This commentary originally appeared as a comment on “The Most Awkward Moments from the Filner-Goldsmith Clash.”

This story talks about a bigger problem we have in San Diego. The fact that we elect our city attorney is nonsensical. We had the same problem with Michael Aguirre that we now have with Jan Goldsmith. When a politician is the city attorney she or he has the opportunity to spend millions upon millions of taxpayer money promoting their own political career or using and even abusing the court system to pursue political agendas. If the city attorney were hired by the City Council there would be a clear reporting chain and no conflict of interest between the politician city attorney’s goals and those of his or her client, the council & the mayor. With a hired city attorney, decisions on lawsuits would be made more in line with the decision-making process made by rational, profit-seeking businesses. Decisions like, 1) Am I within the law?, 2) Can I win? and 3) What’s this going to costs versus the expected benefit? In San Diego that is clearly not the case. The city attorney’s office is poorly run and has had several notable defeats of late (Kinder Morgan and The Academy of Our Lady of Peace). The council is meek and sheepish when it comes to the city attorney. Since none of the sitting members have a legal background, they lack the courage and ability to question or even turn down the politically infused advice of an elected city attorney. They take his “advice” without exception. It’s time the council followed the mayor’s lead and actually made decisions rather than laying down for the Goldsmith steam-roller.

The city attorney’s current lawsuit against SDCERS is a glaring example of a case where he clearly does not have the law on his side, he is spending millions of dollars and his client (the council) seems clueless on the merits of the case. Additionally, the city pays all of the legal costs of SDCERS (whom they are suing). Those millions of dollars are borrowed from the pension plan and charged 7.5 percent interest. Yes, the taxpayers pick up the tab for that as well.

In short, the city is suing itself with borrowed money.

Only in San Diego.

Herb Morgan is the president of the San Diego City Employees’ Retirement System.


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