Uncivil War on San Diego City Council

     SAN DIEGO (CN) – A government watchdog sued San Diego for records on a public spat between Mayor Bob Filner and the city attorney.
     San Diegans for Open Government sued the city in Superior Court.
     It seeks a transcript of a closed-session meeting where Filner ejected Assistant City Attorney Andrew Jones for supposed “disruptive behavior.”
     Jones allegedly is allied with City Attorney Jan Goldsmith, a Republican.
     Filner, a Democrat, disagrees about the function of the city attorney.
     Filner wants a city attorney to advise him, while Goldsmith sees himself more as a government overseer.
     The two officials no longer talk to each other, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.
     Filner has proposed cutting $1.4 million from the city attorney’s budget, and eliminating 13 positions, according to the Union-Tribune.
     According to the lawsuit: “San Diego Mayor Bob Filner and City Attorney Jan Goldsmith are locked in what appears to many onlookers like a no-holds-barred political death spiral, with each trying to undermine or humiliate the other on practically every aspect of the other’s essential job functions. What they cannot seem to appreciate – or perhaps they hate each other so much that they just don’t care – is that they are taking the city down with them.
     “One of the latest incidents occurred on June 18, 2013, when Mayor Filner was presiding over a closed-session meeting of the San Diego City Council and had Assistant City Attorney Jones removed by police for being disruptive. The matter has been widely reported in local media, with Mr. Jones (who happens to be African-American) comparing the situation to the one faced by Rosa Parks when she was told to sit at the back of the bus.”
     The Union-Tribune published a partially redacted transcript of that meeting on June 20. But the city denied San Diegans for Open Government’s request for the full transcript, according to the complaint.
     On June 18, Mayor Filner chaired a closed-session meeting about city lawsuits, and came out firing when he saw Jones there, according to the redacted transcript .
     “And what is Mr. Jones doing up here?” Filner said.
     Jones replied, “There was …” but Filner cut him off: “Are you going to leak anything from this meeting, Mr. Jones?”
     Filner repeated the question, and repeatedly told Jones to leave, and to “sit down.” When Filner threatened to have him removed, Jones said: “You can try,” according to the transcript.
     Filner left the room and returned with a police officer who ordered Jones to leave.
     San Diegans for Open Government claims that release of a redacted transcript two days after a closed-session is highly unusual.
     “Anyone who regularly seeks information from the city under the CPRA [California Public Records Act] knows that a two-day response to a request for public records is about as rare as Halley’s Comet – even when the records already exist at the time the request is made,” the complaint states.
     Redacting council members’ comments forces the public to only “speculate” about the role other officials played in the dispute, the complaint states.
     California’s Brown Act requires the city to hold an open meeting to discuss lawsuit-related settlements, according to the complaint.
     San Diegans for Open Government claims the city attorney rebuffed its request for the full transcript.
     “Given the amount of time and public resources that Mayor Filner and City Attorney Goldsmith are spending to fight each other, as opposed to carrying out the public’s business in a professional and dignified manner, and given that Assistant City Attorney Jones has likened his closed session encounter with the mayor to one of the seminal events in this country’s civil rights movement, there is substantial public interest in knowing what the other participants were saying and observing during the Filner-Jones encounter. The unredacted transcript is the only source of that information,” the complaint states.
     San Diegans for Open Government wants to see the whole transcript.
     It is represented by Cory Briggs Law of Upland.
     Neither Filner nor Goldsmith responded to emailed requests for comment.

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