Operation Homecoming donations total $33K
By: ADAM KAYE - Staff Writer
ENCINITAS ---- The city received $33,000 in donations to offset $18,000 it paid to produce the Operation Homecoming at Encinitas book-reading event last month, Finance Director Jennifer Smith told the City Council on Wednesday.
The excess donations ---- $15,000 ---- will be given to the San Diego Nice Guys Victory Fund, a charity that supports deployed and wounded troops and their families, Smith said.
On Sept. 22, an estimated 850 people attended the event at the Encinitas Community and Senior Center, where troops read passages from their submissions to "Operation Homecoming: Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Home Front in the Words of U.S. Troops and Their Families."
After Smith's brief report, some council members tore into the watchdogs and one of their colleagues who had questioned the expenditures.
Councilman Dan Dalager, who is credited with conceiving the national reading tour to accompany the recently published anthology of war stories, saved his sharpest words for the North County Times.
On Saturday, the newspaper reported nearly $20,000 in expenditures discovered on city warrants lists by taxpayer advocates Bob Bonde and Donna Westbrook.
"That is some of the most irresponsible reporting I've ever seen," Dalager said Wednesday. Later, he added, "We've got a press that's simply looking to do what's not right, what's not a story."
Dalager ---- with support from the Downtown Encinitas MainStreet Association, Encinitas Chamber of Commerce and the 101 Artists Colony ---- spent nearly a year preparing a proposal and pressuring the National Endowment for Arts to make Encinitas one of its first stops on the tour.
In the weeks leading up to the highly publicized event, Dalager said the city would spend "maybe $5" to bring it to Encinitas, but would earn much more than that in publicity and prestige.
In Saturday's newspaper story, Councilwoman Maggie Houlihan said she had understood the event would come at no cost to the city.
"I think your comments (in the story) were very irresponsible," Mayor Christy Guerin told Houlihan at Wednesday's meeting."If the paper's irresponsible, and it's their job to find something and explain something, no comment is appropriate."
Houlihan said she did not know a fund existed to cover the city's payments to vendors.
"A little bit of communication would have gone a long way," Houlihan said. "There wasn't information given to me in advance that I saw about the paying arrangement."
Operation Homecoming expenses appearing on the Sept. 27, Oct. 18 and Wednesday's warrants lists total $19,633. Smith's report, however, shows $18,062 in costs. The difference between the amounts reported remained unclear Wednesday, but city officials have said the event will cost the city little if anything.
The report shows corporate and private donations from: Cox Communications Inc. ($2,500); EDCO Recycling & Waste Collection Services ($3,000); Barratt American Inc. ($5,000); San Diego Gas & Electric Co. ($5,000); Gerald and Robin Parsky ($3,000); anonymous ($11,000); Borders Inc. book sales ($617); National Endowment for the Arts reimbursements ($1,318); staff donations ($2); Victory Fund offering ($1,624).
Councilman Jerome Stocks praised Dalager and said he would have been proud to direct public funds toward the event.
Councilman James Bond said he, too, wanted a clarification of expenditures, and added, "It would be nice if the folks who were concerned about that to say they apologize."
If Dan Dalager had more patience and was less arrogant he could have easily supplied more information to his fellow council members, the public and the press. His attitude that you can never, ever challenge his actions and choices is making him a loose cannon. He still owes city founder Bob Bonde an apology for calling him a "whiner". Bob Bonde served this country as a marine in Korea, how is that for irony?