The timing couldn't be any more dramatic.
As Mayor Dick Murphy clears the last of the tchotchkes from his office and prepares to pass his duties to Deputy Mayor Michael Zucchet, a jury of Zucchet's peers is busy deciding whether he's guilty of corruption.
A man on the brink, Zucchet is either headed for the city's top office or the federal pen, but as San Diego awaits a verdict, CityBeat couldn't help but wonder who will become the next, albeit temporary, head of San Diego if Zucchet is found guilty?
That same question had some city officials scratching their heads.
Over at City Councilmember Toni Atkins office, staffers weren't quite sure if-as local media sources have reported-their boss was next in line. Speculation exists because Atkins, who held the deputy-mayor post prior to Zucchet, has since wielded the gavel at City Council meetings when Murphy recused himself from a decision and Zucchet was absent. But her staff hasn't received any marching orders and aren't even sure who would issue those orders considering the current power vacuum at City Hall.
Noting the failure of San Diego's forefathers to spell out exactly who takes control of the city when the mayor quits and the deputy mayor is accused of selling his influence to the proprietor of a local titty bar, Atkins' staffers said they needed clarification.
CityBeat turned to City Attorney Mike Aguirre, who confessed to engaging in a little pre-verdict prognostication of his own, and said he was in the process of drafting a "what if?" memo to set everyone straight.
"There is no procedure for naming a temporary deputy mayor," said Aguirre. "The council doesn't have the authority to select a new deputy mayor."
Instead, Aguirre said, the rules of succession would be dictated by Robert's Rules of Order, the handbook of parliamentary procedure, and under those guidelines, the City Council would elect one of their own as mayor pro-tem, to chair the City Council on a temporary basis. He said a successful nominee would need the support of no less than five of the eight members (not counting Murphy) of City Council.
While the prospect of this City Council coming to consensus will certainly add to the drama, here's the real kicker: If the jury finds Zucchet guilty, he won't actually be forced from office-unless he resigns first-until a judge enters a judgment. That could buy him a little time and means he'll probably preside over at least the next week's City Council meetings, where one of the first orders of business will likely be electing his potential successor.
Zucchet or a mayor pro-tem could hold office until December if none of the mayoral candidates receive more than 50 percent of the vote in the July 26 special election.
Should I stay or
should I go now?
Although Murphy may be calling it quits, many of his staffers will be staying on to help Zucchet or whoever else ends up presiding over San Diego.
Zucchet spokesperson Katie Keach said her boss' current 10-member staff is less than half the size of Murphy's, and they will need all the help they can get to oversee the city as well as District 2.
"We have to merge the staffs," said Keach. "Most people are staying as far as I know."Keach said those slated to remain include Murphy chief-of-staff Tom Story, spokesperson Colleen Windsor and her deputy David Hicks. Bill Baber, who oversaw the City Council's docketing and staffed its Rules Committee, will follow the mayor out the door and resume practicing law.