Spitzer Suffers Setback in El Toro Legal Fight
The state attorney general’s office has refused a request by Supervisor Todd Spitzer to rescind an informal opinion backWing County Counsel Laurence M. Watson’s hiring of a private attorney to fight three lawsuits challenging plans for a commercial airport at the El Toro Marine base.
Spitzer asked for a withdrawal of the opinion, written at Watson’s request, until Atty. Gen. Dan Lungren’s office could issue a formal opinion on whether Carlsbad attorney Michael Gatzke was properly hired. Spitzer, a former county prosecutor, contends that only the Board of Supervisors has authority under state law to hire private litigation counsel.
The informal opinion, issued this month, said Watson’s actions were proper. Watson said he was authorized in 1994 to hire Gatzke to handle the El Toro lawsuits because the Board of Supervisors voted to expand his contract duties to include “alternative aviation systems issues.” Gatzke has billed the county about $1 million through February for his El Toro work.