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New Law In San Diego Firms Up Government Transparency

The official seal for the city of San Diego.

Photo by Angela Carone

Above: The official seal for the city of San Diego.

The San Diego City Council voted unanimously Monday to fix a vaguely worded law requiring anyone doing business with the city to disclose their identities.

The action follows an inewsource investigation that began 16 months ago that showed the law was being ignored.

“This has been important to me,” said Councilwoman Barbara Bry, “to make sure we have transparency.”

The ordinance the council approved clarifies a decades-old law known as “Mandatory Disclosure of Business Interests,” or Section 225 of the San Diego City Charter. That law came about in 1992 after the city almost entered into a $47 million real estate deal with an alleged mobster.

An inewsource investigation last year found that despite Section 225, the city has more than $3 billion in contracts with more than 1,000 private companies, yet rarely knows the financial interests behind them.

Under Section 225, anyone doing business with the city must make a “full and complete disclosure of the name and identity of any and all persons directly or indirectly involved in the application or proposed transaction and the precise nature of all interests of all persons therein.”

The original wording for the law was vague and never defined “transaction” or “directly or indirectly involved.” It also never said how to establish “identity” or elaborated on what the term “precise interest” meant.

Monday’s vote further defines those terms through an ordinance. It does not change the city charter — that requires a public vote, scheduled for 2018. Once that vote happens, the ordinance approved Monday will be dissolved and superseded by the charter.

inewsource has reached out to other San Diego County cities to determine if they plan to enact a similar law. Officials in La Mesa and Encinitas have said they are “currently evaluating the need for such regulations as they may be useful.”

Evolution Of San Diego's Most Ignored Law

The San Diego City Council voted unanimously Monday to fix a vaguely worded law requiring anyone doing business with the city to disclose their identities.

Photo caption:

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