A subcommittee of the group recommending changes to the city of San Diego’s constitution has jumped into the dispute over the city attorney’s authority, voting Friday in favor of charter changes that would require the city attorney to seek City Council approval before filing lawsuits.

The full Charter Review Committee meets again to hear a number of issues, including this one, on Sept. 20 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on the 12th floor of City Hall at 202 C St.

It is the penultimate meeting for the group, which will make formal recommendations to the City Council ahead of the 2008 ballot. The council will have final say over what constitutional changes appear before voters.

A public vote is one of several ways the long-running dispute over the city attorney’s authority could be handled, as I wrote Wednesday.

City Attorney Mike Aguirre argues that his client is the public and, therefore, he can act unilaterally in bringing civil lawsuits. Some council members, such as Council President Scott Peters, have disputed this notion, saying the City Council — as the board of directors of the municipal corporation — is the client.

The language approved by the subcommittee would label the municipal corporation as the client, said subcommittee chairman Michael McDade in an e-mail.

“In my personal opinion, voter adoption of these proposed clarifications of the Charter would resolve disputes which have plagued the City for the past 3 years, would save significant taxpayer money, and would lay the groundwork for better relations between elected officials at City Hall,” he wrote. “Focus could return to conducting the people’s business in a timely and professional manner.”


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