The by-now-infamous F-word meltdown by San Diego mayor Jerry Sanders is only the latest instance in a long history of bad-boy behavior by the onetime chief of police, who was tutored on the mean streets of Long Beach, where his father was a motorcycle cop. As a young San Diego patrol officer, Sanders, a San Diego State dropout, was reportedly a hard drinker caught up in the macho culture of local law enforcement. His South Mission Beach roommate was Tom Stickel, later to become a wealthy Coronado financier, who recalled that the pair led a loose life; his friends said Sanders spent time haunting local bars and picking up women. In February 1976 Sanders got a “reprimand” from his superiors after he was arrested for drunk driving by California Highway Patrol officers, who chased his Porsche 914 at high speed down the freeway. Somehow, he avoided criminal prosecution.
When Sanders ran for mayor in 2005, there were rumors that he was violently short-tempered and verbally abused his first wife, Kerrill; Sanders denied it, though he’d had the couple’s 1993 divorce file sealed from prying eyes. Asked in 2005 about their divorce, Kerrill said, “It was a very amicable parting,” but declined to elaborate, other than to say the case had been sealed “to protect our privacy.”
Perhaps the most interesting of Sanders’s current relationships is that between him and his press aide Fred Sainz, a hardball Republican operative who was a 1988 advance man for the first George Bush and went on to work for the National Republican Senatorial Committee. Sainz showed up in San Diego as a functionary for the GOP’s 1996 convention and remained to do various political duties for local Republicans; he was hired as an aide by GOP mayor Susan Golding and later became PR man for the city-run convention center operation. Sainz, known for his prickly personality, has been bulking up in local gyms and has become an intimidating presence around city hall and at Sanders political rallies.