Staff at the San Diego Association of Governments took steps to hide public records and delete official documents last year, after Voice of San Diego uncovered major errors in the revenue forecast for a tax increase that went before voters last year.
The revelation comes from an independent investigation into the agency’s forecasting scandal released Monday night. SANDAG commissioned the investigation by law firm Hueston Hennigan in response to a months-long Voice of San Diego series. The final report confirms that multiple employees knew the agency’s internal forecasts had significant errors and attempted to alert officials long before the 2016 election, and before SANDAG’s ultimate concession last year that its forecast was substantially wrong.
On top of SANDAG’s dealings involving Measure A, the investigation also details steps SANDAG staff took to keep information from the public as the scandal was beginning to unfold.
Staff received directions to delete certain documents. The agency also created a separate server that was not searchable through records requests in hopes of keeping documents saved there from becoming public.
On Oct. 28, 2016, Voice of San Diego requested all emails related to the agency’s revenue forecast for Measure A, the tax measure on the 2016 ballot.
During a meeting that same day attended by SANDAG’s executive leadership – including Executive Director Gary Gallegos, Chief Deputy Executive Director Kim Kawada, General Counsel John Kirk and Associate General Counsel Shelby Tucker – multiple staff members said they were told to delete documents.
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I did read through the report and was struck by how the mistakes regarding revenue projections including the Prop A projections read like something from a Malcom Gladwell book. At so many points along the way there were opportunities to catch the original data entry error but for many reasons mostly involving a dysfunctional staff structure, the error just kept rolling along screwing up projections including Prop A. Primary responsibility was with the Executive Director (Gary Gallegos) and the former Chief Economist (Marny Cox). Gallegos certainly was not paying attention to staffing issues, among other things, and Cox was adamant that the discredited projection program was correct and those projections continued to be the basis for the Prop A estimates. Gallegos apparently put his trust in Cox even when all other staff were telling him that Cox was wrong. It doesn't surprise me about Cox. When he was one of the economists in the UT's Sunday paper Econometer section, he was often wrong but never in doubt.
Sounds like a corrupt criminal conspiracy. The result is going to be the sandag money will go to the state and be spent on the behest of politically connected activist groups' pet causes, corruption with worst consequences.
Has Mayor Faulconer made any public comments about the investigation or the report? If not, is he expected to?
As the law firm's investigation notes, they don't know how many key documents may actually have been deleted. We may be looking here at the tip of the iceberg of a corrupt administration in which even the legal counsel is involved in assisting a cover-up. In my view, the SANDAG board has no choice but to clean house.
@Chris Brewster Mr. Brewster has it right. SANDAG has lost credibility with the public. It's going to be a long time before they successfully get a ballot measure for funding past the voters.
I just wonder how much some of the key board members knew.