Scenario of the weird
OK, there are some wildly imaginative people out there who are trying to prophesize about the tandem revelations in the last few weeks about the ongoing City Hall-a-go-go investigation and the price of Super Bowl party tickets.
One scenario should send chills down the spine of any red-blooded San Diegan who wants to see his or her City Council in top negotiating shape if and when the talks between the Chargers and city officials emerge from behind the dark shroud of secrecy that has dominated for months.
Councilman Brian Maienschein must have had an interesting Independence Day, when a story ran in the Union-Tribune detailing his self-professed efforts to beat back the advances of three council offices who apparently desired to see the city's adult-entertainment laws brought back for discussion before the Public Safety and Neighborhood Services Committee, where the councilman serves as chairman.
"I said no, we are not docketing this," Maienschein told the U-T's Kelly Thornton. "I have an aversion to that industry. I just don't think it's good for our city. I thought it was wrong. I didn't want to do anything related to strip clubs."
So, Brian hates strip clubs. We get it, already. Thornton wrote that the months prior to the FBI's mid-May council-office raids of Charles Lewis, Ralphie Inzunza and Michael Zucchet were "confusing and strange." And why not? All this icky talk-from Inzunza personally, on two occasions, according to Maienschein-about returning to the debate that took place in 2000 on city laws regulating touching at strip clubs. Nothing that a new father from the suburbs would want to revisit.
But "at least" five requests from three council offices to docket strip-club matters on the committee agenda? Now city insiders are wondering when-and not if-indictments will be forthcoming.
Add to that not-so-pretty possibility-three councilmembers under indictment-the fiasco over deciding how to price gifts from the NFL and the fallout that could come from that bit of bad advice from the office of City Attorney Casey "I'm Losing Cases As Fast As I Can" Gwinn, and it's not such a stretch of the imagination to see two councilmembers left standing-Maienschein and the gift-averse Donna Frye-to vote on some future deal with the Chargers.
Daffy, you say? Quite possibly. Impossible? Not according to some insiders. So the city attorney might have been off by as much as three Benjamin Franklins when he put a $100 value on tickets to the Super Bowl party. State law prohibits public officials from taking gifts worth more than $340 from one source.
Councilmembers are incensed that Gwinn knew about the value gap last February but apparently said nothing. The Ethics Commission in May told council members of the revised gift value for the tickets.
The kicker, however, was a line buried in the midst of a July 1 U-T story about council members' schizophrenic efforts to repay the NFL and avoid violating state gift limit. The sentence, plucked from a June 25 letter from Charles Walker, executive director of the Ethics Commission, that Councilmember Jim "MadDog 2020" Madaffer provided the U-T, suggests that councilmembers still may have to disqualify themselves from voting on matters "that could have a material financial effect on the NFL"-ohhh, say like, maybe the now-being-negotiated-behind-closed-doors Chargers deal.
"Seems Mayor 1Goal, basking in the pleasures of office and not worried about the economy, took his family and staff to a fancy party at the expense of the NFL," one insider gurgles with obvious schadenfreude. "But, in attending the "Let Them Eat Cake' party, 1Goal has been conflicted out of future negotiations with the Chargers...."
Maienschein and Frye did not accept the NFL party tickets and refused to slop at the trough of stripper money. Obviously, two council members hardly make a quorum-that takes five-and that's where the imagination starts going wiggy.
"You could have Maienschein, Donna-I don't know if Zucchet accepted them, but [Toni] Atkins accepted them so she's out. Peters' out. Inzunza's out. Charles did, so he's out," said Michael Aguirre, who is aching to replace Gwinn as city attorney and triggered the ticket inquiry. "I think what you probably have is under the rule of necessity some of them might be able to vote just so they would have a quorum."
But who? "Well, that's why the bad advice [of Gwinn] created such a quagmire that it's going to take the imagination of Tolstoy to sort it all out," suggested Aguirre with his usual literary reference.
As one insider put it, although with less literary flair: "The math ain't pretty."
While the Ethics Commission, finding that Gwinn's questionable advice led to "unique circumstances," has decided to let the councilmembers skate on the ticket matter, Aguirre sees widening cracks ahead in the city's shroud of secrecy and back-room dealing: "I'd like to put a few more teeth into the gums of the Ethics Commission."