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On February 25 of last year, professional skydiver Alan (Buzz) Fink and his wife Kristina, who are not residents of San Diego, gave a total of $640 to Jan Goldsmith in his run for city attorney. On July 23, Fink, president of Jamul’s Skydive San Diego, gave Goldsmith another $320.

Goldsmith won the election, and on January 8 he fired deputy city attorney John Serrano, who worked on real estate property. He is one of nine deputy city attorneys who have been fired by Goldsmith. Serrano is an experienced government lawyer, having served as a deputy city attorney in Los Angeles and assistant city attorney in Escondido, among many things.

But despite his undisputed professional credentials, Serrano was on a list of lawyers in the city attorney’s office that Mayor Jerry Sanders told the pliant Goldsmith to fire. The city attorney’s office denies that such a list exists, but we have interviewed many people who know about it, including one who was in a meeting in which a Goldsmith aide alluded to it. The mayor’s office would not comment.

Fifteen months ago, Serrano was asked to approve a sublease of space on prime City land at Brown Field. He noted that Juan Escalante, a member of the City of San Diego Airports Advisory Committee, had a very favorable lease at Brown and wanted to retire and transfer it to two members of the Airports Advisory Committee, one of whom was Fink. But Serrano found out that when Escalante got the deal in 1998, he had promised to make major changes — “build hangars, put in showers for the pilots, put in a gate, those kinds of things,” says Serrano. He checked satellite images and found those improvements had not been made.

He went to Mike Tussey, deputy director of airports. “He said, ‘Don’t worry. Just approve the sublease. These are good people. They are on the Airports Advisory Committee.’ I said when someone promises to do $700,000 of public improvements and doesn’t do them, it’s like a theft. Fink sent a letter to the mayor, city attorney, council members that I was not being objective and interfering with a good deal.” Serrano went to the council in closed session and explained the situation; in December of 2007, it authorized that the tenant be evicted. But Tussey refused to sign the notice of termination of tenancy for more than a year. “Tussey was backed up by the mayor on this thing.”

After Goldsmith got into office, Serrano was told to see David Jarrell, deputy chief operating officer for public works. Serrano then ran into Phil Rath, the mayor’s policy adviser. “As we were walking toward the meeting room, he said, ‘Are you still working with the city attorney’s office?’ That was the first clue.” Serrano explained the Brown Field situation to Rath, Tussey, and Jarrell. He also got to Goldsmith. “He said we had to do whatever the mayor’s office wanted to do. I was not to substitute my personal judgment for anything the mayor wanted to do, as long as it was legal. We are to serve our client; if our client has a need, give the client the benefit of the doubt.”

This cavalier attitude toward ethical caution was coming not long after the City had been sharply criticized by consultants and regulators for hiding critical information from bond documents and generally doing exactly what Goldsmith was instructing Serrano to do. Serrano doesn’t say it, but Goldsmith was telling him to follow the letter of the law, not the spirit of the law, for the mayor’s friends. As intelligent citizens know, Goldsmith is a toady for the mayor, who is in turn a toady for the downtown establishment, particularly real estate developers. “Goldsmith is going to let developers run the city,” says still another deputy city attorney who was fired.

Escalante won’t talk. “I’m talking with the City on it,” he says.

Fink says he is no longer in the deal. “Originally I had looked toward doing something with Juan. The City said Juan Escalante was in default on the lease. It’s not true. Serrano effectively screwed over Escalante,” asserts Fink. “I sent a letter to the city attorney’s office requesting an investigation of Serrano. I got nothing.” Fink says, “Mike Tussey was in favor of doing something for Mr. Escalante,” who purportedly had been told by an airport official that he didn’t have to make the improvements until the City undergrounded the utilities there. Tussey deferred comment to a mayoral public relations person, who did not respond to a call. Fink claims he gave money to Goldsmith because he was unhappy that Aguirre had not replied to his letters. Serrano was shortly fired and replaced by a former Casey Gwinn employee, Debra Bevier, who had been fired by Goldsmith’s predecessor, Mike Aguirre, for permitting allegedly questionable airport contracts to go forward. She sued Aguirre for alleged threatening behavior but dropped the suit. She did not return a phone call for comment.

Goldsmith has hired back seven attorneys from the disastrous Gwinn years, during which the City was pathetically outlawyered in the Chargers and Padres contracts, left out key negative information from bond prospectuses, and generally served to feather the nest of the establishment. The other six rehired from the Gwinn years are Mary Jo Lanzafame, Joan Dawson, Deborah Berger, David Miller (who Aguirre believed had let Sunroad go forward with its law-defying construction project), Elisa Cusato, and William (Wink) Donnell, who admitted that he had secretly intercepted a letter before it reached Aguirre.

