Chlapek money
Illustration by artist Ben Chlapek for inewsource.

The San Diego City Council voted unanimously Monday to fix a vaguely worded law requiring anyone doing business with the city to disclose their identities.

San Diego voters demanded greater transparency from their government more than 25 years ago. Now, they’re finally getting it.

The action follows an inewsource investigation that began 16 months ago that showed the law was being ignored.

“This has been important to me,” said Councilwoman Barbara Bry, “to make sure we have transparency.”

The ordinance the council approved clarifies a decades-old law known as “Mandatory Disclosure of Business Interests,” or Section 225 of the San Diego City Charter. That law came about in 1992 after the city almost entered into a $47 million real estate deal with an alleged mobster.

An inewsource investigation last year found that despite Section 225, the city has more than $3 billion in contracts with more than 1,000 private companies, yet rarely knows the financial interests behind them.

Under Section 225, anyone doing business with the city must make a “full and complete disclosure of the name and identity of any and all persons directly or indirectly involved in the application or proposed transaction and the precise nature of all interests of all persons therein.”

The original wording for the law was vague and never defined “transaction” or “directly or indirectly involved.” It also never said how to establish “identity” or elaborated on what the term “precise interest” meant.

Monday’s vote further defines those terms through an ordinance. It does not change the city charter — that requires a public vote, scheduled for 2018. Once that vote happens, the ordinance approved Monday will be dissolved and superseded by the charter.

inewsource has reached out to other San Diego County cities to determine if they plan to enact a similar law. Officials in La Mesa and Encinitas have said they are “currently evaluating the need for such regulations as they may be useful.”

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More in the series …

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Section 225

Chlapek Delaware

Rolls Royce

Petco Park

Chlapek money

Section 225


San Diego makes big stride toward government transparency Nov. 1, 2017 The San Diego Rules Committee has crafted a fix for the vague transparency law called Section 225 of the San Diego City Charter. It’s now up to the full council to put into law.

San Diego contracts, business deals closer to transparency Oct. 3, 2017 The San Diego City Council and Mayor’s Office are fixing a law meant to make business between local government and private companies more transparent.

Fix to San Diego’s long-ignored transparency law to go on November 2018 ballot June 9, 2017 San Diego’s most-ignored law has a fix in site. In the meantime, the city is working on an ordinance to jumpstart the process.

Stop ignoring transparency law, Grand Jury warns San Diego April 13, 2017 The San Diego County Grand Jury issued a report on the long-ignored transparency law, called Section 225, that’s been the subject of inewsource scrutiny.

Financial interests behind San Diego deals worth billions still undisclosed March 13, 2017 Despite overwhelming voter approval in 1992, three separate city attorney recommendations and an inewsource investigation, the city of San Diego is still not following a law mandating government transparency.

City Attorney’s Office will weigh in (again) on San Diego disclosure law Aug. 5, 2016 City Attorney Jan Goldsmith told inewsource his office will basically reiterate its predecessors. This will be the fourth time the office has weighed in on Section 225 since its inception.

Fix proposed for San Diego’s ignored transparency law Oct. 22, 2016 After an inewsource investigation found San Diego’s transparency lacking, the City Attorney has recommended a new law to ensure all business is done in the open.

Long-ignored transparency law would reveal who’s doing billions in business with San Diego August 2, 2016 A law that’s been on the books since 1992 can help reveal the people behind the companies doing billions of dollars in business with the city each year — if someone would only enforce the thing.

Brad Racino was 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 in...