The board of directors of the San Diego Association of Governments voted Friday to hire a Newport Beach law firm to conduct an independent examination of a faulty revenue forecast for last fall’s Measure A.
The board earlier this year called for an outside investigation of who knew what, and when, regarding the projection of how much money a half-cent sales tax hike would raise.
The measure was backed by a majority of residents in November, but failed to capture the two-thirds necessary for passage.
SANDAG officials supported the measure by arguing that passage would result in $18 billion to spend on transportation and environmental projects over the next four decades.
Documents obtained by the online publication Voice of San Diego indicated that staff members discovered a modeling error that overstated the likely proceeds but didn’t change the projection or alert board members.
A trio of SANDAG directors — Poway Mayor Steve Vaus, San Diego City Council President Myrtle Cole and Del Mar Mayor Terry Sinnott — recommended the hiring of the law firm Hueston Hennigan LLP to conduct the investigation at a cost of $125,000. Their proposal was approved by the board, which is made up of elected officials from around the region.
“We wanted a pit bull to make sure that every stone is looked under, that we leave nothing to question so that the public can know we investigated things thoroughly and completely,” Vaus said. “My view — everything is on the table.”
In a letter to SANDAG, partner John Hueston wrote that he was a lead investigator on a task force in the Enron accounting scandal in the early 2000s, and his firm has “particular expertise in actuarial forecasting, which underlies the allegations of omissions and possible cover-up.”
He said the three members of the proposed investigative team have a combined 50 years of experience. The probe should be wrapped up in three months, he said.
Hueston was a public corruption coordinator in the U.S. Attorney’s Office, where he led investigations involving several Southern California municipalities.
Vaus called the firm “a pit bull with a pedigree.”
—City News Service
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