Lanzafame recently advised her fellow attorneys to pay attention to “form and substance — but only a little bit of substance,” according to several sources, including Kathryn Burton, former assistant city attorney who ran the administrative side of the office under Aguirre. Cusato, Bevier, and Donnell and his wife all contributed significant sums to Goldsmith’s campaign.

The city attorney’s office claims that the firings are a result of cost cutting. But this hardly makes sense when the office is busily hiring back Gwinn people.

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Comments

daveb0072004 Jan. 28, 2009 @ 12:39 p.m.

I am not surprised. When a Mayor and a City Attorney are close friends, or a YES MAN for the Mayor, then the city loses. That is why the city of San Diego needs an Independent Ethics Committee with the Power to Impeach a Mayor or anyone in Government of San Diego.

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Don Bauder Jan. 28, 2009 @ 12:47 p.m.

Response to post #1: Good luck on getting an INDEPENDENT ethics committee. Remember, this is San Diego. Best, Don Bauder

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a2zresource Jan. 28, 2009 @ 12:50 p.m.

And now for the public service announcement...

Under older laws, individual ordinary California citizens could become "private attorneys general" to prosecute unfair competition claims against any firm that was using some sort of illegality, false advertising, or just being ornery in an unethical sense to get ahead of the competition.

This law is now changed, so that only individuals who were injured in fact and lost money or property can sue to enforce the unfair competition law, in addition to the standard roster of Attorney General, DAs, and city attorneys in the larger burgs.

As more of us with experience in public life reach retirement age and have the free time to loiter at the County Law Library, maybe more of us will have an interest in seeking out firms that behave in unethical manners for potential unfair competition issues. After all, if the system ain't aworkin', and there's little or no hope of seeing it fixed any time soon, why leave it to others what we can do ourselves for fun and profit?

BTW: the best firm candidates at which to find issues of unfair and ethical behavior just might be found on the short list of those that have already been found criminally guilty in a federal court recently... otherwise, have your eyes opened by some of Mr. Bauder's previously posted writings found not far from here...

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sdbeach Jan. 28, 2009 @ 1:27 p.m.

Fascinating carousel of attorneys. John Serrano gone will be good for the aviation community, where we ran into many variations of creative ways to delay, obfuscate, and confuse. Yet, bringing back Debra Bevier returns an attorney associated with the disgraced former Airports Director Tracy Means. And adding David Miller will be an odd choice given his role in the Sunroad debacle, or perhaps his lack of role given that Sunroad proceeded when he failed to act. Fortunately, a few of the attorneys who stayed the course with issues affecting the airports are still on the job. Let's hope that they can keep things moving forward appropriately.

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Don Bauder Jan. 28, 2009 @ 2:21 p.m.

Response to post #3: I am unaware of that change in the law. When was it made? Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Jan. 28, 2009 @ 2:29 p.m.

Response to post #4: Yes, Aguirre believed that Bevier gave legal assistance to Means, who got into trouble for her extracurricular business activities. Aguirre believes that Miller, when working in the city attorney's office, would have let the Sunroad deal go through and was cozy with the developers and the mayor's office. Aguirre smelled it out as a scam and Miller was gone. But now he is back, along with Bevier. Best, Don Bauder

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JohnnyVegas Jan. 28, 2009 @ 3:56 p.m.

He went to Mike Tussey, deputy director of airports. “He said, ‘Don’t worry. Just approve the sublease. These are good people. They are on the Airports Advisory Committee.’ I said when someone promises to do $700,000 of public improvements and doesn’t do them, it’s like a theft.

Actually that is theft- a civil theft (and criminal also) because it is a breach of contract that has monetary liability.

They should have sued Escalante for breach, and then go forward with the lease transers contingent upon the improvements being made BEFORE transfer.

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JohnnyVegas Jan. 28, 2009 @ 4:03 p.m.

Under older laws, individual ordinary California citizens could become "private attorneys general" to prosecute unfair competition claims against any firm that was using some sort of illegality, false advertising, or just being ornery in an unethical sense to get ahead of the competition.

This law is now changed, so that only individuals who were injured in fact and lost money or property can sue to enforce the unfair competition law, in addition to the standard roster of Attorney General, DAs, and city attorneys in the larger burgs.

This was Business and Professions code 17200, and it has been revised after a trio of numbskulls named the Trevor Law Group filed tens of thousands of these lawsuits, bogusly, shaking down small businesses. This group caused a lot of harm to small business. They all got disbarred.

I think any citizen of San Diego could file what is known as a "dirivative" lawsuit, whereby as citizens and taxpayers of the city they have a legal right to enforce the law against any party that has a contract with the city. This is a shareholder type action used against corporations and done all the time in that context.

