It started at the downtown courthouse, where attorney Fred Woocher was making a pretty good case before visiting Judge Michael Brenner that Donna Frye is San Diego's rightful mayor. Woocher asserted a series of claims supporting his argument that 5,551 “unbubbled” votes for Frye should be counted, thereby allowing her vote total to surpass illegitimate mayor Dick Murphy's. Murphy lawyer Bob Ottilie countered each of Woocher's points with arguments that said, basically, regardless of common sense and voter intent and all that, the law is the law.
But there was one argument by Woocher that Ottilie didn't adequate refute—that 5,551 voters were not afforded equal protection under the state constitution. So-called “under” votes for Murphy—cast by voters who, in violation of election rules, placed a checkmark or an X, for example, in the oval next to Murphy's name-were counted by the county Registrar of Voters. Woocher alleged that “under” votes for Frye weren't treated the same. He said the registrar determined voter intent for Murphy voters, but not for Frye's voters, and that's not fair under the law. Woocher called it his sexiest argument, and we hope it helps Brenner declare Frye the mayor by the time CityBeat publishes its next issue.
While that was going on, rightful Mayor Frye was trying to swing open the closed doors of the San Diego City Employees Retirement System, taking testimony from retirement-system whistleblower Diann Shipione during the first-ever meeting of the Frye-chaired Government Efficiency and Openness Committee. Frye wanted to get to the bottom of how and why the retirement board had shut Shipione, one of its own, out of closed-session meetings, but, in another example of the city's duck-and-hide culture, retirement-system lawyer Lori Chapin refused to answer any of Frye's questions.
Later in the day, the City Council provided yet another reason why San Diego needs a regime change. Seven members, excluding Frye and Toni Atkins, backed Murphy's controversial appointment to the San Diego Board of Port Commissioners. Murphy picked former county Planning Commissioner Kourosh Hangafarin, who's alleged to be a huge pain in the ass, over Peter Q. Davis, who was willing to continue to serve on the port board. Davis made the mistake of running for mayor against Murphy, and his ouster was political payback, never mind what's best for the public interest.
City Councilmember Michael Zucchet, publicly rationalizing his vote for Hangafarin, uttered the words, “circumstances being what they are,” but he never said what those circumstances are. However, in response to a CityBeat question, Zucchet said Davis himself had, in the past, acknowledged that running against Murphy spelled doom for his stint at the port. “I don't think it is reasonable for Mayor Murphy to be expected to reappoint and then work closely with PQD for another term on the Port given the campaign PQD just waged against him-and it is the mayor who works most closely with our port commissioners because most of the issues dealt with there are regional in nature and naturally fall under the mayor's responsibility. These are the ‘circumstances' I referred to yesterday, regrettable as the are, and constitute a reality that almost everybody, including PDQ, recognizes.”
Zucchet was joined by five other Murphy lackeys in giving Davis the boot: Jim Madaffer, Brian Maienschein, Scott Peters, Ralph “Empty Suit Jacket” Inzunza and—very disappointingly—Tony Young.
Capping the extraordinary day was Murphy's airing out of what happened on Dec. 10, 2004—what City Attorney Mike Aguirre calls “cleaning day” and City Manager Lamont Ewell calls “the recycling event.” That was the day several employees in the Financing Services Division of the City Treasurer's office purged hardcopy documents and e-mails.
Aguirre seems to suspect that the employees might have been getting rid of potentially damaging records and may be obstructing federal investigations. Ewell says they were recycling relatively unimportant paper and electronic files pursuant to city policy and state law. If Aguirre's wrong, he's damaged his credibility; if Ewell's wrong, he's part of a vast cover-up.
The difference of opinion underscores the power struggle between Aguirre and Ewell, who felt compelled to publicly apologize for apparently losing his usual cool in Aguirre's general direction during a break in the City Council meeting.
Aguirre repeated his desire for the ouster of three city officials—Deputy City Manager Cathy Lexin, acting Auditor Terri Webster and Treasurer Mary Vattimo—whom he thinks are standing in the way of the various investigations of the city and its retirement system.
We think Aguirre is on the right track as he investigates possible city corruption, because we believe he and federal investigators will find some. And we hope he prevails in defending himself against the retirement board's charges that he's exceeding his authority as he asserts legal control over the retirement system, because we, too, think it's a rogue agency. But he needs to stop calling for removal of city officials until he knows for certain that they violated laws. We didn't agree with him when he said Zucchet, Inzunza and the late Charles Lewis should step down two years ago, and we don't agree with him now—yet.
Yup, it was quite a day.