The Morning Report
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Saturday, December 17, 2005 | One more for the road. Mayor Jerry Sanders called a last-minute City Council meeting for Tuesday to provide the council with an update on the ongoing internal probe into the city’s financial practices.
The meeting will not include a presentation by the audit committee, which is in the 10th month of investigating the city as part of a report it will submit to the firm auditing the city’s books for 2003, as well as the Securities and Exchange Commission. The SEC is investigating errors and omissions made on the city’s financial statements.
The audit committee, headed by former SEC chief Arthur Levitt, effectively halted its work after its budget dried up in November. The group believes they need another $9 million to $11 million to finish their investigation, which could end as late as May.
The council will consider providing $272,000 to file another 80 gigabytes worth of electronic documents into a repository so that the audit committee, SEC and U.S. Attorney’s Office can review the material for their probes.
The council meeting is almost certainly to be the last chaired by the mayor, who will become detached from the City Council on Jan. 3 to become the executive of the city. Sanders, who will essentially fill the city manager’s current role, will have the authority to hire and fire non-classified workers, propose an annual budget and manage the day-to-day operations of the city. The council will be chaired by council President Scott Peters after the switch.
City Manager Ronne Froman will be the city’s chief operating officer.
The council will also vote on whether to cancel meetings slated for Jan. 9 and Jan. 10 because the runoff elections for the Districts 2 and 8 council seats will be held that Tuesday.
Closing down the city’s closed doors. City Attorney Mike Aguirre cancelled this month’s meeting of a panel reviewing the city’s land development code because he said the group was not complying with the state’s open meeting laws.
The Land Development Code Monitoring Team, a committee comprised mostly of building trade representatives, said the advisory panel had had their meeting on Wednesday blocked this week because Aguirre said its meetings were not properly noticed to comport with state law, a city spokeswoman and a committee member said.
The LDCMT recommends changes to San Diego’s zoning code that is eventually reviewed by the Planning Commission and City Council.
Aguirre cancelled the meeting after Councilwoman Donna Frye asked the City Attorney’s Office whether it was appropriate for the group to not post its agenda, the time and place of its meetings, or how individuals could comment at meetings.
She applauded Aguirre’s decision on Friday.
“We have a new city attorney and there is much more emphasis finally on open government,” said Frye. “Complying with the laws seems to be a good thing.”
He said the city’s committees should be reviewed to ensure that they are complying with the state’s open meeting and conflict-of-interest laws.
“We want to make sure the business of the city is carried out with the highest integrity,” Aguirre said.
The city consultant working with the LDCMT did not return phone calls on Friday seeking comment.
Get back here, mister. The city’s retirement board decided on Friday to extend administrator Larry Grissom’s 18-year stay at the pension system, at least on a part-time basis, until his replacement is selected and settled in.
Grissom was hired as an outside consultant to perform the duties he holds now as the pension plan’s top executive while a replacement for him is found. Grissom is scheduled to retire at the end of the month, and city regulations prohibit the San Diego City Employees’ Retirement System from reentering the workforce after retiring.
He could work up to 90 days in a calendar year under the proposal. His will make roughly the same amount per day that he does as the system’s full-time administrator.
Grissom’s replacement is expected to be hired no earlier than February, and keeping the longtime administrator nearby would allow for a smooth transition, according to a report authored by SDCERS in-house attorney Lori Chapin.
The proposal notes that, if approved, Grissom would be permitted to offer advice to the board, and work on ongoing projects.
“His input is invaluable,” the report states.
Grissom has managed the day-to-day operations of the city’s pension plan during its recent controversies, which have resulted in delayed financial audits of the system’s books and ongoing investigations by the Department of Justice and the District Attorney’s Office.
Grissom recently asserted his Fifth Amendment right to not testify in the pre-trial hearings of a case alleging corruption by former pension trustees.
– EVAN McLAUGHLIN, Voice Staff Writer