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City Attorney Mike Aguirre missed another public debate today, choosing instead to stay ensconced in his office working away on his pension litigation appeal.

The four other candidates for city attorney debated at a forum organized by the City of San Diego Retired Employees Association at the War Memorial Building in Balboa Park.

In Aguirre’s absence, his opponents took every chance they could to make digs at the current city attorney. Over the course of a couple of hours, the two city councilmen, judge and former Aguirre deputy took turns to make swipes at everything from Aguirre’s temperament and his management style to his record on the pension litigation.

“He’s not showing up any more,” said City Councilman Scott Peters.

“It’s kind of pleasant,” chimed in City Councilman Brian Maienschein.

The candidates also had a couple of digs at each other. The rather civilized, convivial debate took a turn towards the muddy when Amy Lepine, a Democratic attorney and former Aguirre deputy, took aim at the Peters and Maienschein.

“We’ve got here a couple of unpleasant decisions without me in the race. We’ve got the old guard, who basically robbed our pension coffers,” Lepine said. “We have two council members who are completely implicated in the under-funding and other wrongdoing.”

The councilmen went on the defensive, accusing Lepine of throwing out accusations and playing “political gotcha.”

“Miss Lepine, it’s so easy to be critical when you haven’t sat in the chair. That’s what Mike does and we need to get past that,” Peters said.

Judge Jan Goldsmith also used the event to criticize Peters and Maienschein for their role in the city’s pension underfunding scandal. He accused the two councilmen of trying to rewrite history to avoid taking the blame for their role in the city’s financial meltdown.

Goldsmith was criticized by Maienschein for supporting energy deregulation when he was a state legislator. Goldsmith defended himself by citing the difference between what he admits was his mistake and the mistakes Peters and Maienschein have made in the last eight years.

“We all voted for it in 1998, but when we voted for it, it wasn’t illegal. It was not an illegal vote, we did not create something that was illegal,” Goldsmith said. “Unlike, if you read the Kroll report, the conclusion, was ‘knowing violation of state law,’ for these council members.’”

So, even without Aguirre present, there was still plenty of room for some lively debate. There are several more forums scheduled in the coming weeks. It’s going to be interesting to watch the gloves come off.

WILL CARLESS

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