SANDAG to consider hiring law firm to examine faulty revenue forecast

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SAN DIEGO – The San Diego Association of Governments is scheduled Friday to consider hiring a Newport Beach law firm to conduct an independent examination of a faulty revenue forecast for last fall’s Measure A.

The SANDAG Board of Directors 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 — is set to recommend that the law firm Hueston Hennigan LLP conduct the investigation at a cost of $125,000.

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.

The firm’s proposal said Hueston was a public corruption coordinator in the U.S. Attorney’s Office, where he led investigations involving several Southern California municipalities.

SANDAG’s Executive Committee will be asked to recommend hiring the firm to the Board of Directors, made up of elected officials from around the area, which will make the final decision.