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We just got a copy of the closed session transcripts that were sought by State Bar investigators as part of their probe into City Attorney Mike Aguirre, and the documents show that the City Council authorized Aguirre to pursue his pension litigation — but on the condition it was done in his name only.

In the Aug. 2, 2005 hearing, Council President Scott Peters said he was worried the council would be found to have negotiated in bad faith with the labor unions if it took the public stance that the employee pension benefits at issue in the lawsuit were illegal. However, he said in the meeting, there needed to be a decision regarding whether or not the rounds of benefits granted to employees through controversial deals in 1996 and 2002 were legal.

The hearing began with Executive Assistant City Attorney Don McGrath briefing the council on the lawsuit, which has since been struck down by a judge and is in appeals court.

The suit had originally been filed without the council’s approval. That was done, McGrath said, because the council was on recess at the time and the statute of limitations was set to expire.

The City Attorney’s Office was seeking the council’s formal approval on the suit.

Councilwoman Donna Frye originally proposed a motion to support it, but Peters said he’d prefer that the suit be brought in Aguirre’s name to avoid the labor issues. The council eventually approved Peters’ idea by a vote of 5-1. Councilman Jim Madaffer voted against the motion, and the District 2 and 8 seats were vacant at the time.

This is the general idea of what had happened before the suit. It may not resolve much.

The issue being made by Aguirre’s opponents is this: he later changed the suit to be back in the city’s name.

“He’s defied the direction of the client by bringing the suit in the name of the city,” said Pam Hardy, Peters spokeswoman.

In an interview, McGrath said that the city attorney never needed the council’s authorization to bring the suit to begin with. And, later, the judge in the case told him to bring the suit in the city’s name, so he did.

“It’s not that interesting,” he said of the transcript.

In response to a request from a State Bar investigator, the City Council waived its attorney client privilege to allow the release of the transcript last week. voiceofsandiego.org filed a request for the transcripts through the state Public Records Act.

Update: The original version of this post omitted several words from Hardy’s quote. I regret the error.

ANDREW DONOHUE

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