Ms. Watkins in a quid pro quo relationship with Sjohnna Knack on Airport Noise Advisory Committee

Updated: May 12, 2020

Debbie Watkins has been sitting, and I mean sitting on the ANAC now for almost 12 years. There is roughly a two year term for this position, but the Airport Authority has continued to support her and effectively reward her for her service, not to Mission Beach, but to the Airport Authority.

A quick summary of how this relationship has worked:

  • In 2016, I met with Debbie Watkins and Sjohnna Knack. At this meeting, Ms. Knack tried to convince me that all departures post 10 pm were following the 290 degree nighttime noise abatement procedure; she didn't!

  • In 2017, Ms. Watkins was chosen by Ms. Knack as the chair of the ANAC Subcommittee developing ideas to mitigate noise in light of the NexGen changes

  • At one point, Casey Schnoor submits ideas beneficial to Mission Beach, but does not copy the Chair on the distribution to committee members; Ms. Watkins in a communication to Ms. Knack is furious and asks who in control here. She acknowledges that I am behind the ideas and proposes that it is time to get things back under control.

  • In early May 2017, Ms. Watkins forwards an email I shared with her (before I know that she was sharing email from me with Ms. Knack) with Ms. Knack. There was a very long thread with many activists making comments. Ms. Knack acknowledges the input from Ms. Watkins and is able to better prepare her consultants to repel many of the ideas brought forward by the Subcommittee.

  • At one point, Ms. Watkins sends Ms. Knack an email claiming that I was sending her many emails that amounted to harassment of her by me.

  • On May 17, I attend a Subcommittee meeting during which Ms. Watkins effectively kills ideas that would likely be beneficial to Mission Beach. After the meeting I asked Ms. Watkins what she was doing! Ms. Watkins went back into the building and claimed to Ms. Gantwerk, and Airport Authority consultant, that I was harassing and threatening her. Later that evening, I received a phone call from the Airport Authority telling me to stop harassing and threatening Ms. Watkins.

  • I am fairly sure that Ms. Knack and Ms. Watkins used this incident to undermine my credibility with politicians and others.

I first became interested in what was going on at the Airport when there was a news item regarding Pt. Loma folks unhappy about Noise Dots. I came up to speed on WebTrax, software that tracks departures and arrivals at Lindbergh Field. I was aware that there was and still is a nighttime noise abatement agreement from 10 pm to 6:30 am when all departures are moved to a 290 degree vector heading.

During the daytime hours, beginning at 6:30 am, there are two departures, one that is on a 275 degree vector and one that was on a 293 degree vector, the latter one flying over Mission Beach after being put on a 293 degree vector. I began to notice that even after 10 pm, the flights on the 293 degree vector during the day, stayed on that same vector at night. I posed the question to Ms. Watkins and then Ms. Knack, the Airport Noise Abatement Manager.

The meeting was clearly a kind of setup. The two of them attempted to convince me that all of the departures were on the 290 nighttime noise abatement vector. Sjohnna had the advantage that she could put up a large number of departures at one time, which she did. She would put up 100 departures and say, see, one departure with a lot of spread. But, even then I could see two distinct groups. I tried to point this out, but then she changed the slide and moved on quickly.

After the NexGen was implemented and we could see the impact on South Mission Beach, Ms. Watkins was happy because it stopped aircraft from flying further north over her house. But we and others from la Jolla to Pt. Loma were not happy with the new flight procedures. Casaey Schnoor, an activist from Pt. Loma/OB was able to press for formation of a Subcommittee to look at ways to mitigate noise in light of the new NexGen changes. At an ANAC meeting I attended, Either Ms. Gantwerk (Airport Authority consultant) or Ms. Knack asked for a volunteer to be the Chair of this new Subcommittee. Debbie's was the first and I think only hand to go up. The Board then confirmed the appointment by a vote.

I believe that Ms. Watkins decided that she needed to get me under control, which in this case means to undermine my credibility by undermining my integrity. She did this by first laying the groundwork in a few email claiming that I was harassing her, and then by claiming that I harassed and threatened her after a Subcommittee meeting.

Ms. Watkins first exaggerates with the claim of 20 emails in three days, although I did email her a lot trying to provide explanations for the proposals I was suggesting. It was clear to me that Ms. Watkins did not have a strong, or even weak understanding of many of these issues, so i repeated my points. But in her last sentence she claims that I am harassing her saying that she must agree with me or ELSE! Now Ms. Watkins has used this ploy, harassment and threatening on other occasions. She blurted out, at another MBPPB Board Member who she was having problems with, walked behind her chair at the meeting to handout sheets of paper to other Board Members, he is harassing me; he is threatening me!

