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Smart Voter
San Diego County, CA June 5, 2012 Election
Proposition C
City Council and Attorney Charter Amendment
City of Chula Vista

Majority Approval Required

Pass: 14,856 / 53.4% Yes votes ...... 12,941 / 46.6% No votes

See Also: Index of all Propositions

Information shown below: Impartial Analysis | Arguments |

Shall the Charter of the City of Chula Vista be amended to limit the authority and compensation of the elected City Attorney, to establish term limits for the City attorney, and to authorize the City Council to establish the office of Legislative Counsel to advise the City Council on its legislative duties and on conflict of interest issues?

Impartial Analysis from City Attorney
This proposition would amend Section 503 and add Section 503.1 to the Chula Vista City Charter. It would limit the authority and compensation of the City Attorney, establish term limits for the City Attorney, and authorize the City Council, by ordinance, to establish a new position of Legislative Counsel.

The Charter currently provides for an elected City Attorney. It provides that the City Attorney's compensation may not be less than the median compensation of the City Attorneys of the six California cities whose populations are closest to Chula Vista's population. The Charter sets the Mayor's annual salary at 66% of the salary of a California Superior Court Judge.

This proposition would reduce the City Attorney's compensation to that of a Superior Court Judge. Currently, the City Attorney's salary is approximately $209,000, while that of a Superior Court Judge is approximately $179,000. This change would not apply during the current term of the current City Attorney.

The Charter currently imposes term limits on City Council members, but imposes no such limit on the City Attorney. This proposition would impose on the City Attorney the same term limits that apply to Council members.

The Charter currently establishes the qualifications and duties of the City Attorney. Among other provisions, the Charter authorizes the City Attorney to control City legal business and legal proceedings; to advise the City Council, other City officers and all City boards and commissions, and to render written legal opinions when requested in writing; to employ experts and special legal counsel with Council approval when the City Attorney has a conflict of interest in litigation involving another City officer.

This proposition would authorize the City Council to provide by ordinance that the City Attorney would not advise on conflict of interest issues involving the City Attorney, nor participate in the selection of special legal counsel to advise on such issues. The proposition would further authorize the Council to provide by ordinance for the establishment of a new position of Legislative Counsel to provide legal services and advice on specified matters.

Specifically, this proposition would enable the Council to provide by ordinance that Legislative Counsel would: be selected by and serve at the pleasure of the Council; advise the Council regarding its legislative duties, while neither opposing nor urging legislation; advise the Council regarding conflicts of interest involving the City Attorney, and whether hiring special counsel is therefore warranted; assist the Council in the selection and appointment of such special counsel; advise the Council or the City's Board of Ethics concerning the City's Code of Ethics and alleged violations thereof; assist the Board of Ethics in investigations or in conducting hearings; and advise the City's Charter Review Commission. Such ordinance may also provide for the prevention or resolution of conflicts between the City Attorney and Legislative Counsel.

  News and Analysis

San Diego Union Tribune

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Arguments For Proposition C Arguments Against Proposition C
By all accounts, an elected city attorney should be a position of public service sacrificing personal gain for the public good. Yet this office with a staff of 8 pays more than the California Attorney General and the Attorney General of the United States. And if another city wants to pay their attorney more, our City Attorney receives an automatic raise, whether you agree or not. Proposition C reduces and stabilizes the salary of the city attorney to that of a superior court judge. It saves taxpayers over $30,000 each year.

When Chula Vista voters opted to elect their city attorney they believed that an elected attorney would be more responsive to the people. While it remains to be seen whether an elected attorney is more or less independent, the initiative did create a lifetime political post with no limit or accountability on compensation and government funded benefits. And when the city attorney has a conflict of interest, it lacks provisions to select a truly independent outside attorney.

Chula Vista voters have passed term limits for the Mayor and City Council. Why should the City Attorney be different? The City Attorney should be subject to those same rules. This proposition will limit the city attorney to two four-year terms, the same as every other elected official in Chula Vista.

Then there's the question of what to do when the city attorney has a conflict of interest. Under current law, the city attorney selects and hires an attorney when they have a conflict of interest or are the subject of an investigation. This proposition permits the City Council to independently hire an attorney when the city attorney has a conflict of interest.

Proposition C insures that your City Attorney is responsive to you at a price we can afford. YES on Prop C!

