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San Diego City Attorney: SoccerCity Memo Leaker Should Resign

San Diego City Attorney Mara Elliott sits at the dais, Dec. 12, 2016.

Photo by Milan Kovacevic

Above: San Diego City Attorney Mara Elliott sits at the dais, Dec. 12, 2016.

San Diego City Attorney: SoccerCity Memo Leaker Should Resign


Andrew Bowen, KPBS Metro Reporter


San Diego City Attorney Mara Elliott said Thursday that whoever provided a confidential memo outlining the city's position on Qualcomm Stadium to developers behind the proposed SoccerCity project should resign.

"Given this egregious breach of public trust, I further expect that the person or persons responsible will step forward, identify themselves, and resign their positions with the city," Elliott said.

However, SoccerCity project manager Nick Stone said he didn't receive the document from a city worker.

RELATED: SoccerCity Media Push Targets San Diego City Council

The 16-page memo was issued June 15, four days before the City Council declined to submit SoccerCity to a public vote in an earlier special election. It covers legal issues raised by the developers' ballot measure and questions about how to handle implementation if the initiative is approved by voters.

Elliott said she discovered the document found its way into the hands of the developers, led by FS Investors of La Jolla. It was also published on the San Diego Union-Tribune's website.

"The mayor and City Council members requested this analysis so they could best protect the public's interest in their dealings with FS Investors," Elliott said.

"Nearly a dozen attorneys in my office devoted hundreds of hours to researching and preparing this memorandum," she said. "The person or persons who gave this confidential legal analysis to FS Investors did more than commit a crime. They betrayed the taxpayers of San Diego."

She said she has asked Stone, through his attorney, how he came into possession of the memo but hadn't heard back.

RELATED: San Diego City Council Votes To Put SoccerCity On 2018 Ballot

However, he responded to an inquiry by KPBS, saying it appeared to be an internal city matter.

"The document did not come to me from a city employee," Stone said.

"Had I been aware that the memo was not intended to be made public, I would not have shared it with my attorney — and he certainly would not have referenced it in a public letter," he said. "In our minds, this memo was consistent with an earlier public memo about the initiative from the City Attorney's office that was sent to the media even before it was released to the client, the City Council and the mayor."

He said the memo included "important information not typically kept secret from the public by its attorney."

Elliott, though, said, "Make no mistake: this was not a leak to inform the public."

"This was a covert and strategic act that undermines the city's position in negotiations," she said. "It was committed by a person or persons who clearly have greater allegiance to FS Investors than to the citizens they serve."

Elliott added that Christopher Garrett, an attorney from the firm Latham & Watkins who represents FS Investors, had given the confidential memo to the media — something she called an "ethical lapse that I think is inexcusable."

"We also have dealings with this law firm," she said. "I think it's important for us to analyze whether or not we're getting the best attorney we need, because this certainly has shaken my confidence in this law firm."


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