Friday, October 05, 2007

Mike Aguirre can wear two hats easily; all he has to do is help the city change when it is in the wrong

I must respectfully disagree with Robert Fellmeth, founder of the University of San Diego's Center for Public Interest Law, regarding San Diego's City Attorney Mike Aguirre.

The San Diego Union Tribune reports Fellmeth as saying, “You can't wear both hats. [Aguirre's] got to put on one or the other.

Of course you can wear both hats, Mr. Fellmeth. That's what every public entity does. It represents the citizens, and it defends itself.

Public entities tend to run into trouble when they defend themselves. They often pay attorneys to violate the law in order to hide wrongdoing by the entity. Public entities like to claim the moral high ground, claiming that they represent the common good. But when individuals in charge believe it is in their interest to violate the rights of citizens, they drop everything and run to the closet to find that beloved old stained hat, the one they use when they do their dirty work.

To their shame, most public entity attorneys wear this second hat at all times. That’s what they are hired for: to help the powerful get what they want when it conflicts with the best interests of the people they represent.

This second hat should be burned in a fire pit on the beach. It should be eliminated completely from the sartorial accoutrements of every public entity in San Diego.

San Diego needs a new second hat, to be worn when an entity is intelligently dealing with its own wrongdoing. An honest, uncorrupted attorney protects the public entity against those who try to damage it, whether they are office holders, campaign donors, employees, or citizens. This attorney makes sure the law is followed in every case, which requires him to settle meritorious lawsuits, and file lawsuits against wrongdoers.

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