Justice may be blind, but she moves at a sloth’s pace.

The state Supreme Court yesterday answered the key legal question that has surrounded the nearly five-year-old prosecution of former city administrators and union representatives.

Justices said five of the six defendants are exempt from the state’s conflict-of-interest law because it gives wiggle room to people in their positions — people like city employees who help oversee a pension system they also have a financial stake in.

San Diego’s case had a special wrinkle: Prosecutors have said the pension officials went beyond the normal duties envisioned in the law. The employees essentially had an unusual veto power over their own benefits, they argue, because if they hadn’t allowed the city to avoid its bill, they wouldn’t have gotten the benefits.

The court threw out charges against five of the six defendants, saying the benefits they received were the same any city employee got. Only Ron Saathoff, the former head of the firefighters union, still faces charges.

The Union-Tribune’s Greg Moran has the details of the judge’s ruling and points out that it has little impact on the city’s financial problems. For background on the case, check out my 2005 story detailing the charges and the deal. The next thing to look for: how this ruling impacts a parallel federal prosecution of five former pension officials, three of whom were also a part of the district attorney’s case.

Here’s what else we’ve got cooking:

  • Remember, just like the district attorney’s investigation, we’re about to turn five years old. But we’re not in jeopardy of being thrown out by the Supreme Court. We swear. 

    To prove it, we’re throwing a birthday party on Feb. 3, and Scott Lewis has a special invitation for you

  • The year 2012 might seem far away, but for a group looking at raising city fees and taxes, it’s approaching quickly. As Liam Dillon explores, the group needs to move quickly if any of its efforts can help fix 2012’s projected $77 million.

    Dillon dropped a couple of other interesting nuggets from the politics beat: The Convention Center’s performance is down, just as the push for a $750 million expansion heats up. And retired city workers can breathe easy: City Attorney Jan Goldsmith says your healthcare is guaranteed

  • Our own Sam Hodgson is really coming into his own as a photographer. I love taking a stroll through his blog when I’ve got a few seconds to relax. Check out his latest Photo of the Day, an image of someone who’s got more than just a few seconds to relax.
  • The San Diego Unified school board is being told by its consultant that the public would favor a temporary tax for schools. Education reporter Emily Alpert also continues her conversation with the education community, showing off some of the more interesting ideas she’d received on increasing test scores. 


  • The Union-Tribune writes about a whole tangle of connections between county officials and a charity that is set to receive a no-bid contract from the Board of Supervisors.
  • CityBeat runs KUSI weatherman John Coleman’s crusade against climate change past the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.
  • In other news about our venerable research institutions, the Burnham Institute for Medical Research just got a $50 million donation. It’s a big enough donation to change the name in honor of the donor: It will now be called the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute. (UT) 

Please feel free to forward our birthday party invitation to Mr. Sanford. 


Dagny Salas was web editor at Voice of San Diego from 2010 to 2013. She was an investigative fellow at VOSD from 2009 to 2010.

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