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iantrowbridge1 Jan. 28, 2009 @ 5:09 p.m.

I was prepared to give Goldsmith the benefit of the doubt even after his inappropriate unprofessional juvenile remarks at the swearing in ceremony. However, one of the most honest ethical and knowledgeable city attorneys I know quietly resigned last week rather than continue to work for Goldsmith; someone who balanced his obligations to the city and the public in a serious way. Lack of water won't finish San Diego off , it will be the oligarchy of self-interests that don't understand the real meaning of public service.

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qqqqqjim Jan. 28, 2009 @ 6:24 p.m.

Right on the money, Don. Having worked for the City during the 'forgettable' Casey Gwinn years, to be more than charitable, I find it incompetent at best and unconscionable at worst, that Goldsmith would hire back seven attorneys that worked under the Gwinn regime. I guess some attorneys, like bad pennies, keep coming back.

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Don Bauder Jan. 28, 2009 @ 6:40 p.m.

Response to post #7: San Diego authorities seldom do what they should do. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Jan. 28, 2009 @ 6:43 p.m.

Response to post #8: Why is it that lawyers are almost always the one abusing a good law? I assume they were labeled vexatious litigants. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Jan. 28, 2009 @ 6:46 p.m.

Response to post #9: Tell me about that public interest lawyer who resigned. As you know, you can reach me at don.bauder@mac.com. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Jan. 28, 2009 @ 6:48 p.m.

Response to post #10: It was bad enough that Gwinn walked off with a remunerative sinecure. Maybe he will be hired back to moonlight in the city attorney's office. Best, Don Bauder

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jamminjohn Jan. 29, 2009 @ 12:36 a.m.

Fascinating how the more things change, the more they stay the same. My guess would be, with the current financial meltdown, and San Diego's city council's penchant for crawling out from under a rock every time a free dollar floats by, they will be first in line, begging the feds for billions. Gosh, that's where I want my tax dollars going.

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Don Bauder Jan. 29, 2009 @ 7:04 a.m.

Response to post #16: I think you can bet on that. First, of course, there are numerous critical infrastructure needs in San Diego. The City deserves some of that money. Best, Don Bauder

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a2zresource Jan. 29, 2009 @ 9:07 a.m.

On #5 & #8:

In 2004, we more or less got duped into passing Prop. 64 which limited those unfair competition suits from just anybody who saw something wrong going on (kinda like being a personal legal superhero when power used wisely) to only those who were actually damaged by the unfairness... and who happened to be clued in enough to know they were dealing with illegal/unethical firms.

Still, there are teeth in the new version. I'm no lawyer, but it would seem that any of the fire-damaged county homeowners threatened by the local power utility potentially counter-suing in the 2007 wildfire liability suits could amend their own complaints to allege unfair competition, borrowing the Sabotage Prevention Act provisions for the utility failing to maintain a defense preparedness activity (see definition in statute regarding public utilities towards end of Military & Veterans Code) where that failure resulted in injury or death in addition to damage or destruction of the defense preparedness activity: just more instances of unfair competition in time of war.

In fact, I do believe that under statute, a fire-damaged homeowner described above could claim unfair competition ON BEHALF OF ALL OTHERS similarly damaged/injured under the same fact pattern...

See? There's all kinds of fun&profit stuff in the County Law Library...

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Don Bauder Jan. 29, 2009 @ 9:12 a.m.

Response to post #17: I do not know the ins and outs of such litigation and defer to your expertise. Best, Don Bauder

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a2zresource Jan. 29, 2009 @ 9:28 a.m.

On #18:

Well, just don't give me a soapbox!

Still, it would seem to be a good idea for anybody worried about power lines breaking in the future and burning down the house to mail (not phone) something to the local public utility (with copy mailed to self) that he or she saw something about the nearby power line that needed maintenance BEFORE the next wildfire... just in case.

Just call it a good personal business decision, like a form of self-insurance.

After all, when was the last time any of us saw an investor-owned public utility pass up a buck?

Manager to amateur boxer: "Protect yourself at all times!"

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Don Bauder Jan. 29, 2009 @ 2:30 p.m.

Response to post #19: I would also send a copy of that letter to the Public Utilities Commission. It wouldn't do anything, but at least you would have a record that it had been alerted. Best, Don Bauder

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rickeysays Jan. 29, 2009 @ 4:51 p.m.

So our only choices are a crazy overly litigious troublemaker, or an establishment sleazeball in the pockets of the monied elite? What's the solution?

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JohnnyVegas Jan. 29, 2009 @ 5:55 p.m.

So our only choices are a crazy overly litigious troublemaker, or an establishment sleazeball in the pockets of the monied elite? What's the solution?

By rickeysays 4:51 p.m

===============================

Ill go with the "crazy overly litigious troublemaker".

