District Attorney’s Office Investigating Cate’s Leak Of Confidential Memo
Tuesday, October 3, 2017
Photo by Milan Kovacevic
District Attorney's Office Investigating Cate's Leak Of Confidential Memo
Andrew Bowen, metro reporter, KPBS
UPDATE: 4:36 p.m., Oct. 3, 2017
The San Diego City Attorney's Office said Tuesday that county prosecutors were investigating the leak of a confidential memo by City Councilman Chris Cate.
The office's spokesman, Gerry Braun, said in a statement: "City Attorney Mara Elliott has made it clear that this was an egregious betrayal of the public trust. The matter is being investigated by the Public Integrity Unit of the District Attorney's Office. We have no further comment at this time."
He added that the city is fighting a civil lawsuit filed by activist attorney Cory Briggs, and that the City Attorney's Office did not want to compromise its legal position.
A spokeswoman for the district attorney said she could not comment on any investigations, whether they exist or not.
San Diego City Councilman Chris Cate said Tuesday he was the one who gave a confidential memo on the Soccer City initiative to the measure's proponents, three months after the city attorney said it was investigating the memo's leak.
Cate addressed reporters in a press conference at the City Administration Building, saying he gave the memo prepared by the City Attorney's Office to FS Investors. He said he did so to seek their input in advance of a vote at the City Council to approve the citizens initiative outright or put the measure to city voters.
"I was not seeking to undermine the city attorney or the city," Cate said. "My goal was to seek from the proponents input and clarification regarding the points that were raised" in the memo.
If approved by voters, the Soccer City initiative would authorize the sale of the SDCCU Stadium (formerly Qualcomm Stadium) property, and the construction of a professional soccer stadium, housing, commercial development and a river park on the site in Mission Valley. Council members voted to put the measure up for a public vote.
Last June, after the memo was published by the San Diego Union-Tribune, San Diego City Attorney Mara Elliott said the leak of the memo compromised the city's position in negotiating the sale of the property and undermined the city should a lawsuit be filed over the initiative. She called on the person who released the memo to resign.
Cate said he had no intention of resigning, and that he did not regret releasing the memo. The release of confidential memos typically needs the approval of a majority of City Council members.
Elliott's office had already released a public memo on the Soccer City initiative, but the confidential memo contained some analysis not in the public memo. Cate said he did not believe his turning over the confidential memo undermined the city's negotiating position or its legal position.
"I did not see anything in this memo that was substantially different from the public memo just weeks prior," he said. "At most, this was a misunderstanding between the city attorney and myself."
Cate said he was coming forward now because of a lawsuit filed by activist attorney Cory Briggs seeking the confidential memo's release via the California Public Records Act. Cate said Briggs had asked City Council members "a number of questions" in relation to the lawsuit, and that his goal was "to come forward and be public about this and not politicize the lawsuit."
Briggs declined to comment for this story.
Cate also said he "did not want to get in a public debate with the city attorney" over the memo's release, and that he "greatly respect(s) her and her office." But last February, Cate accused Elliott of "playing politics" when she asked City Council members for direction on whether to support two federal lawsuits.
Elliott said in June that her office could likely not prosecute anyone at the city for ethics violations because doing so would be prosecuting her own client, and that any criminal investigation over the leak would be referred to the County District Attorney's Office.
The San Diego Union-Tribune editorial board reported in June that the mayor said the leaker would likely be fired if the person were one of his staffers.
The mayor's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
City Councilman Chris Cate says he gave a confidential memo on the Soccer City initiative to the measure's proponents. The City Attorney's Office says the memo's leak is being investigated by the Public Integrity Unit of the District Attorney's Office.
To view PDF documents, Download Acrobat Reader.