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City Attorney Says No Misunderstanding In Cate's 'Illegal' Memo Leak

San Diego City Attorney Mara Elliott sits at the dais, Dec. 12, 2016.
Milan Kovacevic
San Diego City Attorney Mara Elliott sits at the dais, Dec. 12, 2016.
City Attorney Says No Misunderstanding In Cate's 'Illegal' Memo Leak
City Attorney Says No Misunderstanding In Cate's 'Illegal' Memo Leak GUEST: Mara Elliott, San Diego city attorney

Is it really a big deal. The City Councilman Chris Cate statement about linking the SoccerCity memo to the SoccerCity developers called the incident at most a misunderstanding between the city attorney and myself. That is not how Mara Elliott sees it. She believes it is the significance of leaking the memo in the San Diego Union-Tribune. Joining me is Mara Elliott . Welcome to the program. Thank you. Why do you believe this is more than just a misunderstanding? Based on the experience he understands what confidentiality means. He was in a two mirror -- Mayor Faulkner. The documents say confidential attorney-client privilege on them and send it in the text. When we deliver that we handle -- had delivered them in a package that says confidential. The city code that you cite in your paperwork is it is illegal except when releasing it is necessary for the city officials. You don't believe Kate when he said he was looking for information on upcoming vote? No, I don't. The other thing we do will we deliver a memo we follow up with the district offices as they would you like a briefing? We are there and we are the public resource available to the council members we did not get that request. Also when we determined that there had been a leak, nobody came forward to explain to us why the leak had occurred. There was no follow-up to indicate that this was in the course of a performance. Mara Elliott, Kate said at his press conference that he did not regret releasing the memo. He said he met with you earlier in the day in person. Did he express any regret? I'm not comfortable talking about what he and I spoke with but I will say that the way he portrayed the incident in public was different than what we discussed in private. Did he express regret in any way that we did not hear in his statement? He did. He was very remorseful of somewhat emotional as was I because it is a breach of trust. I was disappointed in him. I think he felt the same about himself. When I heard what he said during his press conference, it was unapologetic. There was no assurance that he would never do it again and no acknowledgment of wrongdoing. There was no credible explanation for why he did what he did. That is personally disappointing. I always expect that our public officials will hold themselves out to a higher standard. I felt like he failed us. Also as the attorney because we put hours and hours of resources into a memo that we prepared so that city Council had the information they needed to make the best decisions they could for San Diego taxpayers. In that document, was the terms and conditions should the initiative measure pass, the things that we think councilmember should be looking at and asking, possible problems with the deal. And initiative is always subject to challenge by somebody. We don't see our position in the office as taking a position for Oregon's initiative. What we need to do is present it to the councilmember and to the public. We've done a public document on this thing here's what it says and to the public these are the things we need to look at. It was an 3000 page initiative. We took an extra step and said take a look at these things and because of the high risk of liability and exposure and also ensuring the best deal, it was done confidentially. Back in June when we discovered this memo was released, you called on whoever leaked it to resign. Are you now calling on Councilman Kate to resign? I stand by the statement that I made in June. I think this is a very difficult decision for Kate. I would think as I for the constituents that he represents. Do they trust him to continue to do a good job for them? Has he shaken their confidence? That is going to be something that he need to spend some time considering. I think that apology to the public is warranted. A credible explanation for his actions is imperative for him to restore trust in himself. Do you still trust Chris Cate? I do not. I did not hear the apology. I did not hear any acknowledgment. I don't understand why he did not come to the city attorney for advice because we were willing to help them. I'm concerned about sharing information with him that is confidential and has an impact on taxpayers until I hear the right words, which are I am sorry and I made a mistake and I will not do it again. This may seem inside politics but why do you believe average San Diego and should care about this? Because when we elect someone to represent us, we expect they are looking out for us and our own good. I think when the councilmember shares the terms and conditions with the people that we could be negotiating with, they are not looking after the taxpayer first. They are looking after a friend or whatever relationship they may have with that person. When you are in public service, you step aside and put the taxpayer first. Sometimes it puts the official and awkward or uncomfortable position. I will say that I am sometimes defending lawsuits that I personally don't agree with. My job is to protect San Diego. So is his. If I were somebody represented by Chris Cate, I would say to myself is this the guy I want looking out for my interest? Does he have the maturity level to take care of me? Does he have growth? Those are serious questions for taxpayer or a voter. I've been speaking with Mara Elliott . Thank you so much. Thank you.

City Attorney Mara Elliott is dismissing Councilman Chris Cate’s defense of why he leaked a confidential memo on the Soccer City initiative to the measure’s backers, saying Cate’s actions were illegal.

Cate came clean last week, admitting he shared a legal memo prepared by Elliott’s office with FS Investors in order to get their input before he voted on whether to approve their proposal outright. Cate said he was not trying to undermine Elliott and that at most, there was a misunderstanding.

RELATED: District Attorney’s Office Investigating Cate’s Leak Of Confidential Memo


Elliott wrote Cate’s explanation was “misleading and contradictory” in a San Diego Union-Tribune column and that there was no misunderstanding between the two of them.

She told KPBS that while Cate said publicly that he did not regret his decision, in private he was remorseful and “somewhat emotional.” Elliott added that she did not trust Cate after the memo’s release.

"I’m very concerned about sharing information with him that’s confidential and has an impact on taxpayers until I hear the right words, which are: I’m sorry, I made a mistake, I will not do it again," she said.

According to Elliott’s office, the District Attorney’s Public Integrity Unit is now investigating the case.

Elliott joined KPBS Midday Edition on Monday to discuss whether Cate should resign and what damage the leaked memo could have caused.