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OttoB Jan. 29, 2009 @ 6:03 p.m.

Where now are all those in-left-field-looking-for-a-clue 'Aguirre Haters For Goldsmith Because He Just Has To Be Better' that used to frequent this Reader website? He wasn't better was he!? For them and others of their ilk I hate to say I told you so, but I told you so. And in this very forum/venue. To offer the group a little wisdom: the ultimately inevitable demise of our civilization WILL NOT be at the hands of people like Mike Aguirre; but of the likes of Sanders and Goldsmith. The kind of people whose 'basis of character' is dependent on the wind and ALWAYS for sale. The 'public good' is not, nor will it magically become, Sanders' true cause. Not ever. For that matter, isn't that phony-self-indulgent-brain surgeon Casey Gwinn in jail or something YET? Cripes, he's not going huh!?

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Don Bauder Jan. 29, 2009 @ 7:51 p.m.

Response to post #21: I don't agree with the first characterization, but since San Diego is one of the nation's most corrupt cities, it sure doesn't need the second fellow. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Jan. 29, 2009 @ 7:52 p.m.

Response to post #22: See response above. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Jan. 29, 2009 @ 7:56 p.m.

Response to post #23: The lawyers in silk suits who get the thieves off the hook are society's biggest enemies. The politicians who take the money of these lawyers and their clients, and then do their bidding, are tied for that dubious honor. Best, Don Bauder

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realnews Jan. 29, 2009 @ 9:12 p.m.

All in all, it's the fault of the voters. We're the ones who keep electing these crooks.

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JohnnyVegas Jan. 29, 2009 @ 9:31 p.m.

All in all, it's the fault of the voters. We're the ones who keep electing these crooks.

By realnews

I dont buy that. The good people cannot compete in our system today because it is built around money, and to get the money (if you're not independantly wealthy-a la H. Ross Perot) you have to take contributions, and then to stay in office you need to pay back those contributions. The public employee unions have nailed that method of operation down to the T with the Democrats ( of which I used to be a life long member). Until the big campaign cash is taken out of the system there is nothing the voters can do-big money will just buy legislatures and elections. We have 535 legislators in DC, and 42,000 lobbyists-what does that tell you.

A good example of this would be the 4 initatives Arnold ran in 2005 to basically fix the problems we are now faced with, and the public unions doubled and tripled their union dues to crush those modest changes to improve the state.

When you have public unions essentially running government through monetary means, then you have reached a point where we no longer have a democrocy.

The city, the county, the state-they're caving in from these abuses.

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Don Bauder Jan. 30, 2009 @ 6:40 a.m.

Response to post #27: The voters are apathetic. This is particularly true in San Diego, where so many of the residents are really permanent tourists. San Diego is wide open for pickpockets; they know the citizenry is willing to tolerate a sticky-fingered establishment lining the pockets of crooked pols as long as it doesn't interfere with their golf or beach outings. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Jan. 30, 2009 @ 6:46 a.m.

Response to post #28: Few could argue with your basic thesis: the system is based on money. The crooks' lobbyists pay off the pols who pay them back with favorable legislation. The media look the other way. Trouble is, I don't think legislation to take money out of politics will work. There are always offshore banks. In San Diego, there are bans on private giving up to a certain level. But groups have found ways to launder the funds and evade those laws. I hope you can come up with a foolproof way to get money out of politics, Johnny. Best, Don Bauder

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a2zresource Jan. 30, 2009 @ 8:23 a.m.

Re apathetic voters:

Both sides of my family were here long enough to open Lemon Grove to tomato farming around WWII and grow avocadoes profitably in Encanto Heights around Ito Court, but stepping back, I think you've hit the nail on the head by describing most of us as "permanent tourists". Nothing else can explain how San Diegans have been able to keep the blinders on while developer-led professional politicians flushed the region's prosperity down a very expensive pension pay toilet.

I trust that there will be at least some of us who will take the news as you've given it to us, apply some of that flinty bottom-line thinking about the opportunities for personal enrichment that illegal/unethical business operations present, and be personally motivated to go for it "in the public interest".

As far as I'm concerned, a little civil action "in the public interest" goes a long way to forgiving a longer personal history of not voting at all.

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JohnnyVegas Jan. 30, 2009 @ 8:54 a.m.

As far as I'm concerned, a little civil action "in the public interest" goes a long way to forgiving a longer personal history of not voting at all.

By a2zresource

That's what Randall Harold "Duke" Cunningham said when he ran for Congress (1988??) and it came out he had never in his life voted.

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Don Bauder Jan. 30, 2009 @ 8:58 a.m.

