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Questions raised over City Attorney's decision to release transcripts of closed session meeting

Transcripts were given as a response to a public records request from only two days before.

Mayor Bob Filner said he wanted a more open, transparent city government. Having the City Attorney release transcripts of closed session meetings two days after the meeting transpired, however, was probably not be what he envisioned.

On Thursday, June 20, news swirled about an outburst from Filner during a June 18 closed session meeting. That day, behind closed doors, Filner reportedly booted Executive Assistant City Attorney Andrew Jones from the meeting. 10News posted a transcript of the closed session meeting provided to the media outlet by the City Attorney's Office.

The transcript, and the accompanying letter, is now raising some red flags for some Filner supporters about the City Attorney's role in the closed-door dustup.

According to the letter, the City Attorney's Office turned over the documents to 10News in response to a public records request submitted by the station. As any reporter, or anyone who has submitted a request for public documents, can attest, getting a response in less than two days is reason for celebration. Even more so when that response includes a nicely written background of the key players and a justification for release of the documents.

"In other words, what is confidential are only those discussion which concern docketed items that are properly placed on the closed session docket because they fit the limited exception due to their subject matter. Discussions that take place in a closed session meeting that do not concern such items are not considered 'confidential information' and may be subject to disclosure," reads the response from the City Attorney's Office to 10News.

In the City Attorney's statement, there appears to be some misinformation.

According to the letter, Andrew Jones, the attorney that Filner ejected from the meeting, is the number two attorney in the office "who oversees all civil litigation including discussion of litigation in closed session meetings."

That seems to contradict Jones' bio on the City Attorney's website which lists Jones as an Assistant City Attorney in the criminal, not civil, division. Assistant City Attorney Donald Worley took over the Civil Division from Jones in September 2009.

"Mr. Jones currently heads the Civil Litigation Division and will move to take over the reins at the Criminal Division," reads a press release from the City Attorney's Office. "During his tenure in the City Attorney’s Office, Mr. Jones has served as a lead criminal prosecutor, heading the Discovery Unit, and prosecuting abusers in domestic violence and child abuse cases. He has been instrumental in rebuilding the City Attorney’s office since the new administration took office in December 2008."

Jones is also listed as an Executive Assistant City Attorney on another page but that bio fails to mention whether he is a part of a single division.

Katheryn Rhodes, a Filner supporter and advocate for the homeless, says it doesn't make any sense for Jones to have been present at the closed door meeting other than to get a reaction from Filner.

"There was no reason for it," said Rhodes during a phone interview. "The June 18, 2013 closed session agenda linked below shows all five legal cases dealt with civil matters only, not Criminal."

Tension between Jones and Filner goes way back. Filner accused Jones of leaking details from a closed session meeting in April of this year. City Attorney Goldsmith says Filner fired back with adding Jones' position on the list of those slated to be cut in his plan to reduce the City Attorney's budget for next fiscal year.

I sent questions to the City Attorney's Office about the policy of releasing transcripts of closed door meetings as well as whether Jones has since moved from the Criminal Division. They failed to respond in time for publication.

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Mayor Bob Filner said he wanted a more open, transparent city government. Having the City Attorney release transcripts of closed session meetings two days after the meeting transpired, however, was probably not be what he envisioned.

On Thursday, June 20, news swirled about an outburst from Filner during a June 18 closed session meeting. That day, behind closed doors, Filner reportedly booted Executive Assistant City Attorney Andrew Jones from the meeting. 10News posted a transcript of the closed session meeting provided to the media outlet by the City Attorney's Office.

The transcript, and the accompanying letter, is now raising some red flags for some Filner supporters about the City Attorney's role in the closed-door dustup.

According to the letter, the City Attorney's Office turned over the documents to 10News in response to a public records request submitted by the station. As any reporter, or anyone who has submitted a request for public documents, can attest, getting a response in less than two days is reason for celebration. Even more so when that response includes a nicely written background of the key players and a justification for release of the documents.

"In other words, what is confidential are only those discussion which concern docketed items that are properly placed on the closed session docket because they fit the limited exception due to their subject matter. Discussions that take place in a closed session meeting that do not concern such items are not considered 'confidential information' and may be subject to disclosure," reads the response from the City Attorney's Office to 10News.

