Mayor Questioned In Video Over Whistleblower's Firing

Video Of SD Mayor Jerry Sanders Released As Part Of Wrongful Termination Suit

10News has obtained a video showing San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders as many have not seen him before: under oath and on the defensive.

"Do you understand the oath you're under is the same as if you were a witness in court?" someone on the video asked Sanders.

"I do," responded Sanders on the video, which was obtained after a judge ordered it be released to 10News as part of a wrongful termination lawsuit.

The man who lost his job is former Deputy Director of Economic Development, Scott Kessler, who told his story to 10News for the first time.

"I found myself without a job for doing my job to protect the public interest," said Kessler.

Kessler was one of those interviewed when the FBI and San Diego police investigated the dealings of two businesspeople connected to an improvement district in Point Loma.

After a two-year probe, a report was turned over in 2007 to the district attorney's office that recommended a range of charges including bribery, fraud and conflict of interest. The report alleged the men help set up the district and then awarded themselves contracts.

District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis called a meeting with the mayor, where he was told there would be no charges.

"I can just remember generally she didn't feel there was enough evidence to do it," said Sanders in the deposition.

"I was shocked," said Kessler.

Law enforcement was also stunned and wanted to make sure the mayor's office saw the crime report so they asked Kessler to pass it on.

Kessler did, along with his recommendation for the men to stop receiving taxpayer money. The Ethics Commission also asked for the report and received a copy. Soon after, Kessler said his phone started ringing.

"I was told the mayor himself was upset at me, [and] that all hell had broken loose," said Kessler.

Kessler said he was told by upset superiors to stop talking to law enforcement. The city was about to award the one of the businessmen, Marco Limandri another contract and mayor's office did not want to be dragged into the probe.

Weeks later, Kessler was out of a job.

"We were laying off a lot of people," said Sanders in the deposition.

During the deposition, which was an hour and a half, Sanders said Kessler was laid off due to budget cuts.

10News reporter Michael Chen asked, "Do you buy it?"

"No, that's not true," said Kessler. "The mayor knew exactly what was going on."

While the mayor said during the deposition he was concerned about investigative reports being photocopied, Kessler's lawyer asked Sanders, "Do you recall directing anyone to direct Kessler not to speak with law enforcement?"

Sanders replied, "No."

As for the impression that all hell had broken loose, the mayor responded, "The mayor's office is different than the mayor. I don't know all the conversations my staff has with people."

Kessler's lawyer Josh Gruenberg believes somewhere in all the conversations, a whistleblower's career was sacrificed.

"We've taken a lot of depositions in the case and there are a lot of differing views all coming from within the mayor's office," said Gruenberg. "That really is going to prove the credibility from the mayor's office is capable of suspicion."

Kessler said, "The reason I was fired was not fair, and I'm going to stick up for my rights."

The mayor's office and the district attorney's office both declined to comment. One of the two businessmen, Limandri, maintains no charges were filed against them because the report was baseless.