The Weekender for July 21, 2018

The Weekender for July 21, 2018

Meet senior reporter and assistant director Brad Racino, who this week earned the First Amendment Award from the local chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists for a series on a long-ignored government transparency law (read the first story here).

What jobs did you have before journalism?

I came to investigative journalism from an odd direction, having bounced around odd jobs in the mid-2000s that included (in no particular order) a stint as a vacuum salesman, an art gallery owner, a manager of a photography company, a TV cameraman and editor, an underwater videographer in the Bahamas and an awful three months unsuccessfully selling life insurance.

How did you get started in news?

In 2009, I decided to pursue a master’s degree in photojournalism at the University of Missouri – Columbia. Yet just a few months into my school coursework, I fell in love with investigative reporting and published my first big story about a decrepit trailer park and its millionaire owner. That story got me hooked. There was something about holding powerful people accountable while at the same time helping the underprivileged that made me think, “Wow, I could get used to this.”

How long have you been with inewsource?

I joined inewsource as an intern in 2012 while finishing up my master’s degree. I spent that time digging into the Port of San Diego (the most interesting San Diego government agency, in my opinion), then-Mayor Bob Filner and maritime-related issues, including a long story about the expansion of the Panama Canal (still one of my favorites). Over the years, I’ve watched inewsource grow from three full-timers to 11(!), and seen the impact of our reporting increase with each investigation.

Follow Brad on Twitter (@bradracino), reach him by email (bradracino@inewsource.org) or give him a call (845-553-4170).

Have a great weekend, and thanks for reading.   

– Shyla Nott, inewsource

School suspension

The state tax board suspended San Diego Christian College for failing to file a tax return. That means the private, nonprofit school in San Diego cannot legally do business and has lost the right to use its name.

The action comes eight months after reporter Megan Wood broke the story that the nonprofit school couldn’t account for more than $20 million in expenses, which is required on its public tax returns.

Wood found money problems at the school have mounted in recent years. In fiscal 2014, the U.S. Department of Education gave the college a failing financial score. Last year, the school replaced its chief financial officer.

Continue reading…

More controversy dogs San Ysidro School District

Ex-San Ysidro Superintendent Julio Fonseca sued a school board member this month for defamation. Fonseca’s lawsuit claims the trustee, Rodolfo Linares, ran a “malicious” and “despicable” campaign against him and another district employee.

The suit doesn’t name the employee, but it’s clear he’s referring to his deputy superintendent, Jose Arturo Sanchez-Macias. A recent state audit reported the pair may have engaged in financial fraud and misusing district funds.

In the suit, Fonseca said Linares falsely claimed the two former school administrators conspired as part of a scheme to cash out their vacation days and deceive the school board about life insurance payments made to them.

Last month’s state audit found Fonseca and Sanchez-Macias were overpaid almost $324,000, including $103,200 for vacation days and $207,000 for life insurance.

Continue reading…

Methane levels drop at Otay Ranch housing project

A new report found that methane levels at a multimillion-dollar housing project in Otay Ranch fell by more than 50 percent during a recent six-month period. However, the the source of the gas remains a mystery.

The tests showed nine lots in the community known as Village of Escaya have high enough levels of methane gas to warrant further testing. Of those, five tested high enough to consider methane controls.

We first reported that methane and other volatile chemicals had been discovered underground at the Otay Ranch project in December.  

Continue reading…

We won 19 awards!

We don’t do investigative, data-driven journalism for the awards. We do it to serve the public with credible, in-depth information.

But when our peers give us a shoutout for good work, we’re especially grateful. This week the San Diego chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists honored inewsource with 19 awards at its 2018 contest banquet.

The highlights for us were winning the Distinguished Coverage Award for our collaboration with KPBS on the America’s Wall project and Brad Racino’s First Amendment Award for a series on a long-ignored government transparency law. Sweeping the education reporting category was another high point.

Read more about the awards…

Thanks for coming out to Bivouac!

Our staffers had a blast hanging out with everyone Tuesday night for our networking event at Bivouac Ciderworks. We love getting to meet our supporters face-to-face and talk about journalism (over really good drinks).

Please follow us on Facebook to make sure you see the invitation to our next event.

Here are some of the photos we took during the meetup. Feel free to download and share them. To view all of the photos, click here.

Tell your friends to sign up for The Weekender here.

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We'll let you know when big things happen.

About Shyla Nott:

Shyla Nott
Shyla Nott is a social media web producer for inewsource. To contact her with tips, suggestions or corrections, please email shylanott [at] inewsource [dot] org.