In the City Attorney's statement, there appears to be some misinformation.

According to the letter, Andrew Jones, the attorney that Filner ejected from the meeting, is the number two attorney in the office "who oversees all civil litigation including discussion of litigation in closed session meetings."

That seems to contradict Jones' bio on the City Attorney's website which lists Jones as an Assistant City Attorney in the criminal, not civil, division. Assistant City Attorney Donald Worley took over the Civil Division from Jones in September 2009.

"Mr. Jones currently heads the Civil Litigation Division and will move to take over the reins at the Criminal Division," reads a press release from the City Attorney's Office. "During his tenure in the City Attorney’s Office, Mr. Jones has served as a lead criminal prosecutor, heading the Discovery Unit, and prosecuting abusers in domestic violence and child abuse cases. He has been instrumental in rebuilding the City Attorney’s office since the new administration took office in December 2008."

Jones is also listed as an Executive Assistant City Attorney on another page but that bio fails to mention whether he is a part of a single division.

Katheryn Rhodes, a Filner supporter and advocate for the homeless, says it doesn't make any sense for Jones to have been present at the closed door meeting other than to get a reaction from Filner.

"There was no reason for it," said Rhodes during a phone interview. "The June 18, 2013 closed session agenda linked below shows all five legal cases dealt with civil matters only, not Criminal."

Tension between Jones and Filner goes way back. Filner accused Jones of leaking details from a closed session meeting in April of this year. City Attorney Goldsmith says Filner fired back with adding Jones' position on the list of those slated to be cut in his plan to reduce the City Attorney's budget for next fiscal year.

I sent questions to the City Attorney's Office about the policy of releasing transcripts of closed door meetings as well as whether Jones has since moved from the Criminal Division. They failed to respond in time for publication.

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Comments
12

As to his oversight of criminal vs. civil units, Andrew Jones provides the following bio in his Linked In profile:

"Andrew Jones' Summary:

Mr. Jones was sworn in as a Deputy City Attorney in 1997 and has over 15 years of trial experience. His civil practice includes, among others, civil rights, torts, inverse condemnation, unlawful detainers and breach of contract. He also prosecuted misdemeanor violations and abusers in domestic violence and child abuse cases. He has tried over 50 jury trials, both civil and criminal, and 150 bench trials. His civil trial experience includes jury trials in both state and federal court.

Mr. Jones served as one of the founding members and President of the Deputy City Attorneys Association of San Diego, from 2006 to 2008.

In December of 2008, Mr. Jones was appointed Assistant City Attorney to lead the Civil Litigation Division. In November of 2009 Mr. Jones was appointed Assistant City Attorney to lead the Criminal Division. In January of 2011 Mr. Jones was appointed Executive Assistant City Attorney to once again lead the Civil Litigation Division and the Office of the City Attorney, reporting directly to the City Attorney.

His current duties include running the Civil Litigation Division and handling management and budget for an office of over 300 employees, including 140 attorneys."

Who knows? The 2011 appointment isn't included in the City resume. Is he elaborating or is the City website out of date?

I don't care one way or the other, because I think he is totally over the top in participating in the orchestrated, ongoing effort to demean Filner, and his feigning indignance is disgusting.

June 22, 2013

Thanks for the info, BSP. My fault for relying on the City website and not checking the social networks. Assistant City Attorney Paul Cooper tweeted me confirming Jones' role as head of civil division again. Thanks!

June 22, 2013

http://www.sandiego.gov/city-clerk/pdf/csreports/2013/

The City Clerk's Closed Session Reports for 2013 document that after City Attorney Goldsmith, ACA Lanzafame was the Lead for City Council Closed Sessions with many appearance by ACA Worley for initiation of Civil lawsuits.

Compared to one Lone Tourism Marketing District (TMD) case where ACA Andrew Jones, along with the City Council sued our Strong Mayor Filner for not giving away the farm to fast talkers.

Goldsmith's and ACA Andrew Jones' Legal Advice to the City Council on the TMD purposely put the City of San Diego's General Fund on the hook for future promises.

Instead Mayor Filner negotiated a better deal with the TMD Hoteliers to move all risks, including financial risk from the City's General Fund to the luxury Hoteliers, and the San Diego Tourism Authority (SDTA).

