by Liam Dillon / Voice of San Diego / July 18, 2011
The two-year-old allegations are as scandalous as they come: Mayor Jerry Sanders or one of his deputies fired a high-level city of San Diego employee because he was helping investigate contracting involving one of the mayor’s supporters. And the lawsuit that makes those allegations doesn’t show signs of going away.
Last month, the City Council approved an additional $250,000 to defend the case on top of the $200,000 the city has already spent on outside attorneys. The $450,000 cost doesn’t include more than a year of work by the City Attorney’s Office before it bowed out of the case. A trial date in San Diego Superior Court has been set for Oct. 7.
The city’s outside lawyer, Janice Brown, said the money for her bills is well spent. The former employee’s current settlement offer is at least three to four times the entire bill, she told the City Council. The gulf between the two sides is as wide as the allegations’ seriousness.
Former city deputy economic development director Scott Kessler filed suit in July 2009, alleging the Mayor’s Office directed him to bend contracting rules to favor Marco Li Mandri, a well-known civic leader in the city’s Little Italy neighborhood and a Sanders supporter. Kessler says he refused. Kessler also argues the Mayor’s Office ultimately fired him after he gave a copy of a joint FBI and San Diego Police Department investigation he obtained about Li Mandri’s involvement in a North Bay parking and business improvement district to the city’s Ethics Commission. (That criminal case never came to anything. San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis’ office didn’t pursue charges in that case, and Li Mandri has denied any wrongdoing.)
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