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Politics

City Council Says Charter Changes On Removing Elected Officials Require More Analysis

The San Diego City Council unanimously approved Monday a response to a county grand jury report on removal of elected officials, part of the fallout from misconduct by ex-Mayor Bob Filner that led him to resign in August.

In March, the grand jury said the City Charter should be amended to allow for elected officials to be removed, and that the City Council should act quickly.

The response, developed by the city's Independent Budget Analyst's office, agrees with the panel's findings, but says three of the four recommendations require further study.

The charter as it currently stands only allows for an officeholder to be removed in the event of death, resignation or recall, unless a provision that an official illegally spent city money is invoked.

The lack of an easier mechanism resulted in a recall effort against Filner, who was accused of sexual harassment by around 20 women. He later pleaded guilty to three charges and was sentenced to three years' probation.

City officials have been working on several proposed reforms to the City Charter, but amending the city's governing document requires a public vote.

Next month's primary election ballot, for example, will contain a proposition related to the inauguration of elected officials.

"I think Bob Filner pointed out a lot of deficiencies and problems with himself and the city, and part of the problem with our charter is how to remove an elected official,'' Councilman Scott Sherman said.

The city response to the grand jury says reasons why someone should be removed from office, and whether to allow the City Council to dismiss an official with a six-vote supermajority, require further analysis.

City Council President Todd Gloria said he is concerned by the six-vote removal idea.

"It's a low bar in my opinion on what would be needed to undo the work of the people,'' Gloria said. "Fortunately, it didn't come to that in our recent experience, but nevertheless, enshrining that in our charter I don't think would be wise.''

Among the removable offenses suggested by the grand jury were convictions involving moral turpitude, insanity, no longer living in the city or district he or she was elected to represent, and failing to discharge the duties of office over 90 days unless excused by at least six council members.

City Attorney Jan Goldsmith last year called the charter a "mess,'' with provisions that are "ambiguous, outdated and incomplete.'' He said 48 sections need to be updated, and called for formation of a charter review commission that would study those issues.

The mayor's office is studying whether to convene such a commission, which would produce recommended changes that voters would consider two years from now.