U-T CEO: Yeah, I Wrote That, and I'll Write It Again - Voice of San Diego

Economy

U-T CEO: Yeah, I Wrote That, and I'll Write It Again

John Lynch confirms that he wants to see the port disbanded. But he still says a port commissioner altered an email exchange, even though it’s not clear how.

 

U-T San Diego CEO John Lynch is standing by his apparent threat that the newspaper will lead a campaign to disband the Unified Port of San Diego. And in a series of emails to me, Lynch recast an accusation he made last week when he said port commissioner and congressional candidate Scott Peters had doctored that threat to the port.

Lynch still believes that Peters is attacking the U-T and “edited” an email exchange the two had. And he accused Peters of doing this for political gain.

But he left it unclear what he thinks Peters altered about their exchange. At the same time, Lynch confirmed that he did imply that he’d order his newspaper to try to destroy the port if it signed a long-term lease with Dole.

The food company’s long-term lease represented a commitment by the port to cargo operations at the Tenth Avenue Marine Terminal, where Lynch believes a football stadium, hotels and other amenities would better serve the community.

Here’s how the email to Peters read and Lynch confirmed that he wrote all of this (my emphasis on the interesting part):

Scott,

Do you intend to vote for the extension at the Dole lease? There should be a provision that the PORT of successor(if PORT is disbanded) should be able to move Dole to National City. Otherwise this will become a major issue in the campaigns and the UT will be forced to lead a campaign to disband the PORT.

I would appreciate your thoughts.

John

So what the hell is going on?

After all, KPBS last week reported that Lynch denied making this point.

We all took that as him saying he did not threaten the port and that Peters had made it up to make Lynch and the U-T San Diego look bad.

Lynch had made similar points before, so it was not shocking to see he’d taken it to this level. A local labor union leader released a similar emailed threat about the port facing the newspaper’s wrath.

Indeed, in his messages to me, Lynch made it clear he’s proud of the statement that the newspaper would now be trying to destroy the port as an agency.

In fact, after I repeatedly asked him to confirm that he wrote the sentence highlighted above, he said he’d go a step further.

I will rewrite it now. It is our belief the PORT is a layer of government that our City cannot afford. The hundred million or so of savings could upgrade our schools , fix potholes, or be utilized to move the economy forward. The new Mayor, should audit the PORT and determine if it is an asset or an anchor…we will continue to speak out regarding governmental abuse.

So would he be retracting his accusation against Peters now that it was clear Peters hadn’t fabricated the controversial line?

Nope.

Lynch maintained that he still believed that Peters had deliberately edited the email and released it for political gain.

“I was informed Scott edited the paragraph. He did,” Lynch wrote.

Let’s review, chronologically, why he might think that.

• On Aug. 9, Lynch emailed Peters to his personal email account asking about the Dole lease and saying the U-T would have to lead a campaign to kill the port if it did not put in a provision to get out of the lease. (The PDF linked is an email Lynch sent to me.)

• Peters wanted to get a port lawyer involved in the exchange.

• To do that, Peters forwarded the email to the Port. When Peters sent the email to the port, he took out the sentence about the U-T wanting to disband the port. Here’s his explanation for that:

I saw no need at that time to pick a fight with Mr. Lynch over the marine terminal; I did not think it would be good for the port. So I forwarded the only portion of my email that I thought was relevant to senior port staff so that they were aware of the issue and could follow up with Mr. Lynch if he wanted.

• Then Investigative Newsource sent a public records request to the port looking for emails from Lynch. It obtained the email Peters had forwarded — the one in which Lynch’s threat to lead a campaign to disband the port had been omitted.

• When KPBS and Investigative Newsource posted that email, I noticed that it was a forwarded email. So, I asked Peters for the full email string. What had been forwarded to him?

• Seeing the whole email, I saw that statement and recognized it as particularly brash and a strange use of the newspaper as a political weapon.

• KPBS saw my post and asked Lynch about that threat to the port’s existence in a video interview. He seems to defend it.

• But then Lynch called KPBS. The station reports that he said the email was doctored and he said he did not threaten Peters. KPBS quotes him saying “somebody could go to jail.”

• As evidence, Lynch gives KPBS an email without this controversial line: “Otherwise this will become a major issue in the campaigns and the UT will be forced to lead a campaign to disband the PORT.”

• So he basically accused Peters of fabricating that line, which is a huge accusation.

Either Peters fabricated a line in an email to make the newspaper look bad or Lynch was embarrassed by what the email said and childishly claimed that Peters made it up.

Quite a choice!

But as it turns out, it’s not a choice. Again, Lynch now acknowledges he wrote the line in question.

So what is Lynch talking about?

He pressed his case to me. First, he did not think his email to Peters was a threat at all. He said over and over that he and Peters had a good exchange and it was cordial. Why Peters was calling it a threat, he didn’t understand.

“Peters has proved, he has no integrity and that he will do whatever it takes to be elected, including changing emails,” Lynch wrote.

So I pressed. What had Peters changed? If Lynch doesn’t think he made up that line, what did Peters do to the email that was so awful?

To be frank, Lynch seems a bit confused by the admittedly confusing circumstance that left the port, and then KPBS, with a truncated version of his and Peters’ exchange.

So I pressed again. What did Peters doctor about the email?

“He changed the email and was selective in what he released,” he wrote.

That’s all I was going to get.

Peters gave me his own take, also via email:

I did not “announce” the threat weeks later, as Mr. Lynch suggests. A reporter asked for the correspondence and I provided it.

I also paid no attention to Mr. Lynch’s veiled threat to me about my campaign or his silly suggestion that he could dismantle the port. As a trustee for the tidelands, I voted for what I thought was best for our waterfront business.

So, what’s the verdict?

The fact is, the quote that got my attention is real. Lynch did write that he would use the newspaper to kill the port. He wrote it again, in a different way, to make sure we understand where he is on that. He still says Peters changed the email and has no integrity.

It’s not clear what exactly he thinks Peters changed.

Peters wants an apology.

And Lynch and I ended up deciding to have lunch.

I’m Scott Lewis, the CEO of Voice of San Diego. Please contact me if you’d like at scott.lewis@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.325.0527 and follow me on Twitter (it’s a blast!):

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