Response to post #31: There are so few public employees actually working in the public interest. Donna Frye is one. Mike Aguirre was another, but he got walloped in the election, largely due to the smear campaign against him and the establishment money pouring into his opponent. Aguirre had several public interest lawyers on his staff; Goldsmith is getting rid of them. There is no one that cares a whit about public service in the Sanders administration office. There is no hope that San Diego will tackle its major cancer -- developers owning the politicians -- any time soon. Best, Don Bauder

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Twister Jan. 30, 2009 @ 9:29 p.m.

You don't understand. By definition, there is no limit to arrogance; it is a true psychopathology. Criminality is considered "legal" as long as there is no law against it.

And who writes laws?

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Don Bauder Jan. 31, 2009 @ 6:52 a.m.

Response to post #34: Excellent points. It's not only who writes the laws. It's how they are written so that the bandits can find an avenue to avoid them, with the help of their lawyers, who pay the people who write the bills. Best, Don Bauder

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a2zresource Jan. 31, 2009 @ 10:46 p.m.

No, "a little civil action 'in the public interest'" means go out and sue somebody... especially if that somebody happens to be a corporation gathering its million$ or billion$ through something provably illegal, unethical, and sufficiently morally offensive to get one's dander up.

I'm pretty sure Duke Cunningham never thought of that, since he was having too much fun on the other side of the law...

Look around. The Crash of 2008 leaves good pickings for clever citizens to set their sites on the corporations that have arrogantly flaunted the laws for so long, long enough to leave a trail of paperwork documenting their violations, even to the point of actually waking up federal investigators to what's been going on.

Think of it this way: if we aren't prepared to exhaust all of our legal remedies especially when the corporate directors have left the vault unguarded through their illegalities and ethical lapses, then maybe we're not all that bright if we don't sue and collect in the public interest?

Without at least trying this first, I'd feel kinda guilty about picking up a torch and pitchfork before storming the castle...

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Don Bauder Feb. 1, 2009 @ 6:23 a.m.

Response to post #36: Trouble is, since the Reagan years, the laws have been rewritten so that it's much harder to successfully sue corporations. Almost half are incorporated in Delaware, where the courts are notoriously fraud-tolerant. Companies incorporate and set up trusts in states like Nevada and Utah. Not only do they avoid or evade taxes, they find the judges are biased in their favor. Judges everywhere, particularly in metro areas like San Diego, are entirely too cozy with the local establishment. Best, Don Bauder

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JohnnyVegas Feb. 1, 2009 @ 11:11 a.m.

Trouble is, since the Reagan years, the laws have been rewritten so that it's much harder to successfully sue corporations. Almost half are incorporated in Delaware, where the courts are notoriously fraud-tolerant.

So true.

The banking industry WROTE the 2005 BK revisions. When you have private industry actually writing the laws to be implemented (in their favor of course) then you have killed/defeated democrocy, you just have a system based on fraud. And that unfortunately is where we are today.

Big Business and public unions have raped the middle class out of their net worth-now there is nothing left. Teachers are making 6 figure compensation packages working just 37 weeks per year, cops and ff's are making even more with just a GED starting at age 21 (where does a 21 year old with a GED make 6 figures in the real world??).

Arnold (Dems) is asking for tax hikes, but what he does not understand is there is no money left. A sales tax increase???? When no one buys anything you don't collect any money. I am already buying the majority of my needs off the web, out of state, to avoid a 10% sales tax.

I am so ashamed of where the democratic party has gone to today. They used to stand up for the average working person, now they are killing the average working person by taxing them to death for the benfit of the public unions. Pathetic.

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Don Bauder Feb. 1, 2009 @ 12:37 p.m.

Response to post #38: That rewriting of the bankruptcy laws was one of the reasons for our current morass. The laws were recast to favor the banks, who wrote the laws. Debtors got screwed at the expense of creditors. This exacerbated the situation when the ARMs and exotic mortgages pushed up individuals' mortgage rates. This law worsened the subprime mess. And you're right. The big corporations and big financial institutions kept milking the middle class until one day they woke up and realized they had no markets left. It was both stupid and criminal. Best, Don Bauder

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fredjones2005 Feb. 1, 2009 @ 7:54 p.m.

Sounds like the crooktocracy is back up and running like normal.

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Don Bauder Feb. 1, 2009 @ 8:20 p.m.

Response to post #40: I prefer the word "kleptocracy," but "crooktocracy" is mighty good and descriptive. Best, Don Bauder

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RockOn Feb. 5, 2009 @ 1:13 p.m.

"Serrano doesn’t say it, but Goldsmith was telling him to follow the letter of the law, not the spirit of the law, for the mayor’s friends. As intelligent citizens know, Goldsmith is a toady for the mayor, who is in turn a toady for the downtown establishment, particularly real estate developers."

