Pension-related legal bills
Jim Madaffer $244,056
Toni Atkins $185,696
Brian Maienschein $165,643
Dick Murphy $210,069
Scott Peters $134,331
Michael Zucchet $2,555
Legal bills for former Mayor Dick Murphy and current City Councilmembers Scott Peters, Toni Atkins, Jim Madaffer and Brian Maienschein are expected to be released to the public Wednesday. While they will show that the politicians' attorneys are billing the city for roughly $1.5 million in legal services related to ongoing investigations of the city's pension system, they won't indicate how that money was spent.
Instead, Mayor Jerry Sanders will release versions of the bills that have been edited by a retired judge.
Although the City Council has already approved the decision to enter into the contracts and pay the $1.5 million, how much information those bills should contain when made public has been a source of controversy for weeks, dividing the City Council and driving a wedge between the affected elected officials and Sanders, who has supported the release of unedited versions of the bills.
The debate started after the Union-Tribune requested copies of the invoices and lawyers for Murphy and several of the City Council members threatened to sue the city if they were released to the public, claiming it would violate attorney-client privilege.
Sanders then decided to allow retired Judge Robert O'Neill to review the documents and remove any information the judge feels could tread upon those rights.
Murphy and the others were forced to hire private attorneys to represent them last year after City Attorney Mike Aguirre informed them that he was investigating their role in the pension scandal and would be unable to serve as their legal representative in that matter.
Although the public won't get to see the unedited invoices, it's possible to determine how at least a portion of that money was spent. A source knowledgeable of the U.S Attorney's investigation of the city's pension debacle told CityBeat that Murphy and the four current city officials, were all interviewed by some combination of federal investigators from the U.S. Attorney's office, the FBI and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission regarding their knowledge of, and involvement in, the decisions that led to the city's pension debt-now estimated at between $1.4 and $2 billion. Attorneys were present for some of those interviews.
Two weeks ago, after the indictment of five former pension officials, the same source told CityBeat that the ongoing investigation by U.S. Attorney Carol Lam has shifted its focus toward city decision makers involved in agreements made in 2002 that exacerbated the pension woes. The City Council at the time included Murphy, Peters, Madaffer, Atkins, Maienschein and Donna Frye, as well as former members Ralph Inzunza, George Stevens and Byron Wear.
A spokesperson for Madaffer referred questions regarding meetings with federal investigators to his attorney, Thomas Zaccaro, who also answers questions from the media for Murphy and Peters.
Asked on how many occasions Madaffer has met with federal investigators, Zaccaro said, "I have no comment."
Zaccaro added, "Mr. Aguirre recused himself from representing the council members on anything regarding the pension funds and instructed them to get private council.... I have been providing that representation.
"As you can appreciate, there is a fair amount of privileged material involved in the bills," he said. "I don't want to trip over anything that could be privileged." Zaccaro said he has yet to see the redacted versions of the bills.
Asked how many times Peters and Murphy had met with federal investigators Zaccaro also said, "No comment."
Atkins' spokesperson, George Biagi, told CityBeat she has met with the SEC and U.S. Attorney's office on several occasions in the last year, and that she was accompanied by her attorney during some of those meetings, but he declined to divulge the nature of her conversations with investigators.
Maienschein did not return messages left at his office, and, as of press time on Tuesday, his attorney couldn't be reached for comment.
That federal investigators have interviewed Murphy and the City Council members "is probably the worst kept secret," remarked Frye, who said she has hired her own attorney but hasn't submitted any legal bills to the city.
Frye said she was also interviewed on three or four occasions within the last year by federal investigators probing the pension matter and was accompanied by her attorney at times. She said the questions related to the material requested in a flurry of subpoenas filed by investigators in the last year and consisted mainly of her providing context for documents turned over by her office.
"Having never been through this before, I wanted to know what to do, how to comply with subpoenas," Frye said. "I wanted to make sure I gave them whatever they needed."
She says she assumes her colleagues on the City Council have used their legal representation in a similar manner. "After that, I'm not sure what the legal bills would be or why there would be legal bills unless there is something else going on that you and I don't know about," Frye said.
According to the source, former City Councilmembers Inzunza, Michael Zucchet and the late Charles Lewis-all indicted on federal corruption charges in the City Hall-strip club case-were also interviewed by federal investigators regarding the pension matter.
The source told CityBeat that Inzunza-currently appealing a conviction on 13 corruption charges-was interviewed about the pension case very recently. Inzunza's attorney, Michael Pancer, said Inzunza has been deposed by the SEC. "As I understand it, every council member has had their deposition taken by the SEC," Pancer said.
Zucchet, who had seven of nine convictions overturned by a judge and faces retrial on the remaining two, said in an e-mail message, "I have never been asked by the U.S. Attorney's Office for an interview on anything related to pension matters." Asked if he had even been deposed by the SEC, he said, "Never."
Lewis died of liver disease in August of 2004, six months after Lam launched her investigation of city finances, according to information released by her office last month. Frank Ragen, Lewis' court-appointed attorney in the strip-club trial, didn't respond to phone messages.
A Sanders spokesman said some of the bills expected to be released Wednesday were related to legal fees incurred by Zucchet in 2004, but none pertained to Inzunza or Lewis.