Ms. Watkins never really ran the meetings. She would call the meeting to order at the beginning and then close the meeting at the end. Ms. Gantwerk ran the meetings. Over time it became increasingly obvious to some of the committee meetings that Ms. Watkins was not on the side of the residents. And so she was bypassed by some of the communications. At one point, Ms. Watkins states, " I know where these topics originated. perhaps we need to better control the discussion where they go off course..." If you note, the date on this communication is March 16, 2017.

Then on May 8th Ms. Watkins forwarded a very long email thread to Ms. Knack. Again, she never asked me for permission to forward this email and I never gave it. While this did not represent a violation of the Brown Act, because presumably Ms. Knack was not an official member of the board, this is one of the more unethical acts I have seen by a public volunteer. I believe here she violates the trust of her constituents and many others who she seems to be working against.

There are many people on this thread which is somewhat sensitive. For example, I was proposing we bring in our own noise consultant. Cyntheia Shultz from JDA Aviation has sent me an email .

Mathew Price quotes Ms. Knack's salary. John Johnson, Gillian Acklamnd, Len Gross, Mathew Price, Beatrice Pardo, Someone comments that no one on ANAC would be confused for a MENSA member, probably not even qualified for CostCO. Chris McCann, goes into a monologue about the man-made challenges against reasonable noise mitigation measures. It is too long to add here, but if you want to see it, let me know.

On May 17th, there was another Subcommittee meeting. At this meeting both Ms. Watkins and Mr. Trolf did their best to undermine suggestions that might benefit Mission Beach. After the meeting I walked out after talking with the consultant for about 10 minutes. Ms. Watkins was still there, so i walked up to her and asked, WHAT THE HECK SHE WAS DOING. I was upset, but I did not raise me voice. Ms. Watkins immediately ran back inside the building, so I left. Later that evening, I received a phone call from a person who identified himself as a SDCRAA employee who told me not to harass or threaten Ms. Watkins again. This is not the first time that Ms. Watkins has used this ploy to shut down someone who did not agree with her. I prepared an affidavit to document the event after the May 17 meeting.

There are numerous other examples where Ms. Watkins was given special treatment by Ms. Knack. I found out about this when I received the results from a Public Records Request to the SDCRAA. Perhaps the best example of Ms. Watkins betrayal of Mission Beach and the other communities was when I found that all of the email between myself and members of the Subcommittee who were formulating recommendations for the Subcommittee were forwarded by Ms. Watkins to Sjohnna Knack. I would copy Ms. Watkins on much of the on-going communications to keep her appraised of what was going on, without knowing about her subsequent activities. She never informed me that she was forwarding information to Ms. Knack. Ms. Knack sometimes would inform her management about the Subcommittee members thinking and sometimes she would bring one of her consultants up to speed. Here is an example of how Ms. Knack used email from Ms. Watkins to prep her consultant before a Subcommittee meeting.

But Ms. Knack did not always represent what the activists were promoting. For example once, Ms. Knack told her consultant that we in Mission Beach were trying to do away with the nighttime noise abatement agreement all together, which is patently false, at least back then.

Ms. Watkins sent the letter below not just to me, but also to everyone on my distribution list. This successfully had the effect of undermining my letter. Ms. Watkins in this letter does her best to establish her credentials as the only person in Mission Beach to listen to on airport noise issues. Unfortunately, Ms. Watkins is very good at telling half truths.

Just to summarize one key point. Debbie Watkins in March becomes aware that she has been left off of email to other Subcommittee members and comments that she knows where this is coming from, and it has to stop. I am fairly certain she is referring to me. Then around May 8th, Debbie forwards to Sjohnna forwards and email I sent to Debbie that includes a very long chain of emails. I don't know if this is illegal, but certainly unethical. And then a little over a week later, after the Subcommittee meeting, I went outdoors and interrupted a conversation Ms. Watkins was having and put a couple of pointed questions to her about her about her actions in the meeting that did not represent the best interests of Mission Beach. She then runs back into the building and claims that I am harassing and threatening her. I later that evening received a phone call from someone at the Airport Authority telling me not to harass and threaten Ms. Watkins anymore. I believe that this was done intentionally to try to isolate me from other community members.

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