If this remotely passes for journalism in The Reader, my worst fears have been realized. Rumor, inuendo, and unsubstantiated hearsay appear to be the primary sources for Bauder's hitpiece. Case in point: - "Serrano believes that a second matter he handled contributed to his firing." - "But I got word through an (un-named) intermediary that he wasn’t going to keep me around. I resigned.” - “ 'It was very directly acknowledged to us that a list did exist, and I was told by several (un-named) people that I was on it,' says Calabrese."

And then there's Kim Urie's self-serving statement: “Those that were fired were the best public interest lawyers in the office.”

Says who? and what makes these additionally un-named lawyers the "best" at anything? Let me guess. They were the best by defalt because over 125 out of 135 lawyers were fired, removed or left Aguirre's employment.

Citing Aguirre chronies like Urie, Burton, and McGrath as martyrs would be laughable if it weren't so transparent. Declaring a "cavalier attitude toward ethical caution" in the Goldsmith administration might raise some legitimate eyebrows if Bauder had ever written a similar "expose" on Aguirre's ethical transgressions - such as offering criminal immunity for favorable testimony in Aguirre's civil lawsuit against Sunroad. As it stands, this just seems like a basket of sour grapes.

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Don Bauder Feb. 5, 2009 @ 2:48 p.m.

Response to post #42: The people quoted in that column had every right to state their opinions, just as you have every right to attempt to refute those opinions. Best, Don Bauder

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RockOn Feb. 5, 2009 @ 5:07 p.m.

Response to post #43: I agree the people quoted have every right to their opinion, regardless of how wrong or misguided or unsubstantiated they may be. But the tone of the column seemed to give those particular opinions express approval and support as if they were fact. It simply read as rumor and inuendo passing for evidence and fact gathering. If all this is nothing more than the musings of a few disgruntled former employees, then so be it.

But consider the countless ethical allegations about Aguirre that surfaced during his tenure in office, such as the judicially recognized bribing of people with criminal immunity in exchange for favorable testimony in his civil case against Sunroad. I did a search on this website and could not find any similar piece by you digging into this (or any other) questionable ethical conduct by Aguirre. I appreciate your rabble-rousing style, and have for some time. But when it seems so selectively applied in the City Attorney context, one simply has to ask why.

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Don Bauder Feb. 5, 2009 @ 6:48 p.m.

Response to post #44: Your answer is that I thought Aguirre was smeared by lawyers in his office (mostly Gwinn holdovers), the Union-Tribune, some other media, and the establishment, which surreptitiously picked up the tab for many of the smear expenses. The establishment knew he was out to end many decades of corporate welfare theft, and they put the dogs on him. He made plenty of mistakes, true, but he was trying to bring reform. I fear other reformers will not surface for many years. What the mainstream media should have done is weigh his mistakes against his accomplishments -- say, the 30-plus investigative reports, which are generally excellent. Now San Diego is doomed to having the real estate developers continue to run the politicians when the City needs no more residential construction. It needs infrastructure and restoration of basic services. It needs sanity in City employee pay and benefits. But your friends belittled Aguirre's efforts to control the pension liability. Bankruptcy probably looms. Best, Don Bauder

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RockOn Feb. 10, 2009 @ 12:19 a.m.

Don, I share your desire for reform at City Hall, but I cannot agree with your assessment of how Aguirre was treated by the media and others. Those of us who saw Aguirre work from the inside wondered why the media was holding back, why was it pulling its punches? Aguirre abused his power and authority to go after his political enemies. Don't just ask the "Gwinn Holdovers", but those Aguirre brought in himself, like Rupert Linley. I really don't doubt Aguirre wanted to reform City Hall for the better, but that intent alone cannot make up for his own ethical violations. And as for Aguirre's efforts to control the pension liablity goes - Aguirre lost every court battle he initiated, and even incurred a $20,000 sanction at one point for shoddy legal work. Whomever may have "belittled" Aguirre on this effort had nothing to do with the lack of legal merit his case had.

On balance, I'll give him credit for sincerely wanting to change business as usual at City Hall. But I haven't seen enough positive accomplishments to overcome his fatal ethical violations and abuse of power. He's personally a nice guy, and I don't wish him any personal ill will. But also don't know how he still has his bar card. And I don't understand how you seem to gloss over these profound flaws so easily.

But I still respect you and your opinion, sincerely.

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Don Bauder Feb. 10, 2009 @ 7:32 a.m.

