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The San Diego Ethics Commission should have the power to subpoena witnesses to testify and should be made more independent of the elected officials it investigates, a grand jury said today.

The report said the city should place a measure on the ballot guaranteeing the commission a minimum annual budget, staffing level and funding source to ward against retaliation from City Council members who are the subject of investigations.

The grand jury also opined that the council should pass an ordinance giving the Ethics Commission the power to subpoena witnesses to testify instead of relying on voluntary compliance. The report notes that witnesses sometimes refuse to appear or testify.

The Ethics Commission was rebuffed when it asked for such powers in the fall. Some termed-out council members then chastised the commission for some of its fines and press releases, something that the commission’s chairman, Gil Cabrera, said threatened the commission’s independence.

The City Council must respond to the grand jury’s report by Sept. 1.

RANI GUPTA

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