San Diego City Hall's failure to fairly distribute its contracting dollars pretty much reached rock-bottom in August, when Mayor Jerry Sanders had to apologize for the city's poor record of equal-opportunity contracting. In 2006, not only had the city awarded 96 percent of its construction contract dollars to companies owned by white men, but it hadn't been collecting data on who it contracts with since 2003.
Last week, City Attorney Mike Aguirre released a memo stating that trends suggest a pattern of intentional discrimination in spending by the city, though he lacked the data to definitively make the case. Aguirre called for a study to delve deeply into how and with whom the city spends its money.
A spokesman for the mayor, George Biagi, told CityBeat that Sanders considers such a study one of the tools for addressing contracting inequity, but it would be expensive to conduct.
Biagi said that since the mayor's apology at a City Council committee meeting, Sanders has taken several steps to fix the problem. The search is on for a national consultant to advise the city on equal-opportunity contracting, and two analysts will be hired within a month to monitor contracts. The city's Citizens Equal Opportunity Commission reviewed municipal contracting law and submitted recommendations for change, and there's also a newly formed Equal Opportunity Task Force that has met several times and plans to submit recommendations next week.
Biagi said the city has started collecting data on how all contracting money is spent, rather than just focusing on construction-contract expenditures. In addition, starting Oct. 1, the city will require that contractors who participate in its Subcontractor Outreach Program (SCOPe) file detailed reports on which subcontractors they use and how much they're paid. No reports have been filed in the seven-year history of the SCOPe program.
Is mayoral spokesperson Fred Sainz the Emily Post of City Hall?
Sainz authored a Sept. 13 memo signed by Mayor Jerry Sanders and sent to all city employees. The memo discussed two recent state Supreme Court decisions that said a government employee's salary, date-of-hire and (if applicable) date-of-termination are to be made public upon request.
'We will ask the requesting media outlets to use the data purely for journalistic purposes,' the memo said, 'and not to engage in indiscrete [sic] discussions about specific individuals.'
Do San Diego reporters tend to lack discretion? And which San Diego reporters? Do tell.
No one in particular, Sainz said; rather, he wished to preempt improper behavior once a reporter got her or his hands on the information.
'I don't think it would be appropriate for [a reporter] to call someone and say, 'John Doe makes $5,000 more than you, what do you think?'' Sainz said. 'Or making it cocktail-party chatter. It shouldn't become the subject of gossip.'
Problem: Even the most discreet reporter has no control over what readers do with what they read--like bringing it up at a cocktail party.
If that's what happens, that's what happens, Sainz acknowledged. 'We have nothing against transparency and clearly nothing to hide,' he added. 'But Jerry believed we had the responsibility to let our employees know before we returned the information.' Sainz said he informally polled city employees and found that very few were aware of the court rulings.
The memo also assured employees that, just to be safe, the mayor's office asked for City Attorney Mike Aguirre's opinion on whether the city is bound to follow the Supreme Court's decision. Yes, Aguirre said, it is.