Yesterday in the Morning Report, we linked to the news that the San Diego city attorney’s office had botched 15 domestic violence prosecutions — cases the city attorney believes should have been pursued. The statute of limitations on them had simply passed.
The Union-Tribune broke the story.
But there was also the troubling side story: despite making personnel changes (one of the attorneys apparently responsible landed at the DA’s office with a new job) the city attorney sat on this news for months. He only prepared a memo for staff detailing what happened after the U-T approached the office with what reporters had already found.
I asked the candidates seeking to replace City Attorney Jan Goldsmith what they thought about what had happened and the way the city attorney dealt with the news. Here’s responses from Gil Cabrera, Rafael Castellanos, Mara Elliott and Robert Hickey.
Elliott is a chief deputy in the office, though not on the criminal side. Goldsmith is her boss.
“The attorneys responsible for the botched cases should not be practicing law and this issue should have been publicly reported immediately, not just when the media got hold of it,” Elliott said in her written statement. “These botched prosecutions underscore the importance of rebuilding the City Attorney’s criminal division.”
All agreed the news should have been disclosed and that major reforms should take place on the criminal side of the City Attorney’s office. The city attorney prosecutes misdemeanors in the city of San Diego. The district attorney handles felonies.
“Once the facts of the situation are clearly understood, that information should be proactively disclosed to the public along with a plan to prevent the problem from happening again,” Hickey said in his response. Hickey is a deputy district attorney.
“Why was there no automated computer tracking of these domestic violence cases?” Castellanos asked.
Cabrera proposed an anonymous hotline of sorts to report oversights like this. He said he would have spoken with the victims directly and then disclosed what happened: “This may have created some liability issues for the office, but you have to be transparent, as a public official of your failures — it is the only way you can be held accountable,” he said in his statement.
We got a response from the city attorney too, who said he wasn’t going to get involved in campaign politics:
“Suffice it to say that of some 10,000 domestic violence cases handled by this office during the relevant four-year time period, 9,981 were resolved properly. Nineteen were not and when those files were returned to the office, immediate steps were taken to get to the bottom of what happened, save some cases for prosecution, determine any re-offenses and make contact with the victims,” he wrote. Read the whole statement here.
Podcast: We Go Nuts About This
We had a plan for this week’s podcast: a recording of our live podcast Wednesday night at the Whistle Stop Bar.
But it was not to be. Something distorted the audio terribly.
So what we did instead was sample some of the clips we could salvage about the topic: the legalization and commercialization of marijuana. It was, after all, 4/20. And our guests were great: attorney Kimberley Simms, professor Alex Kreit and Buzzfeed writer Amanda Chicago Lewis.
We hashed out two other big big topics on the show. We had a long discussion about this emerging city attorney botched-cases scandal.
Fact Check: Blaming the Media for Police Retention Crisis
Chief of the San Diego Police Department Shelley Zimmerman has offered a few reasons why her department can’t hire and retain enough officers. But she keeps coming back to one in particular: the media.
I decided to try to track down what I could to substantiate it. I could not substantiate it. I tried. I really did!
For one thing, the national dialogue about racial profiling and officer-involved shootings doesn’t seem to be affecting recruitment and retention at the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department.
I conclude that Zimmerman knew that the retention crisis her department faces was on the way for years and decided to use it as an opportunity to drive up resentment for the people voicing their frustrations with police, and the media for airing these conversations.
Happy Chargers Day
The Chargers promise food, music, Charger Girls and big names including NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for the kickoff today of their big signature gathering effort to raise the hotel room tax in exchange for a downtown convadium.
The day before the event, the team got its first political win, as well: The San Diego Building and Construction Trades Council – the labor union coalition that works on many projects – endorsed the Charger’s stadium proposal and announced with the team that it had agreed to a project labor agreement for the deal.
But it’s not clear what weight their deal has. The Chargers are technically just a potential tenant in the convadium. It would be illegal for a ballot measure to specifically outline any party as specific beneficiaries of the initiative. And the team is not even paying for a majority of the facility. It’s unclear what significance unions agreeing with the Chargers on anything has beyond the political boost it might provide.
If a project labor agreement is important to evaluating your support of the deal, you may want to wait to see something more solid. It’s hardly clear that the City Council and mayor would support a labor deal, especially if Republicans win control of the Council in the same election.
• The Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction, which generally opposes these types of labor agreements, announced its opposition to the project because of the prospect or reality of a deal with organized labor. The Associated Builders and Contractors, also a coalition of construction teams not tied to unions, blasted the news as well.
• The mayor gave his first thoughts on the stadium to the U-T. He offered some blockbuster, jaw-dropping, stop-the-presses quotes about it. (Not really.)
Anderson Takes Aim at Gun-Control Measures
Sen. Joel Anderson voted no on several gun control measures that passed through the Senate Public Safety Committee Tuesday.
“Anderson offered a big-picture critique of gun measures that’s become standard for Republicans: Criminals will commit crimes no matter how many laws exist,” writes VOSD’s Sara Libby in this week’s Sacramento report.
Also, in this week’s news from Sacramento, Andrew Keatts writes about Assemblywoman Toni Atkins’ new bill to direct some of the money California saved from the end of its tax-funded redevelopment program towards low-income housing, rather than sending all the money to the state’s general fund.
Quick News Hits
• California will deliver more water to local water districts than they have for each of the past three years after March storms in Northern California filled the state’s major reservoirs this year. (Associated Press)
• The San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board filed an $875,000 civil complaint against developer KB Home for the alleged damage of a creek near Lakeside. (City News Service)
• Average wait times at the San Ysidro Port of Entry rose 61 minutes this year from 52 minutes in 2011, according to a report released Friday by the South County Economic Development Council. (KPBS).
• There’s no better place to build a drug tunnel than Otay Mesa. To the west the ground is too sandy and soggy from the Pacific Ocean. The land east is hard mountain rock. Maybe that’s why most of the 27 drug tunnels discovered in California during the past decade were in Otay Mesa. (LA Times)
Top Stories of the Week
Our list of the 10 most-read VOSD stories of the week is here. Below are the Top 5:
1. Your Speeding Ticket Might Not Be Enforceable
Attorney Coleen Cusack wants the city to conduct valid traffic surveys. If a traffic survey is more than 10 years old, the speed limit on that portion of road is considered unenforceable under state law — but most people don’t know that. (Kelly Davis)
2. Opinion: Do Your Homework Before Dismissing Your Neighborhood School
Parents should move past perception and really study their neighborhood schools before bypassing them. (Sandy Weiner-Mattson)
3. The Man Who Shaped the Workers’ Revolution at San Diego Unified
To Richard Barrera, organized labor and the school district do not have different agendas. He believes the labor movement is a comprehensive solution to the problems that face the district – and society. He’s had major impact across San Diego implementing that vision. (Mario Koran and Ashly McGlone)
4. City Planners Mull How to Regulate Microbreweries in New North Park Plan
No one seems to have known back in the 1980s, when its community plan was last updated, that North Park would become a hub for microbreweries and other small-batch creators. Planners are working to incorporate a zoning change in the new update that would accommodate future businesses. (Jennifer McEntee)
5. Opinion: Digs Like Goldsmith’s Are Why People Hate Politics
With his remarks introducing Ted Cruz last week, Jan Goldsmith harmed the office of city attorney and by extension our city by engaging in partisan politics of the worst kind. (Rafael Castellanos)