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City Hall Investigation Faults Staff But Not Mayor in Sunroad Wrangle


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Incompetence but no corruption. That's the verdict of San Diego city hall's investigation into how its own officials allowed Sunroad Enterprises to construct a too-tall building in the Montgomery Field flight path. Full Focus reporter Amita Sharma has more.

The investigation by Mayor Jerry Sanders' new ethics unit faulted city staffers but cleared the mayor of any wrongdoing.

The 40-page report concluded that development services department staffers failed to order Sunroad to stop construction on the building even after they knew it violated federal height limits. Mayor Sanders ordered Sunroad to stop work on the building last month and this month the developer agreed to lower the tower's height.

Despite recent progress, the report found that the city's and mayor's efforts to resolve the dispute with Sunroad gave a strong impression that they were aligned with the developer. Still, investigators said those efforts were not meant to help Sunroad flout FAA safety rules.

Political Scientist Carl Luna said the reports findings are not surprising.

Luna : The classic line that every politician under assault when it comes to the well is mistakes were made, we'll move on, we'll correct the problem. When mistakes were made on an order of this, somebody ought to be losing their job darn quick.

Sanders says he'll decide soon whether that should happen. The mayor did take responsibility yesterday for the city's handling of the Sunroad situation. But Luna says Sanders role in the matter tars his image. Sanders met with Sunroad president Aaron Feldman twice as the dispute was intensifying. Shortly after those meetings, the city allowed Sunroad to continue construction despite a stop work order. They mayor's office also brought in officials from the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority to broker a deal with the FAA.

Luna : All politics is appearance. It does not reflect well on the mayor. The fact that he held meetings with Mr. Feldman and right after that good things were done for Sunroad, maybe it's coincidence, but too many coincidences and people get the sense that things just aren't adding up and I think the big thing out of this is that it's taken the luster off of Jerry Sanders as being a non-politician because he's acted very political throughout the whole problem.

Meanwhile, Sunroad's $40 million lawsuit seeking damages from the city remains.

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