Morning Report: New Ethics Concerns for City Council Candidate - Voice of San Diego

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Morning Report: New Ethics Concerns for City Council Candidate

Council President Georgette Gómez and City Council candidate Kelvin Barrios / Photo courtesy of the Kelvin Barrios campaign

Kelvin Barrios could be the subject of yet another San Diego ethics violation.

The City Council candidate acknowledged in a new filing that a private-sector union paid him a salary at the same time he worked in Council President Georgette Gómez’s office in 2019.

Barrios and his campaign have come under increased scrutiny in recent weeks for various gaffes and for failing to disclose other sources of income when he was at City Hall. The district attorney’s office also recently confirmed that it’s looking into a separate claim — made last year by Barrios’ political opponent — that he embezzled money from a local Democratic club.

Earlier this week, Andrew Keatts and Jesse Marx report, Barrios quietly amended one of his statements of economic interest with San Diego to reflect the three days when he received overlapping salaries. Barrios wrote: “No conflicts arose during this brief period.”

Yet the city’s ethics ordinance prohibits officials from getting paid by a private entity for any work done during the same hours paid by the city.

Barrios also appears to have spent some of his final time in Gómez’s office laying the groundwork for his union job. He forwarded a couple emails from his city account to his labor account containing information about a development project and a state grant. 

Oceanside’s …  Jungle General Election?

Oceanside’s next mayor may not be super popular. That’s because the city doesn’t have a primary system and the November ballot contains one dozen candidates, all competing for the electorate’s attention. 

Kayla Jimenez has more in the North County Report about the history of Oceanside’s electoral process. Voters in 2012 rejected a ballot measure that would have established a primary system. It’s not uncommon for a candidate to win with a plurality of only 20 percent or 30 percent of the vote. 

Supporters of the primary system have argued that if one candidate doesn’t get more than half the vote, the next mayor will be responsive to a smaller group of interests. 

New Standoff Brewing at SANDAG Over New Audit

An internal audit shows that the executive director of the San Diego Association of Governments, Hasan Ikhrata, approved hundreds of thousands of dollars in severance payments to former employees without telling the board of directors. 

The board was also in the dark about bonuses and merit increases to a former chief deputy totaling more than $112,000.

The Union-Tribune got an early copy of the audit and reports that top managers are disputing some of its findings. Ikhrata said the audit contains “flawed conclusions,” “incomplete information” and a biased “accusational tone.” He also argued that the board delegated administrative authority to his office years ago. 

Top EPA Official Promises Short-Term Fixes to Tijuana Sewage

In a rare California appearance for President Donald Trump’s appointed Environmental Protection Agency leader, Andrew Wheeler promised the region millions in funding this budget cycle for some quick-er fixes to the age old Tijuana River sewage crisis. 

Wheeler announced EPA would commit $6 million of a $13 million project to help fix a Mexican pumping system that sends contaminated water to a treatment plant five miles south of the border. Mexico already started improving the system, he said, and we’re already seeing less sewage flow. 

It’s also supporting the repair of a sewage pipe and collector that collapsed in 2017, causing millions of gallons of untreated sewage to spill into San Diego. Wheeler said the collector needed fixing again because nobody paid for ongoing maintenance on the Mexican piece of infrastructure. 

While the money promised by Wheeler from the tarmac of the U.S. Coast Guard in San Diego Harbor Wednesday pleased local mayors, it still doesn’t include funding for ongoing maintenance – what officials who run water treatment equipment say is the toughest expense to fund because it’s not as sexy as big construction projects.

EPA also announced $25 million in grants to divert an extra 10 million gallons of wastewater a day to the International Boundary Water Commission’s treatment plant. 

The other grant would help capture sand and trash that often beleaguered a collector in a border canyon called Smuggler’s Gulch.

Local officials are still anxiously waiting to hear how much San Diego gets from the $300 million in funding promised to aid environmental border projects under the new NAFTA agreement, called the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. 

John Busterud, administrator of the local EPA region, said San Diego will likely get “most” of it. Even if it does, it’s still not enough to cover the kinds of projects the region has already studied and said it needs. 

In Other News

The Morning Report was written by Jesse Marx, MacKenzie Elmer and Will Huntsberry, and edited by Sara Libby.

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