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Wednesday, June 29, 2005 | Farewell. Mayor Dick Murphy presided over his last City Council meeting Tuesday with some fanfare, but his “proper sendoff” will most likely happen when he returns to council a layman July 18.

A few members of the public recognized the mayor during the non-agenda public comment period, including frequent opponent Jarvis Ross, who complimented Murphy on some of his accomplishments, such as strengthening the branch libraries and his stately demeanor.

“You’ve always been attentive and courteous to the speakers who have appeared before you, even when on more than one occasion they have become bombastic,” said Ross, a regular City Hall critic. “Some of the junior members on this council might take note and emulate these qualities.”

Murphy, who was narrowly elected in November for a second term, resigned in April and will officially leave office July 15. A scheduled legislative recess is set for the next two weeks.

Milly Strodtham of Hillcrest presented the departing mayor with a portrait of Murphy and his wife, Jan.

“You’re the only Republican I’ve ever voted for,” said Strodtham, who painted the portrait with her daughter Sophia.

Padres executive vice president Erik Judson stopped by to congratulate the mayor for overseeing Petco Park and the urban renewal seen in the surrounding East Village through redevelopment.

“The ancillary development is exceeding everyone’s expectations and it was really due to, I think, your leadership, your courage and your resolve to make sure that project moved forward.”

One speaker didn’t hide her enthusiasm toward Murphy’s resignation.

“Thank you … for leaving,” said Joyceline Tarr of Point Loma.

Councilman Michael Zucchet, who as deputy mayor is slated to preside over the council until a successor is elected, addressed Murphy at the end of the day.

“Just wanted to say how sad it’s been the last couple hours as it’s setting in: I will miss you personally for your friendship and your support,” Zucchet said. “I just wanted to recognize … a job well done and your commitment.”

Here’s the cash, but where’s the money? Nearly $5 million was reluctantly approved for legal and consulting fees Tuesday in the last council meeting of the fiscal year.

The millions in bills City Manager Lamont Ewell asked the council to approve before the current fiscal year ends Thursday set the stage for Ewell, City Attorney Mike Aguirre and council members to vent their frustration with the complexity and expensive nature of getting the city’s disheveled books in order.

The City Council authorized staff to pay: Vinson & Elkins, the law firm charged with investigating the city’s finances for auditor KPMG and the investigating Securities and Exchange Commission; Luce Forward Hamilton and Scripps LLP, the attorneys supporting Vinson & Elkins in their comprehensive review of city finances; Kroll, Inc., the high-profile trio of accountants asked to reconcile Vinson and Elkins’ first report with Aguirre’s investigation; Willkie, Farr & Gallagher, the law firm representing Kroll; and outside auditor KPMG, which is withholding its audits of the 2003 fiscal year until it is assured investigations into any financial wrongdoing are cleared up.

“I will not be able to utter the words KPMG without some guttural reaction,” Councilwoman Toni Atkins said.

The council also approved funds for their own personal legal advice in connection with the ongoing SEC investigation into errors and omissions found in the city’s financial statements to investors, and the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office investigation into possible political corruption.

The city is essentially barred from selling bonds in the public finance markets until the audits are released, which essentially prohibits the city from reaching the capital to complete construction and infrastructure projects.

Aguirre accused Vinson & Elkins of possibly over-billing the council while dragging its feet on the work.

The law firm was originally hired to represent the city in front of the SEC and prepare an independent investigation into the city’s faulty financial disclosures. While Vinson & Elkins officials prepared their report, the city hired KPMG to reevaluate its fiscal year 2003 audit.

As part of that audit, KPMG requested a thorough investigation of possible illegal acts by city officials be conducted. Vinson & Elkins’ first report, released in September, wasn’t sufficient for KPMG’s purposes and the law firm has been at work since last fall preparing a second report to satisfy KPMG, the city’s outside auditors.

The Kroll team of accountants was later brought in to evaluate the law firm’s investigation; Kroll eventually hired their own attorneys once they undertook their investigation.

Aguirre said that Vinson & Elkins is holding up everyone’s job because it has not produced a report. The firm has instead produced volumes of documents, public records, correspondence and interviews to the Kroll accountants, who form the city’s audit committee.

Paul Maco, the Vinson & Elkins partner in charge of the investigation, has said that his firm merely did the work it was authorized to do for the first report by the City Attorney’s Office under Aguirre’s predecessor, Casey Gwinn. And in a council hearing earlier this month, he detailed the mass of documents, e-mails and interviews his firm has collected as part of his investigation.

Maco’s second investigation is currently being reviewed by the audit committee.

With the addition of Tuesday’s authorizations, the city will have paid:

The council voted to pay its bills to the accountants and lawyers for fiscal year 2005, and for a portion of 2006. However, council members said they wanted to meet, hopefully in July, with officials from these firms before approving additional funding sought by Ewell.

Set the date. The City Council approved combining the probable runoff between the top two vote-getters in the July 26 mayoral election with the Nov. 8 statewide vote set by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

San Diego voters will decide next month between 11 candidates vying to replace Murphy, and most expect a second leg will be needed because no candidate will garner the 50 percent needed to win the election outright in the primary.

City Clerk Chuck Abdelnour told the council in a memo two weeks ago that staging the runoff on Nov. 8 could save the city $2.5 million. The city’s cost for a combined election would only be about $500,000, he said.

Unknown donor makes a splash. Councilwoman Donna Frye reported at the conclusion of Tuesday’s meeting that an individual contacted the City Manager’s Office about making an anonymous gift of $101,560 to the South Clairemont Recreation Center’s swimming pool.

The gift, Frye said, was enough to fully restore the three and a half months the pool was scheduled to be closed next fiscal year because of recently approved budget cuts to the park and recreation budget.

“Thank you for making a whole lot of kids very, very happy,” she said.

– EVAN McLAUGHLIN, Voice Staff Writer

Please contact Evan McLaughlin directly at

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