The Morning Report
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City Attorney Mike Aguirre attempted to deflect criticism that a local newspaper lobbed at his management practices by releasing the details of an impromptu, week-long investigation into his office’s billing practices Friday afternoon.
In a 30-page report, Aguirre claims that his predecessors instituted billing policies that inappropriately overcharged the water and wastewater budgets. He claims he has halted those practices a month into his tenure, removed the officials involved from senior positions, and has instituted ethics training for his staff.
Supervisors instructed attorneys to fill out time cards in pencil and estimate their work for the last three days of the period so that supervisors could be alter the accounting later. Criminal division attorneys would bill the enterprise departments without doing work for the department, the report states.
Critics say the tactic was used in order to push the city’s financial burdens off of its day-to-day operational budget and onto funds like water and wastewater, where officials could unilaterally raise rates to users. It is much more difficult to raise revenues for the operational budget, as any tax increase has to be approved by the populace.
The city attorney took some heat in an editorial The San Diego Union Tribune. It was published after meeting with Aguirre last Thursday, which is the same day his investigator began contacting former and current employees of the office for this probe.
The criticism was simple: Aguirre was too busy policing the rest of the city when potential felonies were occurring within his office.
In the report, Aguirre blamed the past billing practices them on the “business as usual” attitude of former officials.
“It’s not a huge, huge amount of money, but it shows an internal dishonesty and shows official policy of Casey Gwinn and Leslie Devaney,” he said, referring to his predecessor and his opponent in the 2004 city attorney’s election, respectively.