Veteran/Ret. Business Owner
Retired (HMO CEO)
Retired Professor
Retired Realtor

Rebuttal to Arguments For
Prop C supporters claim it will save taxpayers money. False!

Any salary savings generated by cutting the City Attorney salary will be far outweighed by the provision that gives Councilmembers their own lawyer. This additional, unnecessary attorney would likely cost taxpayers $150,000+ annually!

The money wasted by Prop C should instead be spent on police, parks, libraries or roads.

You voted just four years ago to set your City Attorney's salary based on what other city attorneys make in similar cities. This insures Chula Vista can attract the best qualified attorneys to a position that's vital to the City's best interests.

Term limits are appealing to many. But because it is a professional position - not a political one - only 2 of the 12 elected city attorneys in California have term limits.

Finally, Prop C's claims about conflicts of interest are false. The City Attorney has already advised that in any case involving a claim against him, another party could hire outside counsel.

But don't be fooled. Ultimately, Prop C is not about salary savings, term limits, or conflicts of interest. It's a blatant attempt to undermine the independence and authority of your elected City Attorney, with no regard for the added costs and dysfunction this will create at City Hall, and for citizens trying to get City services.

Please join community leaders from both parties, the Chula Vista Chamber of Commerce - and many others - and Vote NO on Proposition C.

Former Chula Vista Planning Commissioner
and Local Businessman
Former President Chula Vista Chamber of
Commerce/Local Resident

Proposition C is an assault on the independence of your elected City Attorney.
It creates a new "legal advisor" beholden to city politicians􀅆not the public interest. It will cause confusion and uncertainty, and could cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands annually. Vote NO on Proposition C.

Chula Vista citizens voted for an elected City Attorney to assure the City received independent, unbiased legal advice, immune from City Council politics.

Without the threat of being fired or penalized, your elected City Attorney advises the Council about their obligations to make decisions in public, limits on their authority, risks to taxpayers, and the need to respect individual rights. This is the independence you voted for, and is what you are currently receiving.

Proposition C would change all that by allowing Councilmembers to use taxpayer money to buy advice that supports their political agendas, while disregarding your elected City Attorney's advice.

With Proposition C, the City will be plagued with competing legal opinions. City Council will have one legal opinion, City staff, or a City Commission, another. Residents and taxpayers trying to get City services or permits will be caught in the middle, and left footing the bill.

Proposition C was railroaded onto the ballot, with no input from the Charter Review Commission or Board of Ethics, and little opportunity for public scrutiny. It's a transparent power grab by certain City Councilmembers and their political supporter, Earl Jentz. Jentz has spent over $1,000,000 seeking control over City government while costing taxpayers $500,000 defending against his failed lawsuits against the City.

Demand the integrity, professionalism, and independence provided by your elected City Attorney. Reject this cynical attempt to place politics above the law. Join Mayor Cheryl Cox, former Mayor Shirley Horton, and many others, in voting NO on Proposition C.

Retired Chula Vista City Attorney
Former Chula Vista City Councilmember
Former Chula Vista City Councilmember
Retired Chula Vista Police Chief
Vice Chair, San Diego County Board of Supervisors
and Former Mayor of Chula Vista

Rebuttal to Arguments Against
The people who signed the argument against Prop C represent Chula Vista's old guard political establishment. These special interests have dominated Chula Vista for decades now, and they are still trying to hold on to power by doing what they always do when they feel threatened. They launch personal attacks, this time an attack against respected community leader Earl Jentz. Let them know their slash and burn tactics will not work in Chula Vista. Yes on C!

The reasons for this initiative are clear:

1) Prop C sets fair salary and term limits for the city attorney.
2) Prop C ends the special Interests' ability to spend your money to chase their schemes. Just last year the city attorney, along with the Mayor and Councilmember Bensoussan, spent $200,000 of your money to hire private attorneys to help them secretly takeover demolition of the South Bay power plant. When the truth became known, the full city council acted in public to end the money grab. Prop C would have stopped this waste and would have required the full city council to be involved from the beginning.

3) Prop C allows the full city council to appoint a lawyer when the city attorney is conflicted or the subject of an investigation. Independent counsel provisions were created in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal and exist at every level of government. Read the Impartial Analysis. Stop the fox from watching the hen house.

Yes on C!

Retired Teacher
Retired CVPD Chief
Retired Educator
Retired Professor
Retired Carpenter

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Created: July 26, 2012 13:01 PDT
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