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Stephen Dobyns 8:30 a.m., July 20
He's never returned our phone calls, but the judge in the San Diego hotel moguls' case against mayor Bob Filner has issued a statement regarding our report last week that his nominating petition was circulated by veteran city hall political operative Jennifer Tierney and signed by city councilman Todd Gloria, a Gloria aide, and Robert Gleason, an executive with Evans Hotels.
Atlas president C. Terry Brown is leading the legal charge against the Democratic mayor, and Gloria has also made it clear he doesn't favor the mayor in the case.
As we first revealed in the second of two items about the case here last week:
Councilman Todd Gloria and his council representative, Dion Akers, signed a nomination paper on behalf of Taylor, filed February 24, 2012, according to election records of the San Diego county Registrar of Voters.
Gloria, a second-term council Democrat heavily backed by Republican business interests, has repeatedly voiced support for the hoteliers’ legal battle to force Filner to sign a city-funded, $30 million a year contract negotiated by Republican ex-mayor Jerry Sanders.
Other signatures on Taylor's nominating petition include those of Robert H. Gleason, chief financial officer of Evans Hotels, and his spouse, Marc Matys, who reside in Kensington.
Tierney has represented Gloria, as well as GOP District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, and many other San Diego politicians:
Dumanis has been raising cash to pay off her campaign debts to Tierney's Gemini Group resulting from her failed bid for mayor last year.
A big chunk of the cash for Dumanis came from donors tied to Evans Hotels, a key player in the lawsuit against Filner. Jan Goldsmith, the GOP city attorney, also contributed to the D.A.
In a March 7 minute order, Taylor acknowledged that the facts we reported were true, though he denied having any specific knowledge of how the signatures came to be affixed to his petition. He also indicated he made no effort to identify those who signed the petition in his favor.
The second article brought to the court's attention for the first time the identities of several persons who signed a nominating petition during the summer of 2012 when the undersigned was required to file papers with the Registrar of Voters.
As the article states, the signatures were collected by political consultant Jennifer Tierney. The undersigned has no relationship with the individuals named in the article, and has never met or spoken to any of them.
The article omits the fact that the same people signed the nominating petitions for most of the several dozen judges who were required to file for reelection during the last election cycle.
Ms. Tierney collected all the signatures. The goal in collecting signatures in this "blind" fashion was to avoid disqualifying situations.
We aren’t familiar with such a "goal in collecting signatures" to "avoid disqualifying situations" in advance, but will research further and report back here.
Taylor would appear to have had some sort of a business relationship with Tierney, who handled his petitions and other filings in his run for the bench, the documents show.
Based on his March 7 minute order, which he addressed to the parties in the case, Taylor had not previously acknowledged any of the arrangements in question, or previously disclosed the fact that several parties with an interest in the hotel case case had signed his nominating petition.
Appointed judge here in January 2005 by Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Taylor was a lawyer for two decades with the big firm Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton, which frequently lobbies city hall for well-heeled corporate clients.
The Association of Business Trial Lawyers of San Diego described his path to judicial power in its Fall 2012 newsletter: "Prior to taking the bench, Judge Taylor practiced as a civil litigator in environmental, unfair competition, and trade regulation actions, frequently representing large companies."
Taylor's statement says that he is not "GOP Leaning" as our headline described him, has registered to vote as declining to state a party affiliation, and that his wife, a federal bankruptcy judge, also a Sheppard, Mullin veteran, has been a registered Democrat "her entire adult life."
Finally, the judge disputed our report that he had "tossed" a case regarding a Walmart development in Logan Heights:
In fact, the subject case (No. 2012-096168) was before the court as recently as last week; following that hearing, the court denied Walmart's request to dismiss the case.
Because the judge did not respond to our requests for comment, we relied on an account of the case in U-T San Diego, dated April 26, 2012, headlined "Ruling Allows Walmart Project in S.D. To Go On," which ran under the byline of Jen Lebron Kuhney:
The second attempt to halt a San Diego Walmart project at the old Farmers Market building between Sherman Heights and Logan Heights was thwarted following a judge’s ruling Wednesday.
Attorney Cory Briggs challenged the partial demolition of the building that community members have described as “iconic,” but does not have official historic designation.
Briggs argued that the project had never been subjected to a proper environmental review — a claim Superior Court Judge Timothy B. Taylor said was not true.
Another attempt to stop the demolition based on whether Walmart had the necessary city clearances to change the building’s facade was unsuccessful Monday. Work on the project was briefly halted last week.
Briggs has worked on dozens of cases against Walmart dating back to the mid 2000s, but said the issues weren’t with the retailer itself.
“It’s not a Walmart issue. It’s an issue that Walmart chose to build in a historic resource and are not preserving its historic character,” he said.
Walmart is trying to open a 45,800-square-foot retail and grocery store that could employ 65 people.
The two sides held rallies Friday outside of the building which is missing one wall and a tower.
Records show the city approved the permitting of a 46,000-square-foot retail and grocery space in 2009 and the removal of the wall between August and November 2011.
Walmart has said the improvements are needed for earthquake and roofing safety reasons.
Taylor said in his decision that Briggs unreasonably delayed the project when he could have brought these issues to court in 2011 or when the Walmart plans were discussed in U-T San Diego Feb. 29.
Taylor concluded his March 7 minute order by saying he would remain on the hotel case:
In light of the foregoing, the court concludes that a reasonable person, aware of the facts, would not reasonably entertain any doubt as to the court's ability to be impartial. CCP section 170.1(a)(6)(A)(iii).
The court nevertheless discloses the forgoing in accordance with Canon 3E2 of the Code of Judicial Ethics.
Among the questions left unanswered by Taylor's statement is how much he paid Tierney for her services and how he first came to know her.
We're following up additional leads in the case and will report back soon.