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Sounding Board: Mayoral candidates: The city attorney's role

The Daily Transcript put this question to mayoral candidates Donna Frye and Jerry Sanders: In your reading of the San Diego City Charter what do you believe is the legally correct and proper role for the city attorney in the affairs of the city?

The city attorney's responsibilities are detailed in the City Charter. The city attorney is the legal counsel for the mayor and City Council, and all the city's departments.

He is responsible for providing legal advice, defending the city against lawsuits, preparing ordinances, resolutions, contracts and other official city documents, and he is responsible for prosecuting misdemeanor offenses within the city.

Under the City Charter, the power to legislate and set policy rests with the mayor and council. The city attorney is not authorized by the City Charter to make policy for the city of San Diego.

While I respect Mike Aguirre's goal of uncovering illegal and improper actions, I question his tactics and his commitment to achieving solutions in the interest of residents and taxpayers of the city.

In the end, the city attorney must be trusted by the mayor and council to provide fair and impartial advice. The absence of such trust has resulted in council members hiring outside counsel to advise them, at considerable cost to taxpayers. Similarly, the manager has sought outside counsel, again at considerable expense to taxpayers.

Unless such trust is restored, the day-to-day functioning of city government is compromised.

The city attorney should not be passive in exercising his appropriate authority. He should aggressively investigate and prosecute improper or unethical conduct.

But the exercise of that authority should be in conformance with the City Charter. It should not and cannot preempt the authority given by voters to the mayor and council.

-- Jerry Sanders

Candidate for mayor

The role of the city attorney is clearly defined in Section 40 of the San Diego City Charter. It states: "The City Attorney shall be the chief legal advisor of, and attorney for the City and all Departments and offices thereof in matters relating to their official powers and duties."

Section 40 also states that: "It shall be the City Attorney's duty ... to prosecute for all offenses against the ordinances of the City and for such offenses against the laws of the State as may be required of the City Attorney ..."

The people elect the city attorney to represent the city of San Diego. It is the city attorney's duty to uphold the laws of the city and state, and prosecute against any violations of those laws.

Mike Aguirre has a duty to serve the public interest and seek justice when laws are broken. He is performing his job duties as defined in the City Charter.

-- Donna Frye

Candidate for mayor

Complete Coverage: Sounding Board

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