Date: Jun 02, 2007
Day of Week: Saturday
Length (in lines): 698
Headline: Lawyers' bills mounting for ethics
Byline: Tanya Mannes
Credit: STAFF WRITER
Captions: Published: CHULA VISTA'S LEGAL BILLS
Town: CHULA VISTA
VISTA -- Chula Vista spent $411,261 in the last 14 months for
lawyers who represented city officials questioned by the district
newly formed Public Integrity Unit.
Attorney Bonnie Dumanis created the unit in early 2006 to
public corruption allegations throughout San Diego County.
date, the unit has indicted one person -- Jason Moore, an aide to
Chula Vista Mayor Steve Padilla -- on perjury charges.
March 2006, the city paid 11 law firms to represent employees who
before the unit's criminal grand jury, according to information
San Diego Union-Tribune obtained through a California Public Records
Attorney Ann Moore provided the bill totals but not the attorneys'
or contracts, saying they are protected by attorney-client
with the District Attorney's Office also didn't disclose details
their investigations. Until an indictment is issued, grand jury
are kept confidential to protect the reputations of those
city is required under state law to provide legal representation to
officials and employees who are involved in litigation related to
have no choice but to hire private attorneys to perform whatever type
legal work is necessary," Moore said.
said the work can't be done in-house "because our office represents
city, not the individual employees or officials."
Councilman Rudy Ramirez, who took office in December, said that he
alarmed when he learned how much the city had spent in legal bills and
it was "a questionable use" of public resources.
needs to be some accountability on these secret investigations and
resources attached to them," Ramirez said. "We need to get some
from the District Attorney's Office about whether or not these
Vista Mayor Cheryl Cox said most of the decisions to hire outside
were made before she took office in December.
much of this was acted on by a previous City Council, it is pretty
for me to know whether it is justified," she said.
noted that the city can force an employee or official to pay back the
"if the person was found to be acting outside the scope of their
or doing something illegal."
John McCann and Jerry Rindone did not respond to requests for
Councilman Steve Castaneda declined to comment on the advice of
Patrick O'Toole, who heads the Public Integrity Unit, has
much of his energy on Chula Vista. He subpoenaed nine witnesses in
the indictment of Jason Moore, which was part of a larger
involving more witnesses, according to grand jury
released after the indictment. Moore pleaded not guilty in
month, Castaneda said the unit had initiated three separate
of him in the last year. He accused Dumanis of targeting
for political reasons and pressuring him to resign. He has not been
with a crime.
attorneys in San Diego, Imperial Beach, Solana Beach, Lemon Grove,
City, Del Mar, Santee, Carlsbad, Oceanside and San Marcos said
have been no Public Integrity Unit investigations in their cities.
Vista's legal bills come as the city prepares to cut its budget
of a slowdown in new home construction. Cox recently called for
saying she is prepared to fund "little other than core
for several years.
a prepared statement, Dumanis did not comment specifically on the Chula
investigations, but defended the Public Integrity Unit.
public has a right to expect that their public officials are not
the law," Dumanis said. "Protecting and vindicating this right is
of the most important priorities in the District Attorney's Office,
the Public Integrity Unit continues to ensure that this is done."
declined to comment beyond the official statement.
VISTA'S LEGAL BILLS
& McKenzie, $37,676
L. Coleman, $14,790
Semmer & Lipman, $49,782
& Manella, $19,782
Bella & McNamara, $51,945
Long & Aldrich, $71,842
& Foerster, $48,987