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You have, by now, probably heard about the Monday meeting of the San Diego City Council’s Audit Committee. It was one member short with Councilman Tony Young out. But it had a quorum with Councilman Kevin Faulconer and Councilwoman Toni Atkins there.

City Attorney Mike Aguirre was there too. And he had a bunch of points he wanted to make. And he made them. And he made them. And he made them. The thrust of his dissertation was familiar: The city has a structural deficit and it hasn’t done anything to reduce the long-term liabilities like the shortfall in the pension system.

And right in the middle of his sprawling speech, Toni Atkins just got up and walked out. It was funny to watch on video. In all of the arguments he’s had, during all of the speeches he’s made at public meetings, few actions have left Aguirre that speechless.

Like I said, you probably already heard about it. Faulconer had to abruptly adjourn the meeting because there was no quorum. Nobody knew quite what to do.

Except Aguirre, who knew only that he wanted to keep talking. He persuaded Faulconer to adjourn the meeting and turn it into an informal discussion. Aguirre said it would be like the many he holds “after hours” in City Council chambers to talk over an issue with the public.

When Aguirre began talking again, he switched topics. No longer was he talking just about the litany of city problems he’s been reciting for years. Aguirre decided to bring up a different point. He wanted to confront Andrea Tevlin, the City Council’s independent budget analyst, or IBA.

“We had a rep of the IBA that was attempting to make our disclosures more positive,” he said.

He said that in a recent financial disclosure, Tevlin was trying to include unwarranted information. He wanted to know what the IBA was thinking. After all, the Securities and Exchange Commission now holds San Diego up as the example of what not to do with financial disclosures. SEC Chairman Christopher Cox recently said that the city of San Diego jeopardized investors in its publicly issued bonds.

He was, Monday, essentially accusing Tevlin of trying to do that again.

That produced this back and forth:

Andrea Tevlin:I thought there were things here such as creating the audit committee the budget committee — those few points — creating our office (the independent budget analyst) that could lend some very good information to readers in a transmittal letter.
Mike Aguirre: See that converts what is a disclosure process — and this may be just some training that needs to take place. The disclosure process is a legal standard you have to comply with …
I’m very familiar with the form.
So the idea of trying to make something look better than perhaps for political reasons what that does is that actually cuts against the disclosure.
This was in the transmittal letter. It’s very appropriate in a transmittal letter.
No matter what it’s in the point is this: If it’s calculated to reach the market — I was a plaintiff’s lawyer, a securities lawyer. What will happen is if we are sued they will take those very things you’re talking about: the rosy picture that you are …
It’s not a picture, those are factual statements. The budget committee has been created. An audit committee has been created. We have a strong mayor form of government and we have an IBA. It’s a fact — that’s it.
Hold on, No. Those aren’t just the things we’re talking about today, No. 1. But No. 2, all the things that I listed: Not doing anything about the deficit …
We never spoke to that. We never spoke to that. All those things are true …
But that’s what I’m saying: Those things suggest, somehow, that you’re dealing with the real problem. They are either relevant information or not.
They speak to the fact that you’ve taken some positive steps. And that is it, Mike. That is it.

(Tevlin’s pretty fired up by this point. One thing about debating Mike Aguirre in public, he has a knack for appearing calm while infuriating the other person.)
That is not a positive step. That’s my whole point. If you haven’t actually addressed the problem. The fact that you might have done some things structurally but you still haven’t addressed the fundamental problem, undercuts the point that you need to disclose that haven’t dealt with the underlying problem.
I completely support 100 percent full disclosure and I consider factual information about what you’re doing to try and address that issue to be pertinent.
And that’s what we need to have a discussion about because that’s not correct.

♦ ♦ ♦

So Faulconer cut them off but Aguirre insisted on one last word to dig into Atkins:

Let me just say this for the record: I think it’s inappropriate and wrong for a council member to remove herself from a meeting that was duly scheduled because she doesn’t want to hear and have a real discussion about the issues and to deny the public that opportunity. It is a breach of her fundamental duty as a council member.


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