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Mayoral Vetoes of Port Commissioners Rendered Moot By Legal Opinion

City Attorney Jan Goldsmith (L) and San Diego Mayor Bob Filner

Credit: KPBS

Above: City Attorney Jan Goldsmith (L) and San Diego Mayor Bob Filner

City Attorney Jan Goldsmith opined today that Mayor Bob Filner had no authority to veto City Council appointments of two prospective port commissioners.

The city attorney and City Council President Todd Gloria each said that City Clerk Elizabeth Maland should certify January's appointments of lawyer Rafael Castellanos and businessman Marshall Merrifield.

Filner issued the vetoes because he objected to the procedures used by the council for the appointments. The vetoes were subsequently upheld by the City Council — but the new opinion renders both the vetoes and failed override moot.

The mayor said at the time that city policy toward the Port of San Diego should be developed before the city's two open seats are filled. The policy has since been adopted.

It had been believed that the mayor had the power to veto port appointments. However, Assemblyman Ben Hueso, D-San Diego, asked for legal advice from the state legislative counsel, since the port district was created under state auspices.

The state opinion was that the mayor could not veto council appointments, which led to Goldsmith's latest opinion.

"Our port is critical to the economic, environmental and recreational health of the region, and I am glad San Diego is again fully represented by well-qualified candidates lawfully appointed by the City Council,'' Gloria said.

At a news conference on a separate topic, Filner said he only issued the vetoes when Goldsmith told him he could. He also said some good came out of it.

"What we got out of that veto was a whole new port policy and a port appointment policy,'' Filner said.

As a result of the dispute over the appointments, the City Council established qualifications for future commissioners, including familiarity with the city's port policies, plus prior experience in the maritime industry, international trade, finance or public service.

San Diego has three spots on the seven-seat Board of Commissioners that oversees the port. Gloria said Castellanos and Merrifield would be sworn in within the next couple of weeks.


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