Community Leader’s View: Reviewing background of Promote La Jolla

By Rick Wildman

In light of recent reports on the state of Promote La Jolla (PLJ), I thought I should review some background on the organization.

PLJ was incorporated in as a nonprofit corporation in 1987 by my friend, the late Bud Murfey - a preeminent lawyer of utmost integrity - “to promote the common interests and activities of the commercial enterprises located in the Village of La Jolla.”

PLJ was given an exclusive contract with the city of San Diego to use public monies from its 1,100 members’ city business taxes to promote the interests of all the businesses within the La Jolla Business Improvement District (BID). The law provides that the records of PLJ are public records.

PLJ was created as an elemental democratic institution. PLJ was not created to be a fiefdom. In 2008, two of the people elected as directors were found not to be members of PLJ. The next two finishers, prominent La Jollans Nancy Warwick and Bob Collins, expected to be placed on the PLJ Board. When they were denied their seats on the Board, they sued PLJ. Nancy also sued to gain access to the public records of PLJ.

In 2008, a slate of seasoned community leaders, interested in preserving and enhancing our unique Village, put aside our personal interests and sought election to the PLJ board. Our goal was to promote an agenda of unity and transparency.

In January 2009, the board unanimously elected four of us as the officers of PLJ. At our first meeting the board unanimously agreed to settle the lawsuit. In accordance with the order of Judge John S. Meyer, Bob and Nancy remained on the board. All records of PLJ were made available to board members and to the public.

The new PLJ board members learned of a separate organization called the “PLJ Foundation,” organized in 2003, which included non-PLJ members. In March 2005, the PLJ president and secretary, who were also the president and secretary of the foundation had apparently, without prior PLJ public hearing and board vote, obtained a $150,000 line of credit (“LOC”) from First Republic Bank.

Borrowing on the LOC began immediately. The first formal PLJ documentation of the line of credit was a reference in the April 2005 PLJ minutes. The existence of this LOC was discovered by the new officers of PLJ in January 2009. Sometime in 2008-2009 the La Jolla Destination Marketing Alliance (“LJDMA”) sought $1.1 million in funds from the city of San Diego Tourism Marketing District. The foundation also changed its name to the LJDMA.

The outstanding balance of $64,800 was due and payable in January, shortly before the new PLJ officers were elected. The LOC is now in technical default. The foundation/

LJDMA, guarantor of the LOC, may have only $200 in its account. Our auditors are currently examining the records of both PLJ and the Foundation/LJDMA.

The PLJ Board has been advised by Meredith Dibden-Brown, from the city’s Office of Small Business, that public funds may not be used to pay down the $64,000. First Republic Bank is cooperating with all parties in an effort to restructure the line of credit.

Rick Wildman, a former combat engineer officer and a practicing attorney for 32 years, is president of Promote La Jolla.