City Council reviews Mayor Bob Filner's proposed cuts to City Attorney's Office

Reduction would cut 13 jobs

SAN DIEGO - A proposed $1.4 million spending reduction in the office of San Diego City Attorney Jan Goldsmith failed to find broad support on the City Council Wednesday during a review of Mayor Bob Filner's budget proposal.

The planned cuts in the department run by the mayor's political rival, which would go into effect in the fiscal year that begins July 1, involve the equivalent of 13 jobs.

The office conducts minor criminal prosecutions, handles litigation on behalf of the city, and provides legal advice to municipal officials.

Goldsmith said the reductions could mean he would have to take more cases to outside legal counsel at greater expense to the city. The City Council has directed that as many cases be handled in-house as possible.

"We're a bargain," Goldsmith said of his lawyers.

Council President Todd Gloria and Councilwoman Lorie Zapf said they opposed the reduction -- though no formal vote was taken.

"This is a pretty drastic cut," Zapf said. "We have a responsibility to protect the taxpayers' money, and stripping away our legal representation I think exposes us down the line to greater liability, and we'd have to pay for outside counsel anyway."

City Financial Management Director Jeff Sturak said the mayor will consider all options when making revisions to his budget proposals later this month, but he was unlikely to eliminate the cut for the City Attorney's Office.

The mayor has said that the City Attorney's Office has avoided the belt-tightening faced by most city departments in recent years, the City Attorney's Office has escaped. Goldsmith countered that he had to cut $1.8 million when he took office in 2008.

The mayor's representatives denied allegations that the reductions targeted certain employees. Sturak said he has to enter employee numbers in the system while developing the budget, but he didn't know who they were.

It was "absolutely not the case" that individual employees were targeted, said Francisco Estrada, the mayor's council representative.

Goldsmith said since his office is independent, he is the only one with the authority to determine how the $1.4 million will be implemented, not the mayor.

The City Council is in the midst of department-by-department reviews of the mayor's budget proposal. They also went over various administrative offices Wednesday, plus the city auditor, city clerk, personnel, treasurer and risk management.

Staff will work council member comments into a revised spending plan to be issued later this month. A vote to adopt the budget is scheduled to take place in June.

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