SAN DIEGO — A public dispute over the power to make appointments to outside agencies erupted Monday between San Diego Mayor Bob Filner and City Council President Todd Gloria — and resulted in harsh words between the two officials who are relatively new to their posts.
The City Council was scheduled to consider which members would be assigned to the various boards and committees at the San Diego Association of Governments, a regional planning body. A slate of nominations was introduced by Gloria.
Standard practice is for the mayor to issue nominations for boards, commissions and outside agencies. However, since the SANDAG appointments go to City Council members and not the general public, the council president and mayor have historically worked together to determine the nominees. The process is supported by state code, according to the City Attorney’s Office.
“Under our charter, the City Council president — as much as we love him — does not have the authority to appoint SANDAG representatives, so you are taking up an item which is contrary to our charter,” Filner said. “Now, in my belief, the mayor has the authority to appoint the SANDAG representatives subject to council confirmation. It is a joint appointment in that respect — you can turn down anything I say — you have the free vote.”
The mayor urged the council to vote on his nominations.
From there, the two sides became contentious, as Filner interrupted the council debate several times while Gloria tried to proceed with the discussion.
The mayor accused Gloria of being “gratuitous” for soliciting his recommendations for the SANDAG positions when he knew who they were, and told the council president that he “mischaracterized” his memo on the appointments. He also referred to Gloria’s nominations by saying, “for what they are worth.”
Filner also chastised Assistant City Attorney Mary Jo Lanzafame for mixing the words “appointment” and “nomination.”
“You are confusing two words and you are doing it purposefully,” Filner said.
After the mayor interrupted her multiple times during a discussion over how to handle the vacancy in council District 4, Gloria said, “Mr. Mayor, I appreciate your presence here today. These questions are for Ms. Lanzafame.”
“Well, ask the guy who wrote the memo,” Filner said, referring to his list of appointments.
“I provided you with your time,” Gloria responded. “Please allow the council members to have their opportunities.”
Lanzafame got seven words out before the mayor jumped in again.
“Mr. President, that’s not what the memo says,” Filner said. “It leaves a vacancy in the position. It doesn’t ask for someone to be appointed who is not a member of this council, and I just told you that, and you know it very well. You ask a phony question and you’ll get a phony answer.”
He said Lanzafame’s opinions were “not usually right” and he promised to veto Gloria’s nominees if they were passed.
At the urging of a couple of City Council members, Filner and Gloria left the meeting to iron out their disagreements. When they returned, they said they would meet over the next few weeks and come up with a joint list of nominees to present to the council on Monday.
The mayor noted that he and Gloria have known each other for 15 years and will work things out.
“It should not have gotten to this point and we apologize to the council,” Filner said. He said the tiff “was not good for the city and we will try to do this in a better way.”
The board and committees of SANDAG, the regional planning body, are made up of the mayors and council members of cities, the county of San Diego and other institutions with a major San Diego presence, like the Navy.
Gloria tried to have the nominees approved today because SANDAG plans to hold a meeting Friday to set up its committees.
——– Story by Kelly Wheeler of City News Service