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Roundtable On Water Rates, Navy Bribery Scandal, Longest Lawsuit

Roundtable On Water Rates, Navy Bribery Scandal, Longest Lawsuit
Roundtable On Water Rates, Navy Bribery Scandal, Longest Lawsuit
Water Rates, 'Fat Leonard' Scandal, de la Fuente LawsuitHOST:Mark SauerGUESTS:Ry Rivard, Voice of San Diego Greg Moran, The San Diego Union-Tribune Laura Wingard, KPBS News

Rising water rates

This week the San Diego City Council approved a 16 percent hike in potable-water rates for fiscal 2016.

The increase will mean a 40 percent increase in rates over four years. Projected hikes in the cost of imported water was cited as a reason for the increase. San Diego imports 85 percent of its water.


Homeowners and businesses, however, may consider themselves lucky; the council increased the cost of irrigation water 117 percent.

Councilmen David Alvarez and Scott Sherman voted against the increases, with Alvarez saying there are better plans which do not punish those who conserve.

The city's utilities department said the consequences of keeping rates as is would be severe. There would not be enough money coming in to keep up with water-main replacement, to pay the city’s bills, nor for the city's water recycling project. Without new funds, work on the Pure Water wastewater recycling project will be suspended, and, the city says, our dependence on imported water will continue.

The utilities department also wants to more than double the rate for non-potable, “purple-pipe” water.

The bottom line: Domestic, imported, recycled water is more precious than ever.


"Fat Leonard" is singing

The large-scale bribery and fraud scheme perpetrated by Leonard Glenn Francis, aka “Fat Leonard,” on the U.S. Navy is a case study in what can happen when minimally supervised contractors perform essential services for the military.

Francis ingratiated himself into the Navy’s Pacific Fleet supply chain, performing services the Navy used to perform for itself, including food supply, refueling, motor-vehicle repair, supply and logistics.

Beginning in 2006, Fat Leonard reeled in admirals, captains and commanders with lavish parties, prostitutes, tickets to big events and other gifts. He bribed officers and civilian officials with kickbacks to route ships to “pearl ports,” where he greatly overcharged the Navy for services.

Complaints to the Navy, including to Naval Criminal Investigative Service, went nowhere.

In January 2015, Francis pleaded guilty to bribery and fraud in federal court. He has been cooperating with prosecutors and investigators ever since. Six others, including naval officers, have also pleaded guilty, and more indictments are expected. Three admirals have received letters of censure.

The long and winding lawsuit

In 1986, developer Roque de la Fuente entered into an agreement with the city of San Diego to develop 312 acres in Otay Mesa. De la Fuente wanted to build a business park featuring international trade.

His plan didn’t go well.

He sued the city in 1995 over its plans to build an airport there. The city also changed the border trucking route to go through his property.

Jurors agreed with de la Fuente that the city swindled him and awarded him $94.5 million at a trial in 2001. Appeals, further appeals and more lawsuits followed, until, with accruing interest, the city was on the hook to de la Fuente for $136 million.

In 2006, an appellate court reversed the original verdict and sent the case back for a new trial. The whole shebang was settled this week, after the last of 61 settlement drafts worked on by the City Attorney's office and a retired federal magistrate was accepted by all.

De la Fuente gets $25 million, and the city gets $5 million, paid by insurance, not taxpayers. City Attorney Jan Goldsmith is happy.

Oh, and Roque de la Fuente is running for president.