Response to post #46: I am the first to admit that Aguirre made mistakes. He alienated people who could have helped him. He did many things impulsively. But the media were hardly "holding back." They concentrated on his personality and avoided reporting fairly on the forces that were leading the city over the edge. I hope we will see an intensive study of how the Aguirre smear machine worked: from Mayor Sanders's office, to the U-T's editorial department, and thence to the U-T's news department. You couldn't distinguish U-T editorials from its so-called news coverage. All focused on these personality weaknesses and there was pathetically inadequate coverage of the real substance: the pension system's horrible financial shape, the city's liabilities, the possibility of bankruptcy, the fact that City Hall was (and still is) led around by the nose by real estate developers. And there is more. It may all come out in the wash. Best, Don Bauder

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RockOn Feb. 23, 2009 @ 12:10 p.m.

Don, I understand your frustration with the media not paying enough attention to the City's financial crisis. But I also think it's a disservice to refer to Aguirre's blatent ethical violations as mere "personality" issues. I know many people who left the office or were fired because they refused to go after Aguirre's political enemies using the power of the office - and then were afraid to go public for fear of what Aguirre would do to them. It is undisputed he offered criminal immunity to criminal defendents in exchange for their favorable testimony in his civil lawsuit. He was also reemed by the bench for is intentiol failure to comply with public records act requests of his office. These are not mere impulse or personality issues, but just a few of the unethical (and potentially criminal) acts of his while in office. If there is a smear campaign, can it really reach so far as the many judges that found Aguirre to be unethical or seriously lacking in legal judgement? Such far-reaching conspiracies are expected from Aguirre himself, but you seem far to rational to go there.

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Don Bauder Feb. 23, 2009 @ 9:21 p.m.

Response to post #48: I am not impressed that San Diego judges thought Aguirre lacked ethics. What about San Diego judges? Now there are some people who need really serious ethical training. Best, Don Bauder

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RockOn Feb. 24, 2009 @ 11:29 a.m.

Don, here's a refresher on the Tom Story prosecution from the Court's ruling:

"It is also uncontested that Mr. Aguirre himself took on the investigation of the cases, personally interviewing witnesses and personally offering them immunity for their testimony (in support of the civil case)."

It was uncontested Aguirre used his role as a criminal prosecutor to gain advantage in his civil case. This is not part of some unethical judicial conspiracy. This conduct alone could cost Aguirre his bar card. As for the $20k sanction for shoddy legal work on the pension case, Aguirre didn't fight it, but paid it personally - a tacit admission from someone who seems to fight every allegation made against him. And Aguirre's office admitted to non-compliance with the PRA requests of his office for dubious reasons. That judge noted:

"the City Attorney has casually reversed the burden in § 6255(a), stating "it does not appear" the public interest in disclosing the records outweighs the public interest in withholding them. It is the other way around: The City Attorney must justify withholding documents by a showing the public interest in not disclosing the records "clearly outweighs" the public interest in disclosing them, referring to the facts of that particular case. The error is compounded by arguing the balance tips further toward nondisclosure, "especially since you have indicated that these records of for personal use." The "personal use" exemption is repeated in the City Attorney's brief at p.18:24-25: "the balance favors nondisclosure because no public interest in disclosure is apparent."

"Access to public records is a "fundamental and necessary right of every person in this state" (§ 6250), not something to be brushed aside because a citizen seeks only to inform himself. More to the point, § 6257.5 prohibits limiting access based on the purpose for which the records are sought. These careless misstatements of law in the City Attorney's October 18, 2007, letter are alarming, but this court will not assume misconduct when a lack of scholarship adequately explains the result."

As you can see, Aguirre did not want to release public information about his own office and used "legal" justification for doing so that even a first year municipal lawyer would know is B.S., the hipocrisy of "transparent government" notwithstanding.

I seriously cannot see how anyone can gloss over all this as no big deal. I recognize others in public service may have their own ethical issues, but that is irrelevant to these and many other facts about Aguirre. He may have been well intentioned for the City, and others may have been out for him as much as he was out for them. But his conduct while in office must be judged on its own merits, and so far I have not seen reason to excuse it.

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Don Bauder Feb. 24, 2009 @ 12:07 p.m.

Response to post #50: OK, which would rather have: a Mike Aguirre who may overstep his bounds in his zealousness to reform a corrupt city, or a Casey Gwinn who stood by as official corruption was rampant. Gwinn stretched no legal rules because he looked the other way -- letting the hiding of false information from bond prospectuses happen on his watch; letting the Padres and Chargers completely outlawyer the City, and hence costing the City hundreds of millions, etc. etc. Gwinn ran a law firm for City officials, defending them whether they were right or wrong. Goldsmith has openly adopted that philosophy again. Yes, the establishment loves it. It can go back to siphoning money out of the public till. But under which regime was the City headed in the right direction? I think you and your ilk can't see the forest for the trees. Best, Don Bauder

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RockOn Feb. 25, 2009 @ 2 p.m.

