In a decision certain to create more discord on the divided San Diego City Council, an unusual coalition of council members Monday elected Councilman Bob Filner the city’s deputy mayor for the coming year.
The primarily ceremonial post, largely ignored by city residents but occasionally the cause of political bloodshed among council members, was sought by longtime rivals Filner and Councilman Ron Roberts. Roberts came up on the short end of a 5-4 vote to elect him deputy mayor and lost his chairmanship of the council committee that oversees land use and transportation.
In another matter that has deeply divided the council, it was disclosed Monday that the private attorney who represented council members Filner, Linda Bernhardt and John Hartley in this summer’s battle over reapportionment is demanding more than $100,000 in legal fees from the city for services the city attorney offered free.
David Lundin, who represented the trio during federal court hearings on the redrawing of district lines, has asked the city for $104,000 in fees, according to sources who asked not to be identified.
The information came to light during a council debate over payments to attorneys for the Chicano Federation, which sued the city in federal court over the new district boundary lines, claiming that the system proposed by the council majority discriminated against Latinos. The lawsuit was settled out of court after adjustments that increased the percentage of Latinos in Filner’s 8th District.
Senior Chief Deputy Atty. Jack Katz told the council that he has received a demand for the fees, but, despite questioning from O’Connor, declined to reveal how much Lundin is seeking. Katz also said the council could be sued over the fees.
Sources said, however, that Lundin is demanding $104,000 and that attorney James McIntyre, who represented council members Ron Roberts and Judy McCarty, is asking $10,000. O’Connor’s attorney has asked for $3,000, but O’Connor said Monday that she would personally pay the fee. Henderson’s attorney, Pat McCormick, has also put in a claim for fees, but the amount was made available.
With the council divided, 5 to 4, on the redistricting last summer, City Atty. John Witt’s office told the majority at the time that city lawyers could represent them--Filner, Bernhardt, Hartley and council members Wes Pratt and Abbe Wolfsheimer. But only Roberts, O’Connor, Henderson and McCarty were entitled to city reimbursement for their attorneys, Witt said, because they were not responsible for the vote.
But Lundin, who said in an interview Monday that his three clients will be asking for the payments “in due course,” disagreed. Even council members on the majority side of the vote were entitled to private counsel, he said.
The council agreed to discuss the issue in closed session today. O’Connor demanded a written opinion from Witt’s office on whether the three council members could vote to spend city money on their own attorneys’ fees.
The council also voted to pay Chicano Federation attorneys $180,000 as part of the settlement.
The vote on the deputy mayor’s post and committee chairmanships, coming on the penultimate council session of the year, continued the friction among council factions that began with the same issues almost exactly 12 months ago.
On the day they were sworn into office in 1989, newcomers Bernhardt and Hartley joined Filner, Pratt and Wolfsheimer to force Henderson out of the chairmanship of the council committee that oversees city parkland, claiming that he was not sensitive to the environment.
The vote incensed O’Connor, who said she had been betrayed by Bernhardt. Relations between O’Connor and the majority faction have never improved.
Monday’s victim was Roberts, considered by some the front-runner to replace O’Connor as mayor when her term ends in 1992. Henderson and Filner are also said to be interested in running for mayor, though Henderson said Monday that he has no plans now to do so. All three face elections for their council seats next year, along with Pratt.
In addition to losing the deputy mayor’s race and his committee chairmanship, Roberts narrowly staved off a bid by Henderson to replace him on the San Diego Assn. of Governments’ aviation policy committee. Roberts’ district includes Lindbergh Field.
The deputy mayor often presides at ceremonial functions and oversees administration of the council offices. Perhaps more importantly, the deputy mayor leads council meetings when the mayor is absent. Opinions differ on whether the post is a political asset.
Roberts declined to criticize his colleagues’ motives, but O’Connor praised him lavishly and lectured the council in a written statement prepared before Monday’s vote.
“Ron Roberts could have provided some much needed harmony and polish to the council,” O’Connor said in a statement that never mentioned Filner by name. “We have a problem because we have behaved in the worst tradition of political greed at precisely the time when restraint was needed.”
In an interview, O’Connor said of Filner, “We have no relationship, and it’s intentional on my side. I don’t like his politics, and I don’t think they’re in the best interests of the city.”
The unusual aspect of Monday’s vote was the lineup of council members, with Henderson and McCarty, who often allied with Roberts, casting the key votes that denied Roberts the deputy mayor’s post.
Wolfsheimer, Hartley, Henderson, McCarty and Filner voted against Roberts’ nomination, with O’Connor, Bernhardt, Pratt and Roberts voting in favor. In a second vote, McCarty also voted against Filner, along with Roberts and O’Connor. But Filner was joined by Wolfsheimer, Hartley, Pratt, Bernhardt and Henderson to win the spot.
The prospect of Filner’s appointment has sparked charges that he engineered private deals with council members Judy McCarty and Bruce Henderson on recent issues facing the council--charges that all three council members have denied.
Henderson and Filner have clashed bitterly over the reapportionment, in which Filner helped to shoehorn Henderson into a district that will make his reelection bid more difficult next year. But Henderson said that Roberts’ opposition to Henderson’s pet project, a growth-control plan for Pacific Beach, caused more enmity.
Outgoing Deputy Mayor Wolfsheimer was chosen to replace Roberts on the council’s Transportation and Land Use committee, and McCarty will replace Filner as chairman of the council’s Public Facilities and Recreation Committee. Pratt will keep his chairmanship of the council’s Public Services and Safety Committee.