A move to right the ship at SANDAG

Greg Larkin Greg Larkin 7 Comments

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After about two weeks of little more more than “shoulda-knowns” coming out of SANDAG, as well as Chairman Ron Roberts in essence telling his fellow board members during the organization’s recent annual retreat that there’s nothing more to see and he has things under control, a group of elected officials is stepping up and taking appropriate action on the organization’s hide-it-from-the-public scandal…

February 16, 2017

Dear Chair Roberts,

Given the recent coverage of Measure A’s controversial revenue forecasts we appreciated hearing staff’s comments and perspective at the Board retreat. We also appreciated learning from Gary Gallegos that further discussion of this topic is planned for SANDAG’s February 24 Board meeting. However, discussions alone fall short of what will be necessary to regain the public’s trust.

SANDAG’s credibility relies on its accountability. Therefore, we believe it is imperative for the Board of Directors to commission an independent examination of all materials and personnel relevant to the issue. None of us are suggesting the result of such an examination is a foregone conclusion — it may indeed exonerate SANDAG — but for the public to be well-served an impartial and thorough examination must be conducted. At the very least we, and our constituents, need answers to the questions: Who knew about the revenue forecast discrepancies? When did they know? What was known? Who was the information shared with? Why wasn’t the Board or Executive Committee informed?

Such a review may be inconvenient; time-consuming and expensive. But the need to restore confidence in the agency is of the utmost importance.

Accordingly, we request that the Measure A revenue forecast item planned for the upcoming board meeting be listed on the agenda in a manner that allows the Board to take action.

Respectfully,

Steve Vaus, Mayor of Poway
Dianne Jacob, County Supervisor
Richard Bailey, Mayor of Coronado
Catherine Blakespear, Mayor of Encinitas
Bill Wells, Mayor of El Cajon
Kristine Alessio, La Mesa Councilmember
Jerry Jones, Councilmember, Lemon Grove
___

In a nutshell, they’re telling their constituents, “We’re going to do everything in our power to get answers for you.” Kudos to these officials.

Given the entire SANDAG brouhaha is about the organization’s accountability and transparency, not simply about partisanship, it’s pleasing to see more than just Republicans on the SANDAG board willing to do the right thing. A few of those listed above probably walked out of the SANDAG retreat wondering if they’d be nearly alone in signing such a letter. So, it’s equally refreshing to see officials from seven of the 19 SANDAG jurisdictions as signers.

Authoring a letter isn’t the entire measure of anything, of course, it’s where the votes come down. Yet, until the votes are cast, it has to be asked why some on the SANDAG board appear to be so quiet? Where are the mayors from a handful of other cities, such as Carlsbad’s Matt Hall, Escondido’s Sam Abed, Oceanside’s Jim Wood, San Marcos’ Jim Desmond, and Santee’s John Minto?

Mysteriously quiet, it appears. Even more mysterious, some of those being terribly quiet about the SANDAG mess have either announced their candidacies for County Supervisor Bill Horn’s open seat in 2018 or are at least giving it some thought. At least one SANDAG alternate member is also running.

Do any of them think that “quietly moving on” and “hoping it’s gonna go away” are the appropriate approaches when wanting voters to perceive them as fighters for their communities?

If the 2016 presidential election taught nothing else, it’s that what voters — especially activists and volunteers — really desire is some anti-status quo straight talk, whether it be manifested in the likes of Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump.

If any elected official thinks that by fighting hard to right the ship at SANDAG, you’re somehow going to make anyone angry other than the organization’s staff and leadership, please step forward.

Then we’ll have a discussion about whether those in the staff and leadership at SANDAG are your voting constituents.

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Comments 7

  1. Lemon Grove Council Member Jerry Jones also sent the following, two days prior to the letter above…

    Chair Roberts,

    The article in Voice of San Diego concerning Measure A and projections are concerning and has, at the very least, shaken the public’s trust in Sandag and regional collaboration. I have read the staff memo on the subject and heard explanations on steps taken but I am not convinced that is enough.

    It is my opinion that the board should engage an independent investigator in this matter that should answer to an ad-hoc committee of the board and ultimately the board. This investigation should include:

    1) An organization chart showing areas of responsibility and reporting chains.

