Former San Diego City Councilwoman Barbara Warden’s new employer, Western Integrated Networks, may be an unknown entity locally, but the Denver-based cable company aims to change that. “We will be competing with both Cox Communications and Time Warner in their respective service areas,” said Bill Mahon, WIN’s senior vice president. “We intend to build a broadband telecommunications network and spend in excess of $500 million over five years to provide cable, long-distance telephone and high-speed Internet service.”
Warden accepted the job as vice president and general manager for WIN’s San Diego office Aug. 14 after her surprise resignation Aug. 11. Warden said she decided to resign and leave office four months before her final term expired after the city attorney advised her that even talking to prospective employers could be construed as a conflict of interest.
“For me to consider these options, legally and ethically, and to comply with the city charter, I must resign from office,” she said. “This decision in the final days of my term has been painstakingly difficult for me because it has been a great honor representing the 5th District.” Warden, 59, was first elected to the council in 1993, and re-elected in 1996. Her district covers the northeastern part of the city straddling Interstate 15 and includes Mira Mesa, Rancho Bernardo, Carmel Mountain Ranch, Scripps Ranch and Linda Vista.
Warden didn’t reveal who her future employer was at the time she resigned. When news of the company leaked out, she was vacationing at her parents home in Rose Valley, Pa., and could not be reached for comment. Jim Abbott, a longtime friend and local realtor, said Warden had at least one other job offer before deciding to resign, but he didn’t know the company.
He said Warden would have preferred to fill out the rest of her term, but was advised explicitly she could neither work part-time or even discuss future employment while she was on the council. “This was not an easy choice for her,” Abbott said. Had Warden filled out the remainder of her term to December, the WIN position probably wasn’t going to be there, Abbott said. WIN was awarded a 15-year franchise for the city of San Diego in June by a unanimous council vote. Mahon said Warden’s main responsibilities on the job that starts Sept. 1 will be to recruit, hire and train a local work force expected to grow to about 500 persons, and establish a local office. He declined to reveal Warden’s salary. She earned about $60,000 as a council member.
At the Aug. 11 press conference, Warden denied her resignation had anything to do with an ongoing investigation into alleged conflict-of-interest violations by Councilwoman Valerie Stallings. That investigation involving the FBI, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the district attorney has been under way for about a month following revelations that Stallings purchased and sold stock in a Texas company chaired by Padres owner John Moores.
Subsequent to Warden’s resignation, Mayor Susan Golding said she accepted a position as director a SureBeam Corp., a new spin-off of San Diego based Titan Corp. Warden was advised by Assistant City Attorney Les Girard that she could not hold discussions or hold a position with a company the city does business until she left the council. Girard said Golding, who also asked legal advice before accepting her position with SureBeam, is permitted to hold her position because SureBeam does not, and probably will not do any business with the city.
The continuing integration of the telecommunications industry is driving new companies like WIN to take a crack at previously de facto monopolies such as Cox Communications, whose service territory includes all of the county south of Interstate 8, most of East County and most of North County.
In the past, competing in territories already being served by a cable company wasn’t financially viable because of the tremendous infrastructure costs involved to provide cable television service, said Dan Novak, Cox vice president of programming and communications. However, with deregulation and advances in technology, companies now have the capability of offering cable, voice and Internet service, and the economics look different, he said. Novak said Cox wasn’t worried about the impending competition from WIN. “We know that competition is good for consumers, and we know that we provide a reliable, good product at a competitive price. We welcome the chance to compete with all comers,” he said. Mahon said WIN should begin offering its services to area customers in about 12 months, starting in the area south of Interstate 8. Privately held Western Integrated was launched last October by Jim Vaughn, a former cable company CEO. It has franchise agreements and construction projects under way in Austin, Houston, San Antonio, Sacramento, and Portland, Ore.
The company now has about $850 million in equity and some 125 employees nationally, Mahon said.