Friday, January 08, 2010

Gil Cabrera on San Diego's Ethics Commission

"I have marveled at the silly things people have done in an effort to gain an imaginary advantage over a political opponent...In my experience, the folks who claim the commission staff was heavy handed are the ones who obfuscated and delayed the staff's investigative efforts at every stage necessitating more aggressive actions...Unfortunately, some people under investigation take shots at the commission publicly knowing that we cannot respond because of limits on our ability to comment on ongoing investigations."
--Gil Cabrera

Looking at 2010: Gil Cabrera's Ethics

Scott Lewis
Voice of San Diego
January 7, 2010 3:20 pm

Gil Cabrera was considered the provocateur on the city of San Diego's Ethics Commission -- the one who pushed hardest, it seemed, in favor of things like lobbyist fundraising disclosure and campaign finance restrictions.

Among other laws, the Ethics Commission enforces the complex rules embodied in the city's Election Campaign Control Ordinance. For instance, candidates for City Council are not allowed to raise money for their campaigns until exactly one year before their Election Day.

The rules, and the fines the commission has exacted enforcing them, have infuriated local politicians (and, worse, their lawyers). The commission's funding, structure and leadership has been attacked.

Cabrera, a lawyer himself, was the commission's chairman and he served in that position quite well, I thought. But -- in a type of civic insult -- the mayor refused to reappoint him.

Now, Cabrera and other members of the commission are named in a lawsuit filed by a former City Council candidate, Phil Thalheimer. He is hoping to overturn many of the city's election laws.

I thought you might be interested in some reflections from Cabrera. I was.

What lessons do you take away from your time on the Ethics Commission?

Running for office is hard and the pressures associated with it and governing can lead to mistakes in judgment. I have marveled at the silly things people have done in an effort to gain an imaginary advantage over a political opponent. On a broader level, I have seen the inefficiency and disorganization within the city bureaucracy first hand. It seems things are often, if not usually, done with little pre-planning, that the departments are not usually pulling their oars at the same time and direction and that the private sector usually out negotiates the city...

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