Council President Hires Three Workers From Brother's Campaign
Outgoing San Diego City Council President Ben Hueso is under scrutiny for hiring three workers from his brother Felipe's failed campaign to represent the 8th District. Hueso says he was so concerned about the inexperience of Councilman-elect David Alvarez's incoming staff that he decided to hire the former campaign staffers. The workers will serve in Hueso's office until December 6, and will be paid $2,308 every two weeks to work on "time-sensitive" projects. We talk about the ethical questions that have been raised about the hiring of these individuals.
JW August, managing editor for 10News.
Bob Kittle, director of News Planning and Content for KUSI.
Ricky Young, watchdog editor for the San Diego Union-Tribune.
This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.
San Diego's journalism community is more stream lined than it was when there were three daily newspapers with hundreds of reporters and it's now providing a host of solid investigations, such as the one you just heard, that are important to our region. We just heard about the Sempra resort. Now we turn to questions piling up about San Diego City counsel president ben Hueso, who chose not to run for reelection in the City of San Diego. Instead, he moved up the political ladder to run successfully for the California state legislature. So J. W, 10 News and voice of San Diego, was your partner on this one.
JW AUGUST: Oh, we didn't partner, we were competing like the old days.
GLORIA PENNER: Oh, you and voice were competing.
JW AUGUST: Yeah, we were in a race. .
GLORIA PENNER: All right. So you both pursued public record actor requests about Hueso's requesting bonuses for his staff before he leaves office on December�6th.
JW AUGUST: Right.
GLORIA PENNER: Why did the bonuses prompt that kind of response from you?
JW AUGUST: Well, initially, it started when we both heard a tip that three guys who worked for Hueso's brother, Felipe, who got hammered in his campaign.
GLORIA PENNER: To replace his brother that another candidate won, his brother ran for office for city council. Of he could not win, three people off of his staff moved over to his staff, Ben Hueso was a city council member. these three guys walk around city hall with paperwork, that people get when they're hired. And then the calls begin. Hey, he hired three guys from his brother's political campaign, and the second was, hey, they're paying people bonuses in that office. So both of us, you started working it Friday, and Friday afternoon, I had called Hueso's office, and said hey, are you giving people raises, bonuses, did you hire these three? And in the toxins then and now, I've only gotten an e-mail which I got late last night from Hueso's office, they've contacted me, that he brew me off.
GLORIA PENNER: Can they do that legally?
JW AUGUST: I guess they can.
GLORIA PENNER: Was this a public records request?
JW AUGUST: These guys wouldn't even pick up the cellphone if they saw me -- I'm subpoenaingly they would see my number coming and wouldn't even talk to me. But I will stick this for the voice, somehow they were able to talk to the person who handles the press for Hueso and got to him.
GLORIA PENNER: Just briefly, what's so wrong about this? What's so wrong about hiring campaign workers that worked for your brother's failed campaign as sort of a thanks very much, and you only have a couple of weeks in my office because I'm going to be moving up to the state assembly?
JW AUGUST: Well, they needed Christmas money too, you know? They needed some money to spend for Christmas. It is very much wrong, one, it's wrong to do it, and it's wrong, when the media, when somebody asks, even as a citizen, what are you doing, and they won't ask are answer.
GLORIA PENNER: Bob Kittle, tell me .
BOB KITTLE: I think it's an absolute out rage, ben Hueso taking his friends, in this case his brother Felipe friends and just giving them make work jobs that aren't real jobs with your tax dollars. Now, we know the city's fiscal crisis, and we know how short the dollars are. I mean, this is treating San Diego like a banana republic or something. It's just outrageous in my view.
GLORIA PENNER: Are bonuses, Bob, the usual parting gift from a counsel member to his staff that's been around for a while before leaving office.
BOB KITTLE: I certainly hope not. Ive never heard of this in the past, I don't know that it's never happened before, but it certainly is inappropriate if it's never happened before.
