San Diego Mayor’s Conduct Targeted
SAN DIEGO (AP) _ Mayor Susan Golding has been accused by a grand jury of improperly using her influence to secure a business group’s backing for a new stadium for baseball’s San Diego Padres.
The grand jury, which leveled its accusations on Wednesday, did not bring criminal charges. Instead, it recommended the district attorney pursue a civil misconduct case.
If Golding is found to have committed misconduct, the two-term mayor could be removed from office. However, term limits prevent her from running for re-election in 2000, when her term expires.
``The allegations are groundless,″ the mayor said. ``I sleep very well at night.″
The grand jury alleged that the mayor offered to support a $4 million allocation for a hotel-motel association advertising program in exchange for the organization’s support of a ballpark ballot measure.
The ballpark project was approved by voters last November. The $411 million venture is to be financed in part with $225 million in municipal bonds secured by hotel-room tax revenue. The ballpark is set for completion by 2002.
District Attorney Paul Pfingst said Thursday he will decide within 30 days whether to bring a case.
``It would be wrong, unfair and just plain jumping the gun to assume that because an accusation is made by a grand jury that it has been proved,″ he said.
The only punishment for a public official found to have committed civil misconduct is removal from office. That could only occur after a jury trial.
Rick Mansur, president of the hotel-motel association, said the grand jury was off the mark because his group does not market San Diego _ the San Diego Convention and Visitors Bureau does.
Mansur said his organization did ask Golding for an increase in marketing dollars for the bureau, but before the City Council voted to put the baseball stadium proposal on the ballot.
``The grand jury is trying to make it out like we hoodwinked everybody and got this big check,″ he said. ``That never happened. At no time did the mayor try to influence us. Our budget request and our support of the ballpark were never linked.″
The county grand jury term ends Wednesday. Since it was seated last year, the panel has criticized many public officials, and has itself been criticized for its reports. The grand jury has no recourse if the district attorney decides the case has no merit.
John Wertz, the mayor’s attorney, said he believes Pfingst will find that the grand jury jumped the gun and called the panel ``a rogue bunch of citizens.″
Grand jury foreman Peter DiRenza defended the panel, saying they were working in the best interests of the public.
``It is not directed at the mayor personally. It’s directed at what the mayor did,″ he said, adding there was no political agenda on the ballpark.
``I voted for the ballpark,″ DiRenza said. ``If they build the ballpark, I’ll go to it.″