SANDAG board and Poway Mayor Steve Vaus. / Photo by Vito Di Stefano

SANDAG started its meeting Friday by outlining the potential punishments elected officials face for disclosing conversations from closed session.

It was in response to an article we published this week revealing that, in a closed session last month, Mayor Kevin Faulconer and others blocked the board’s attempt to fill its vacant executive director position with an internal candidate, Kim Kawada.

Poway Mayor Steve Vaus kicked off Friday’s meeting by confirming what took place, after SANDAG board chair and Del Mar Mayor Terry Sinnott referred to the article.

“We have talked at this board several times about the sanctity of closed session,” Vaus said. “The article that Terry referenced makes very clear that at least four people in this room – or staffers for those people – have violated the sanctity of closed session. That is unacceptable. One, you put people’s lives and careers at risk. No. 2, you’re breaking the law.”

SANDAG’s legal counsel, John Kirk, then outlined the potential punishments under state law for disclosing information from closed session. It could result in removal from office for up to six years after the disclosure.

Escondido Mayor Sam Abed said he hoped the agency would investigate who leaked the information. In the process, he ended up spilling a bit of new information, too.

“This has happened several times. The labor union called one of the (executive director) finalists, and this is unacceptable, because you’re putting – as Mayor Vaus said – people’s careers at risk. That’s serious business. I would like to see what is the process to pursue this, or investigate this … What is the process at SANDAG, and I’d like to see us pursue that, and find out who is doing this.”

San Diego City Councilwoman Lorie Zapf said the same issue was taken seriously at the city of San Diego recently – referring to Councilman Chris Cate leaking a legal memo to representatives from SoccerCity, before the state attorney general opted not to pursue charges – and she’d like this to be taken just as seriously.

“I’m upset,” she said.

This post originally appeared in the Politics Report.

Andrew Keatts is a former managing editor for projects and investigations at Voice of San Diego.

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