City attorney candidate Jan Goldsmith called me this morning after I posted this excerpt from a Wall Street Journal article lionizing his opponent, City Attorney Mike Aguirre.
Goldsmith first took exception with the fact the paper didn’t call him to get his side of the story.
“I would’ve liked the opportunity to meet with them or communicate with them,” he said.
He also took issue with this passage from the Wall Street Journal (emphasis mine):
The garden at this skunk party is City Attorney Mike Aguirre, who has made himself very unpopular with the political establishment by suing to rescind the 1996 and 2002 pension promises. Though a liberal Democrat normally sympathetic to unions, he says the benefits were granted as part of “the largest municipal securities fraud in American history,” and so taxpayers shouldn’t have to honor them.
Goldsmith, a Superior Court judge, said that comment isn’t true. He said Aguirre is misrepresenting his case by trying to tie his challenge to the pension benefits to the SEC’s sanctions against the city of San Diego and former city officials.
“It’s never been a basis for rescinding the pension obligations,” Goldsmith said. “They are two separate things; he’s never made that argument and that’s not what his case is about.”
Aguirre’s case, for which he earned accolades in the WSJ article, is based on two different legal theories, neither of which rest on securities fraud charges. Instead, he argues that the pension deals were agreed to corruptly and therefore are null and void. He also argues that they create debt without the authorization of voters, which is against state law.
The securities fraud sanctions brought by the SEC do correlate to the pension deals, but not via Aguirre’s suit. The SEC claims that the city and certain top former officials failed to disclose to investors the gravity of the city’s pension problems, including problems that were brought about by the same pension deals Aguirre is challenging.
Goldsmith has also sent this letter to the WSJ:
TO: Wall Street Journal
Your editorial endorsing the incumbent San Diego City Attorney, Mike Aguirre (“A San Diego Retirement”, September 6), falsely spins this campaign as all about San Diego’s pension problems. It is not.
Although I am referred to as the “opponent” in the editorial, you never communicated with me. So, you only heard Mr. Aguirre’s side. I’d like to give my side.
Mr. Aguirre has lost every pension lawsuit he filed and the City has had to pay millions of dollars in legal fees awarded to the winning party. No matter how much it is spun, the fact is that an employer cannot get out from under a contractual pension obligation because it was a bad deal absent bankruptcy.
I have been a judge for the past 10 years and had nothing to do with creating the pension problem. That’s not what this election is about.
Here is what the election is about:
– Mr. Aguirre, the City Attorney, has often refused to provide legal advice to the City. He claims he represents the “people”, not the City. The City has been left without a lawyer. What would the WSJ do with your lawyers if they withheld advice to you because they believe they represent your subscribers and not you?
– Mr. Aguirre blatantly uses the power of his office to promote his “progressive” political agenda. Recently, he filed a lawsuit to create a “foreclosure sanctuary” in San Diego— a so-called “progressive” response to the home foreclosure crisis. To placate antiwar activists, he tried using his power as City Attorney to evict Blackwater- a government contractor that trains our troops— from San Diego . A federal judge issued an injunction against Mr. Aguirre’s plan because it would have violated the law.
– Mr. Aguirre regularly uses threats and intimidation to get his way. The former head of the criminal division, a 33 year veteran prosecutor wrote in a declaration signed under penalty of perjury: “It was my experience serving as assistant city attorney under Michael Aguirre that he sought to use the criminal authority of his office to attack people whom he believed to be his enemies.” Mr. Aguirre was thrown off a criminal prosecution after the judge found in a written decision that Mr. Aguirre used the threat of criminal prosecution to get an advantage in a civil case.
(link) California Rules of Professional Conduct, Rule 5-100 prohibits an attorney from threatening criminal charges “to obtain an advantage in a civil dispute.”
– Mr. Aguirre has publicly labeled many office-holders, citizens and institutions in San Diego as “corrupt” and part of a grand conspiracy— ranging from the Mayor to the newspaper to the police chief and judges. No evidence was presented and no charges were filed, but reputations were soiled. The Mayor went so far as to request that the California Attorney General investigate Mr. Aguirre’s corruption charge to clear his name. The Attorney General found absolutely no evidence of corruption. Mr. Aguirre then accused the Attorney General, a Democrat like Mr. Aguirre, of doing a “political favor” for the Republican Mayor. To this day, Mr. Aguirre has never provided evidence of corruption.
– During the wildfires last year, Mr. Aguirre called for an evacuation of the entire City. He pestered our firefighters and crisis management team to the point of harassment. During a landslide involving homes, Mr. Aguirre rushed to the site and explained to the media how the City helped cause it. Mr. Aguirre has no expertise in evacuations or soils engineering.
– Under Mr. Aguirre, about 125 of 135 lawyers in the City Attorney’s office left— most were fired or forced out. Many of the replacements were politicos with very little legal experience. The lack of experience was coupled with elimination of training programs on legal practice. The result is a disaster to the quality of civil and criminal practice in San Diego courts by the City Attorney’s office.
Had you spent the time to speak with me— Mr. Aguirre’s opponent— maybe you would have discovered there are two sides to this election. I am running to restore the City Attorney’s office as a law office.
Here is a suggestion to the WSJ— After Mr. Aguirre is bounced from office by the voters of San Diego who have lived with his antics, the WSJ ought to hire Mr. Aguirre as your General Counsel. And please make sure his office is in New York City .
Judge Jan Goldsmith