals are noble does not mean it’s ok to use corruption as a means of getting there.

    Again, let me be clear – as a private citizens and not a personal friend of Briggs like you, I find this article important and newsworthy and I don’t need politicians and personal friends of Brigg’s inner circle trying to tell me it’s not important and newsworthy.

  24. Respectfully, I assure you I am no friend of Mr. Briggs, personal or otherwise.

    However, as the daughter of an old school journalist and object of similar hits, I could not sit silently after reading all these “reports.”

    Inews seems to have turned around the old journalism concept of “afflicting the comfortable and comforting the afflicted.” My motivation was to point that out.

    Moreover, I too am a citizen, and have been out of public office since 2010. Serving a few years in the state legislature does not mean I must remain silent when I believe an injustice is being perpetrated in this manner.

    You may only know me as an elected official but I am an educator these days, ad I was long before my Assembly service.

    I appreciate that Mr. Racino replied thoughtfully, and did not seem to perceive my statements as “bullying.”

  25. Fair enough, then I guess we are both citizens who disagree on the merits of this investigation. I feel that Mr. Briggs is a very powerful person in our community and one that shapes many important issues, therefore he warrants the same scrutiny as other “big players” in San Diego, like Manchester. I also don’t think what inewsource is reporting is inconsequential. They aren’t reporting that Mr. Briggs j-walked or charged organic lemons as regular lemons at the self checkout. They are reporting that he and his family/friends have personal ties to all these groups that the public has been led to think are independent citizens groups. The fact that there is nothing to for these group’s activities outside of serving as plaintiffs for Brigg’s lawsuits shows me these groups were created by Briggs specifically for these lawsuits he profited off of. Now I actually agree with many of the lawsuits, but I can’t excuse the underhanded way they have been conducted.

    I would argue that in some ways, people like Biggs and Manchester need MORE media scrutiny than politicians. This is because citizens have the ballot box to get rid of bad politicians. What power do we have to get rid of corrupt non-elected power elites like Briggs and Manchester who are calling the shots in our city? We need the media to keep these types of people honest.

  26. Take this “report” with a healthy dose of skepticism. There appears to be much more to the story according to these two blogs:

    San Diegans for Open Government “Has Hit a Nerve” at sandiegans4opengov[dot]wordpress[dot]com

    What Happened to the Truth-Loving Angels? at sandiegans4opengov[dot]wordpress[dot]com

  27. Great links

    sandiegans4opengov[dot]wordpress[dot]com

    sandiegans4opengov[dot]wordpress[dot]com

    They are different
    we’ve never met so I’ll say it here
    THANKS FOR SHARING

  28. KPBS ans Inewsource post a story by reporters who claim the Southwest Center on Renewable Energy exists “only on paper.” One of SCRE’s board members is Bill Powers. If SCRE is not for real, why is Mr. Powers one of the KPBS regular subjects on shows and in reports? Some even have his picture or video. Is this what it means to exist only on paper?

    http://www.kpbs.org/news/2013/mar/20/california-utility-commissioners-deliberate-public/

    http://www.kpbs.org/audioclips/15178/

    http://www.kpbs.org/news/2013/mar/20/california-utility-commissioners-deliberate-public/

    http://www.kpbs.org/news/2014/sep/15/questioning-sdge-push-power/

    http://www.kpbs.org/news/2015/apr/01/proposed-new-power-plant-carlsbad-hangs-balance/

Comments are closed.