Goldsmith insinuated ADA Andrew Jones was his second in command at every closed sessions and a leading figure on priveleged legal Civil advice. Please investigate.

June 22, 2013

I have tried to get public records from the City, and they put you through a long cumbersome process that starts with the City Clerk, not the City Attorney. So the City Attorney ( and Channel 10) bypassed City policy. The City then tells you that you will hear if they will provide "anything at all" responsive to your request within 10 days.

Now, how does Channel 10 get an unsigned and unverified copy of a Confidential Closed Session transcript, within 24 hours of the meeting? How is that possible? This is clearly another City Attorney leak. Is the City Attorney going to provide the Closed Session Transcripts for all meetings for the last 3 or 4 years within 24 hours notice to anyone that request it? If so, I suggest that The Reader make a Public Records Act request for all closed session meetings, and review this interesting information. Notice that I think it is either illegal or unlawful for a Court Reporter to release an unsigned, unverified, transcript. Apparently Goldsmith used his "connections" with the legal establishment to get the draft Transcript. Lots of good stuff here for solid investigative reporting, I love conspiracies!

June 23, 2013

Thanks for the comment, Sarah. That public records request has been submitted. I also will ask for transcripts from the April meeting when the Filner and Jones spat began. We'll see how long they take in getting back to me. --dh

June 23, 2013

While you are at it, you may also request a copy of Channel 10's official request to "the City" for Public Records, and other information related to such request. You will then know how long Andrew Jones has in fact been attending Closed Session, as "he oversees all litigation in Closed Session" according to Goldsmith.

June 23, 2013

Curiously, it looks like both the UT and Channel 10 thought at the very same time, that for the first time the City Attorney would release the confidential transcript. The Channel 10 document has watermarks stating that it belongs to them. The UT posting has no Watermarks.

June 23, 2013

In April, there was a lawsuit against the city for failing to respond to Public Records Acts requests in a civil litigation matter involving the formation of special assessment districts, where the city took an entirely different point of view:

Mayor Filner is Daniel in the Lion's Den - he got elected for a reason. The people of San Diego are the ones who wanted a change from business as usual.

June 23, 2013

www.sandiegoreader.com/weblogs/news-ticker/2013/apr/17/city-accused-of-witholding-documents-sued-for-viol/

Is the link above.

June 23, 2013

Whatever Mr. Jones' title, he hasn't much of a litigation track record. In Goldsmith's 2012 report from the CA's office, Jones' title and legal expertise are described: http://www.sandiego.gov/cityattorney/pdf/2013/ar130318.pdf

The Civil Litigation Division prosecutes or defends civil lawsuits in which the City is a party. The Civil Litigation Division is divided into five units: Civil Prosecution, Workers’ Compensation, Land Use Litigation, General Litigation and Special Litigation. Andrew Jones, Executive Assistant City Attorney and Don Worley, Assistant City Attorney are heading this division. Mr. Worley has over 30 years in private practice in land use, real estate, and business litigation.

Umm, well, his title is described. We aren't informed about his legal expertise.

In the 4th Appellate Court records, Mr. Jones' name is found only twice as an attorney in cases involving the City of San Diego:

  1. In an appeal of the >$8 mill verdict against the city in the Pablo Gomez case and
  2. In an appeal by Centex Homes for indemnity.

In both cases the City lost. In the Gomez case the appeal was withdrawn and the appellate court refused the City the right to petition the State Supreme Court. In the Centex case the briefs were not written by Mr. Jones (Chief Deputy City Attorney Christine Leone wrote the briefs) and the appellate court granted Centex appeal.

Don Worley and Christine Leone have represented San Diego in 15 appellate cases.

The order for remittitur in the Centex case is scheduled for issuance tomorrow.

June 23, 2013

I should add: his title and his legal history aren't important, except in illustrating that Mr. Jones is more of a political operative inside the CA's office, rather than a legal star. His history of playing politics is well known and goes back years. It's very unappealing.

June 23, 2013

It sure seems that way, HG. I am looking into Jones and will try and get in touch with Mike Aguirre. I have heard that the two butted heads on many occasion, especially during Jones's efforts to unionize deputy city attorneys. --dh

June 23, 2013

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