Although she won't say so, U.S. Attorney Carol Lam can't be too thrilled with all the leaks that are washing up against the federal probe into alleged strip-club antics at City Hall.
On a near-daily basis, someone seems ready to dribble from the mouth-a "local law enforcement source" here, an "FBI source" there. Tsk, tsk. That kind of leakage can do serious damage not only to the investigation, but also to the reputations of folks who may never face prosecution.
A Nevada attorney said just that last week as he whupped some serious ass over the media's drooling desire to link "politician" and "stripper" in the same sentence.
"Stop the leaks!" boomed defense attorney Robert Wright as he stood before a throng of journalists and camera crews. "Who's in charge of this investigation?!"
Wright has a point. The media, not surprisingly, love this kind of story-not for the opportunity to condemn politics as usual, where favors-shock!-buy influence, but instead for its utterly sellable, salacious qualities that pool up in the public psyche like so many "Chia Pet" commercials.
Wright, who claims his client, Clark County Commission head Mary Kincaid-Chauncey, was "set up" by the feds and is now a target in the two-city corruption case, blasted investigators for leaking details that gave the appearance of his client's guilt.
"She was led to believe that she was not a target of their investigation," the Las Vegas Sun quoted Wright as saying. "She believed the agents, not understanding it is perfectly permissible law-enforcement tactics to lie to someone.... She was set up. This was all a plan to get her before she's lawyered up."
Well, most everyone in this seamy soap opera is lawyered up now, and that is bound to make Lam's job even tougher-and probably even riper for a continuing leak-fest.
The how-to manual for the federal Department of Justice seems pretty clear-cut in its scorn for leakers. Under a heading, "Concerns of Prejudice," employees are told, among other no-no's, that they "should refrain" from making "statements concerning evidence or argument in the case, whether or not it is anticipated that such evidence or argument will be used at trial" nor "statements concerning the identity, testimony or credibility of prospective witnesses."
So what are scoop-hungry journalists and chatty feds to do? Abide by those rules, and-voila!-the speculative bulk of this story evaporates; don't, and you could be facing serious consequences, including contempt-of-court charges.
Under another topic, "Assisting the News Media," feds are warned that "[i]n cases in which a search warrant or arrest warrant is to be executed, no advance information will be provided to the news media about actions to be taken by law enforcement personnel, nor shall media representatives be solicited or invited to be present."
Was it pure coincidence, then, that the Union-Tribune had a photographer stationed outside City Hall as the feds walked toward City Hall to conduct The Raid two weeks ago, or was a section of the fed's manual merely stomped on for the sake of publicity?
Asked if the local U.S. attorney would like to say a few words to those leakers who might be defaming the innocent and potentially screwing up her case, Lam's spokeswoman seemed equally clear-cut: "She hasn't been talking to the media, so I've been declining all requests for interviews."
Guess we know who isn't leaking.
Meanwhile, Charles Walker, the former FBI agent now heading up the San Diego Ethics Commission, tells CityBeat that he is, in fact, "cooperating with the investigation."
Interesting, considering that the Ethics Commission has done zilch so far in attacking one of the real culprits in this sorry storyline: the egregious practice by big-moneyed wheeler-dealers of bundling campaign contributions from low-level employees and family members to shield the true donor. Walker, who noted the problem when he took the commission helm in early 2002, says anti-bundling language has been kicked around during commission workshops, including "possible ways to prevent this practice."
Speaking of leaks...
It might have been a good thing the California Coastal Commission earlier this month rejected SeaWorld's plan to extend its parking lot even closer to the old, toxic Mission Bay landfill just to the east.
At last week's monthly gathering of Councilmember Donna Frye's Mission Bay Landfill Technical Advisory Committee, it was reported that SeaWorld early last year told the city that it had measured potentially lethal concentrations of hydrogen sulfide under the eastern edge of the theme park's current parking lot.
"I believe this should be a matter of discussion and possibly immediate action," committee member John Wilks of the Sierra Club wrote to Frye.
The reading-at 1,820 parts per million about 18 times above accepted lethal standards-is mentioned briefly in a January 2002 soils report prepared for SeaWorld's planned expansion. Wilks wondered if the public should have been notified of the finding, considering that it was hydrogen sulfide that sickened several construction workers when the city began work on South Shores Park in the late '80s.
For years, activists have been prodding the city to find out once and for all what's lurking in the old landfill, which during San Diego's aerospace heyday last century became a dumping ground for toxic chemicals.
Even with the city's budgetary woes, Frye seemed confident that her council colleagues will approve funding in June for a thorough study of the landfill, but she urged everyone concerned to send a letter or e-mail to other council members to make sure the message is clear. "We're moving along," she said, "slowly but surely."