Mayor Ed Lee implicated in old corruption scandal; new one in the making? | Libertarian Party of San Francisco

Mayor Ed Lee implicated in old corruption scandal; new one in the making?

This wasn't headline news, but should have been: In 2008, Deborah Vincent-James, former executive director of the Committee on Information Technology that qualified prospective city vendors, said in a court deposition that Ed Lee, then the city purchaser, told her to qualify a company called Government Computer Sales as a city contractor, after then-mayor Willie Brown had directed Lee to do an alternate evaluation process, according to a Feb. 14 article in the Chronicle.

The reason she was testifying about this is that the firm for whom Brown and Lee skirted the normal procedure for approving contractors, Government Computer Sales -- which had hired a former legislative colleague of Willie Brown's, Terry Goggin, as a lobbyist -- was subsequently found to have done no work on improving the city's building permit tracking system despite being paid $500,000 in fees for the job. Now it seems the head of the company has disappeared, after transferring a bunch of money to an offshore bank account.

The good news is that Lee has been called to testify as a witness at the trial that's arisen out of all this. Dare we hope that the seemingly teflon-coated Brown will be forced to do so as well? The bad news is that Vincent-James is dead, according to the Chron -- the article left unstated whether she died under suspicious circumstances or not -- the $500,000 is gone, and the City and two other companies that may or may not have been innocently caught up in the mess are suing and counter-suing. So we may never get the full story, and taxpayers will likely be on the hook for more legal fees.

But while the possibility of a sitting mayor having to explain his corruption under oath remains enticing, we should perhaps be more concerned with watching the current big pots of honey sitting around that look ripe for raiding by the corrupt.

Current Honeypot #1 is undoubtedly the multi-billion dollar Central Subway project. But at least that boondoggle is highly visible, having been a major point of contention during the recent mayoral campaign. With any luck it may yet be cancelled. Honeypot #2 appears to be the one that Oracle billionaire Larry Ellison wants to get his fingers into, namely the rights to control and develop a bunch of valuable property owned by the Port of San Francisco as part of the America's Cup deal. Fortunately, that too is attracting a lot of attention and controversy.

Significantly less well known is what may possibly be Honeypot #3 -- the "emergency communications network" that the Board of Supervisors just approved last week at a cost of $100 million. Apparently $50 million of the cost will be paid for with "free", use-it-or-lose-it federal funding, so of course the Board thought nothing of spending the money and letting the American taxpayers foot the bill. The obvious question of course is why it should cost $100 million to enable key people within our 49-square-mile jurisdiction to talk to each other in the event of an emergency.

But it gets better (or worse)...

 As reported by the Examiner's Josh Sabatini (Feb. 8, page 11), "Despite Tuesday's move, The City is still planning to pay for two other emergency radio systems worth tens of millions of dollars -- one is for MUNI and the other is an overhaul of the current push-to-talk radio system used by police and other first responders."

In other words, they're spending tens of millions of dollars on radios and walkie-talkies. Special ones for different agencies, so that nobody steps on anybody else's bureaucratic turf. Then a few years from now, we'll read an article about how much time has gone by since 9/11, and how government personnel still can't communicate with each other.

But wait, there's more!

"The network infrastructure would be paid for through grant funding," the Examiner article continues, "but San Francisco would pay about $260,000 annually for the antenna sites and staffing. The unknown cost is the purchase of radios and in-vehicle modems or computers, and a $43-per-month charge for each user."

So they're spending $100 million on an emergency communications system for which they will still have to pay $43 per user per month. And tens of millions more on two other emergency radio systems. Just in case the $100 million contract didn't produce enough overhead to satisfy everybody on the take, I suppose.

Only Supervisor Kim voted against this travesty. Supervisor Campos was absent, and the other nine Supervisors -- most supposed "moderates" -- gave it the nod. Please remember this the next time you're tempted to blame all the fiscal irresponsibility in San Francisco on the "progressives".