Mayor Bob Filner is diving into another seal controversy.
No, not the cute, big-eyed kind found lounging at Children's Pool in La Jolla. This time, it's over a likeness of the city of San Diego's seal that appeared at the top of a recent negative campaign mailer aimed at District 4 City Council candidate Myrtle Cole, who finished first in Tuesday's special election to replace Tony Young and will face Dwayne Crenshaw in a May 21 runoff.
In letters dated March 20 to District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis and state Attorney General Kamala Harris, Filner requested a "full and fair investigation and prosecution, if warranted" into the "misuse of a bastardized version of our City seal that would lead the average person to believe the City of San Diego is somehow making findings and recommendations regarding one of the candidates in that election."
California election law is clear in such matters: "Any person who uses or allows to be used any reproduction or facsimile of the seal of a local government agency in any campaign literature or mass mailing with intent to deceive the voters, is guilty of a misdemeanor."
The seal on the mailer varies slightly from the city seal—details on a center shield are missing, as is a depiction of a bell above—but the wording on the seals is identical, including the city's motto, "Semper Vigilans" (Latin for "Always Vigilant"). The mailer resembled an official city notice and included the words "urgent" and "open immediately." San Diego Free Press first reported the hit piece.
Filner said he reached out to the city's Ethics Commission to investigate. "They claimed they didn't have the authority," the mayor told CityBeat. Stacey Fulhorst, the commission's executive director, confirmed that. The matter was referred to the City Attorney's office, but Filner balked.
The problem, he explained, is that City Attorney Jan Goldsmith and the murky political action committee responsible for the mailer—San Diego County Voters for Progress and Reform—share the same campaign treasurer, April Boling.
"Needless to say," Filner wrote, "the City of San Diego cannot expect a fair and thorough investigation from the City Attorney into the matter given that to do so would implicate his own political interests."
Calls to Goldsmith's office, Boling and the PAC were not returned. The group lists a Girard Avenue address in La Jolla that appears to be a postal box. A spokesperson for Harris confirmed receipt of the letter but declined further comment. The DA's office declined all comment.