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I obviously think there are some legitimate complaints about City Attorney Mike Aguirre. But one of the consistent criticisms people try to level on him is that he hasn’t won a case.
That’s just not true.
Yes, he’s swung and missed on some major ones. Even his closest supporters are anxious for him to win a big case. He came into office with an innovative interpretation of just about everything. That’s fine and great — even exciting — but if you can’t convince a judge of the validity of your arguments, it doesn’t do any good.
His last whiff was particularly brutal.
He has often tried to blame judges for his failures: They are political, he says, or short-sighted.
You can only bemoan the judges and explain away your lack of success in front of them for so long. After all, people hire attorneys so that they can get what they want from judges.
I’m all for smart people, but winning is what it’s all about.
As he often reminds us, the people hired Aguirre. They hired him to win.
But if you’re going to nail him on this point, call it like it is. The fact is, he hasn’t failed every time in court or in important cases. Late last week, after a lot of work, he and his team successfully torpedoed a lawsuit against the city filed by the Police Officers Association, or SDPOA, a couple of years ago.
The police union’s suit would have been worth mockery if it weren’t so ominous. It had been filed in federal court with allegations that Aguirre had tried to bribe the police union to persuade it to go along with his plan to reform the pension benefits the city offers employees. The complaint had a number of other related accusations for which the judge ruled it had failed to provide any evidence.
Aguirre’s team methodically destroyed the lawsuit. And Judge Marilyn Huff’s ruling provides yet another history of the city’s financial decisions in recent years that brought us so much trouble.
She also put some interesting conclusions on the record, such as this account of the notorious 2002 pension deal the city’s management made with most of its employees:
The City conditioned any increase in benefits and compensation to the SDPOA’s members upon the [pension] board’s approval of contribution relief for the City.
This, as followers of the criminal cases against former pension officials know, is a crucial point at issue.
Judge Huff takes it as accepted fact that city employees were offered benefits contingent on the pension board — dominated by representatives of city employees — allowing the city to skirt its financial responsibilities to fund the pension system.
This, of course, is the central theme to the many criminal cases still being processed about the strange pension deals of 2002.
Aguirre does lose. But he successfully settled with the Securities and Exchange Commission on behalf of the city and its residents. He just recently oversaw the effort that killed most of the frightening lawsuit from developer Roque de la Fuente.
He forced a company that had once provided investment advice to the pension system to fork over millions.
He deserves criticism and he needs to be held accountable for his reckless actions, but his critics have to be honest. He doesn’t lose every fight he gets in.