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San Diego City Council President Ben Hueso has established a legal defense fund to raise money for his defense of an ethics complaint.

On Monday, Hueso filed the necessary paperwork with the city clerk. He issued the following statement in response to my inquiry about the fund:

I recently opened a Legal Defense Fund to handle the costs I incurred while addressing a complaint that the Ethics Commission received, investigated, and dismissed. Though I could have handled the situation without legal assistance, my time is already committed to City business, my work as a Coastal Commissioner, and my family.

Because the Ethics Commission conducted its due diligence appropriately and dismissed the matter, I will make no further comment on the subject.

Stacey Fulhorst, executive director of the San Diego Ethics Commission, declined to release details of the complaint, as is common practice. She confirmed that commissioners agreed to open an investigation in May 2007 and dismissed the complaint in November 2008 after a staff investigation.

Hueso’s spokeswoman, Michelle Ganon, said there should be no concern about Hueso raising money for the fund while he sits as council president, noting that it’s allowed under city rules. Individuals can contribute up to $500 annually to a legal defense fund for each proceeding.

It’s unclear how much Hueso’s legal bills totaled from the Ethics Commission proceeding.

City officials are only allowed to raise money for up to six months after a legal proceeding has ended. After that, they must refund the unspent money or seek an extension. Committee officials must keep detailed records of the expenses for a legal proceeding, though they don’t have to produce them unless there’s an audit.

If you have any information the complaint that was dismissed, send me an e-mail at rani.gupta@voiceofsandiego.org.

In a separate Ethics Commission case in 2007, Hueso agreed to pay his share of a $17,000 fine stemming from campaign violations.

RANI GUPTA

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