    2) It has been reported to the board that there were two different staff members working on two different projection tracks. The investigation should cover normal procedure (if any) for staff working on similar disciplines in different areas to share information (if any). This portion of the investigation should include a flow chart and time-line for the different projection tracks, a listing of the work criteria that started each projection track, the assumptions used in determining the projections, and a description of how the projections were to be used.

    3) Since the accusations made were done so from an email trail the investigation should include a flow chart showing the exchange of emails, who know what and when.

    There may be things I am missing that other board members may find necessary for their own comfort level but these are the ones I can think of right now. The idea of an ad-hoc committee to determine a proper and complete list is something that needs to be put in place as soon as possible. My suggestion would to be the primary exec committee members less the chair and vice chair with the lead counsel as staff.

    Regards

    Jerry Jones, Lemon Grove Council Member

  2. La Mesa’s newly elected Councilman, Hon. Colin Parent, who is an alternate on the SANDAG Board also sent a letter urging accountability. La Mesans definitely have transparency in government as a goal.

  3. Years ago, during one of his failed runs for Mayor, Ron Roberts was interviewed on KPBS and was asked about his favorite songs. He mentioned “Stir It Up” by Bob Marley because that represents his “political philosophy.” I guffawed then and I still laugh now. Roberts was and is one of the most statist and status quo politicians in San Diego political history. His retirement cannot come soon enough for me.

  4. Let’s remember Section 302 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 directed the Securities and Exchange Commission to adopt rules to require the principal executive and financial officers of a public company to certify in their company’s annual and quarterly reports that such reports are accurate and complete and that they have established and maintained adequate internal controls for public disclosure. Sec 906 imposes on those officers who certify inaccurate reports with criminal penalties of up to $5 million in fines and up to 20 years in prison. It is time for SANDAG Boardmembers to get serious about their responsibility to the public to ensure potentially comparable criminal activity at SANDAG executive offices is held accountable. Equally, any executive Boardmember involvement to encourage the suppression should be investigated. An independent investigator seems like the most appropriate recourse for the Board, which cannot possibly rely on staff to vet itself. This isn’t a matter of coming clean, a few tough words, and a slap on the wrist with paid vacation time off or an early retirement. This should be treated as a serious potentially criminal act with the intent to defraud the public for direct financial gain from promotions and enhanced staffing and contracts.

  5. By Sara Libby in the Voice of SD Morning Report for Saturday…

    SANDAG has ditched its flawed forecast and now uses a new one to predict how much tax revenue it will bring in to pay for transportation projects across the region.

    The corrected forecast makes clear what we first reported back in October: Transnet, a sales tax hike approved in 2004, is on track to collect $9 billion – not the $14 billion voters were promised, Andrew Keatts reports.

    On Friday, SANDAG board members voted to kick off an independent investigation into the events that led the agency to tell voters that Measure A, another sales tax measure rejected in November, would bring in $18 billion when they knew it would actually bring in far less.

    In the Friday board meeting, SANDAG officials conceded that its forecast had contained a crucial error, but still insisted its leaders did not knowingly deceive voters in November because they didn’t know there was a connection between the forecasting flaw and the Measure A number. In his latest story, Keatts pokes some big holes in that reasoning.

    http://www.voiceofsandiego.org/topics/government/sandag-approves-investigation-into-forecasting-scandal/

  6. Next to be investigated should be the San Diego Housing Commission (SDHC), Civic San Diego, City and County of San Diego for violating the Federal Civil Rights, Fair Housing, and HEARTH Act, and hoarding over $468 million Cash in Reserve Fund Balances.

    January 1, 2017 City Council Hearing. Item 330 PLNU review of the SDHC — about 1:30 pm.

    http://granicus.sandiego.gov/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=3&clip_id=6871

    Our comments start at 1:45 pm, and includes Woman Occupy San Diego Members and the Israel Family.
    A 10 Member family with 8 children that has been Homeless in San Diego for over a month and a half with zero help from the SDHC or City.

    http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/data-watch/sd-me-affordable-housing-20161115-htmlstory.html

    http://www.sandiegoreader.com/news/2016/may/04/citylights-hundred-million-dollar-question/

    http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/watchdog/sd-me-surplus-land-20170217-story.html

    http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/watchdog/sd-me-housing-funds-20160111-story.html

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