Don, you are presenting the false dichotemy of it must be one or the other. I am saying we must judge people on their own merits, not "what would you rather have." I make no apologies for Gwinn, but your objections to Gwinn are abosulutely irrelevant to Aguirre's own conduct. While Aguirre is clearly not part of the corrupt establishment of City Hall, that does not mean he is not corrupt in his own right! Perhaps my "ilk" are too close to the reality of Aguirre to give his abuse of power and corruption a pass just because there are other problems in the public square.

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SurfPuppy619 Feb. 25, 2009 @ 6:31 p.m.

Rock-the Tom Story case is NOT one you want to use to prove your point. It is very clear that Story was dirty-and the DA and PD Chief screwed the whole case up.

Story got lucky, plain and simple-so don't even think for a second story would not have been convicted if that case went to trial.

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Don Bauder Feb. 25, 2009 @ 6:45 p.m.

Response to post #52: Speaking as a journalist who has been raising hell against entrenched establishments for 45 years, I can attest that finding a lawyer or journalists aggressive and fearless enough to tackle the big money, yet pure enough to pass your tests, is difficult, if not impossible. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Feb. 25, 2009 @ 6:49 p.m.

Response to post #54: I agree. I spent a lot of time with those emails Story wrote to people in City Hall who had once worked for him. There was no doubt that he was doing what the rules forbade him from doing during this time frame. But he got help from the establishment-dominated, so-called ethics commission. The chief of police should have gone to prison for his role in that matter. Actions of the DA and sheriff, and others, smelled to high heaven. Best, Don Bauder

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RockOn Feb. 26, 2009 @ 2:40 p.m.

Response to #53 & #55: I am not defending Tom Story one bit, but this is not an evaluation of comparative corruption and ethics. What Aguirre did in that case was an unethical abuse of his power, not a mere slip of an over-zealous personality. Maybe you get one pass for that as a new attorney, but not a seasoned lawyer like Aguirre. If Story is a crook, if Murphy is a crook, if McGrory is crook, fine. But this effort to keep pointing fingers at others to somehow ignore Aguirre's many ethical and legal transgressions is curious indeed. If the goal is to bring light to corruption and abuse of power, then why not shine the light everywhere, rather than just where we want to look?

I harbor no personal ill will towards Aguirre. He's generally a pretty nice guy. But I also saw him in action first hand, behind closed doors. I have dozens of friends and collegues who have, too. The image of the martyred reformer falsely accused of wrongdoing betrays reality. And you don't have to rely on those who know from the inside to see this; the facts available to the public speak for themselves. It's just a matter of honestly judging the actions of each person individually on the merits. I really don't understand all the resistance to this.

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SurfPuppy619 Feb. 26, 2009 @ 4:15 p.m.

I harbor no personal ill will towards Aguirre. He's generally a pretty nice guy. But I also saw him in action first hand, behind closed doors. I have dozens of friends and collegues who have, too. The image of the martyred reformer falsely accused of wrongdoing betrays reality.

Rock- you have stated this before and stand behind it. I know that.

The thing is if someone is not in the position you were in, first hand evidence, where you claim these actions went on (and I'm not saying they did or didn't) there is no way the public can determine the truth. They have to make their choice on what is public and facts we think we can trust.

Aguirre was the sole person in SD government trying to right this upside down boat-that is all I know. That means a lot to me.

But make no mistake about it-I do not condone abuse of power. I myself have gone to war with the gov on numerous occassions because of my beliefs and my sense of right and wrong.

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JF Feb. 26, 2009 @ 7:25 p.m.

Was that you suing the city of Poway, Johnny? Um, I mean Surf Puppy, um, I mean Billy Bob Henry...

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Don Bauder Feb. 26, 2009 @ 8:51 p.m.

Response to post #56: What do you mean, "all the resistance to this"? Aguirre lost the election by 20 percent. The voters turned against him decisively. He is hardly a martyr now. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Feb. 26, 2009 @ 8:53 p.m.

Response to post #57: Aguirre wasn't the only elected official fighting entrenched corruption. Donna Frye was, and is, in that category, too. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Feb. 26, 2009 @ 8:54 p.m.

Response to post #58: I know nothing about a suit against Poway. Best, Don Bauder

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SurfPuppy619 Feb. 27, 2009 @ 4:58 p.m.

JF, what on earth are you talking about now?

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SurfPuppy619 Feb. 27, 2009 @ 4:59 p.m.

Aguirre wasn't the only elected official fighting entrenched corruption. Donna Frye was, and is, in that category, too.

Opps, forgot about Donna.

Adding Donna that makes 2 who were going to bat for taxpayers and hundreds against.

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Don Bauder Feb. 27, 2009 @ 10:43 p.m.

Response to post #63: Donna deserves credit for many pro-taxpayer initiatives. Best, Don Bauder

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