GLORIA PENNER: Donna fry leaves office at the same time, Ricky, have you heard whether she's provided bonuses for her staff.
RICKY YOUNG: She certainly is, thank you for the idea, we'll check. . Boss weed aspect, but I should say, out of fairness as I like to do on this show, Hueso's office says he has should projects he wants to push through, kind of legacy things, and he needs the extra firepower at the end of his term, to get those things done, so --
GLORIA PENNER: While we are raising this, our awareness has been heightened lately. There's the case of Congress man Charley rangel who was found guilty and it focuses attention on what practices among politicians are corrupt and she'sy, as opposed to sloppy and careless, what signs are there that there's arrogance involved or carelessness or an unreasonable sense of entitlement. And that results in unethical behavior, and that's whale what I want you to ponder about. Of Bob Kittle.
BOB KITTLE: Well, we don't have to parse this, Gloria, in my view, this is just an outrageous waste of tax dollars done by an unethical politician in my view.
GLORIA PENNER: So what resource is there.
BOB KITTLE: The resource is public shame, officially, and the we're doing it we offering some pretty harsh opinions here, by Ben Hueso, I don't know that there's any legal recourse that's available to anybody.
GLORIA PENNER: And of course he has been elected already as the state assembly person. So he's gonna be in Sacramento very soon.
BOB KITTLE: That's right, and I think there will be multiple watch dogs keeping an eye on how he spends money in sack sax, that is, how he spends our money in Sacramento.
JW AUGUST: My new hobby is gonna be on Mr. Hueso and they team up there and see how much money they can raise.
GLORIA PENNER: And Ricky.
RICKY YOUNG: Just as a last note, Gloria, one thing that is brought up by all this is the outrageous altitude toward republic records requests in San Diego. If you read what the voice of San Diego went through trying to get these documents, you know, they asked for any requests put in by counsel members for increased pay, and the woman who processed the request had the gall to tell them that there was no such record. Even though she had written a note on the very request when she forwarded it over to the mayor's office that said, let me know when the checks are available. For that woman to say there was no records responsive to the request, at least if what the voice printed is -- or published is true, then that's pretty outrageous and is just a fray grant violation of public records.
GLORIA PENNER: Does she still have her job?
RICKY YOUNG: Of course she does.
JW AUGUST: That's the message that Hueso staff sent yesterday, but I think she's taking heat far something -- for something else, because I heard from sources that Hueso's office actually tried to pull back requests under the label of oh, it's a personnel issue.
RICKY YOUNG: She knew the document existed and she should have released it.
JW AUGUST: But she may be getting heat from some place else.
RICKY YOUNG: That doesn't make it okay --
JW AUGUST: No, I didn't say it was, but I think she's the fall person on this. Of she's down on the food chain, take her out.
GLORIA PENNER: We only have a few seconds left, but when -- assuming that this person was at fault and is no longer going to process public records requests, is that the end of it for her? Does she generally -- I mean is the city set up so that she will keep her job? Do you have any idea Bob Kittle.
BOB KITTLE: I really do not know in this particular instance.
JW AUGUST: I can read you the line.
GLORIA PENNER: Okay.
JW AUGUST: These matters will be handled by the individual consul offices so they're taking the administrator out of the thing, supposedly.
GLORIA PENNER: But I guess the question I'm asking is that, you know, here is a matter of concern.
JW AUGUST: Gloria, I appreciate your, you know, thought that somehow someone would .
RICKY YOUNG: Ignoring a public records request, my point in bringing this up was that the state of response to public records request at San Diego City hall, is pretty dismal, and I think she fits into the culture over there, rather than being vetted from it.
GLORIA PENNER: Well, with that, issue gentlemen, thank you for JW AUGUST, watch do you go editor for the Union Tribune, and JW August, who is the managing editor for 10 News, and the director of content and news planning for KUSI, Bob Kittle. This has been the Editors Roundtable. I'm Gloria Penner.