Scott Marks 2:48 p.m., May 23
Filner can veto port nominations, city attorney memo says
Legal memorandum drafted by former Union-Tribune political writer green-lights strong mayor's powers
If there was any doubt that new Democratic mayor Bob Filner has plenty of leverage under the city's so-called strong mayor form of government - once ardently embraced and financed by San Diego's Republican business establishment - GOP City Attorney Jan Goldsmith has put it to rest.
As Don Bauder reported here in April 2010, many of the region's wealthiest developers and GOP insiders bankrolled Prop D, the measure that made the strong mayor charter permanent.
At the time the League of Women Voters was calling for a longer trial period for the radical change in city government that threw out the city manager and entrusted the mayor with daunting powers of appointment and administration:
"Extending the trial period would simply maintain the status quo, while giving voters adequate time to monitor the strong mayor system, without any disruption to city business," says the league.
But Prop D won handily, and in a memorandum to the city council dated yesterday, Goldsmith illustrated its significance, holding that Filner has the power to veto the city council's nominations to the board of the San Diego Unified Port District, just as Filner has maintained.
The memo, authored by Deputy City Attorney Sharon Spivak, once a political reporter for the Union-Tribune, begins by saying:
The Port District is governed by a seven-member board of commissioners representing the five incorporated cities that constitute the Port District (the Port District Board). The controlling state law requires that “[e]ach city council . . . shall appoint the . . .commissioners to which it is entitled . . . to represent that particular city on the board.”
The state law clearly vests the appointment authority with the City Council and such authority remains unchanged by the Mayor-Council form of governance.
It then continues:
The power of appointment of Port Commissioners, however, must be distinguished from the power to veto. Thus, state law governing the appointment process must be harmonized with the City Charter’s requirement that the Mayor be provided the authority to veto or approve appointments unless an exception applies, or there is clear authority to the contrary.
And, according to the memo, that's always been the case under the strong mayor charter.
Since the 2006 adoption of the Mayor-Council form of government, this Office has consistently opined that the Mayor has the authority to veto or approve the Council’s appointments of Port Commissioners.
Concludes the memo:
California law vests the City Council with the authority to appoint Commissioners to the Port District Board. Such authority remains unchanged by the Mayor-Council form of governance. This power of appointment, however, must be harmonized with the City Charter’s requirement that the Mayor have veto power over all resolutions and ordinances unless an exception applies. The enumerated exceptions do not apply to preclude the Mayor’s power to approve or veto such appointments.