City Attorney Vows No More Closed Sessions Until Dispute Ends
Monday, July 1, 2013
City Attorney Jan Goldsmith said today that he plans to suspend closed session meetings with San Diego Mayor Bob Filner and the City Council.
In a morning television interview on KUSI, Goldsmith said there would be no more meetings, which are held to conduct confidential discussions on legal matters and employee issues, until his lawyers are treated with respect by the mayor.
Filner berated Goldsmith's top lieutenant, Andrew Jones, and had him removed from a conference room by police at a closed session meeting two weeks ago, according to a transcript.
The mayor has been critical of Goldsmith and his office in public and behind closed doors, and slashed the budget of the City Attorney's Office for the fiscal year that started today.
"The action I've taken, and will be taking based upon all of this, is there will be no further closed sessions,'' Goldsmith said in the TV interview.
"There will be no closed sessions until we work this out, and what I really need is the mayor, with the support of the police chief and the City Council leadership, to come forward and say it's not going to happen again.''
Having a police officer remove Jones was illegal and an action befitting "a third-world'' country, Goldsmith said.
The city attorney calls his relationship with Filner a "one-way feud'' coming from the mayor.
"It's been consistent, and it's been abuse, it's been harassment, it's been an effort to keep us from doing our job,'' Goldsmith said.
He insisted that he's done nothing to Filner to cause such a reaction.
Filner, however, has said in the past that he cannot trust the legal advice coming from Goldsmith's office. The mayor points to a reversal of a legal opinion on whether he had authority to veto San Diego's appointments to the port commission, which led to a dust-up with the City Council.
Filner also criticized the city attorney's prosecution of an activist who scribbled sidewalk chalk protest messages in front of banks as a waste of time and money. The defendant was acquitted of all 13 charges Monday.
Goldsmith might not have the power to prevent future closed session meetings, since their agendas are set jointly with him, the mayor and council President Todd Gloria.
However, city staff said even if the meetings were held, the participants would be powerless to do anything if no one from Goldsmith's office was there to provide advice.
Gloria said he has reached out to both Filner and Goldsmith and called their relationship a "distraction.''
"I urge you to put our city and our citizens first and consider using a mediator to resolve this dispute quickly,'' Gloria said. "This conflict has got to stop, and our collective focus must return to priorities like public safety and road repair.''
The City Council isn't meeting this week because of Thursday's Independence Day holiday.
Neither Filner's nor Goldsmith's offices immediately returned messages seeking comment.