Tuesday, July 19, 2005
While justly famous for its zoo, San Diego may have a competitor with its city government. Two members of the city council, Michael Zucchet and Ralph Inzunza, were convicted on corruption charges along with a former Clark County (Nevada) Commissioner in a trial dubbed "Strippergate" by the local media. To make matters worse for San Diego, Zucchet became interim Mayor of the city last week when Dick Murphy stepped down from the post amidst allegations of possible criminal activity related to a $2 billion shortfall in the municipal pension fund. The Councilmen were convicted of accepting $23,000 disguised as campaign contributions from the owner of Cheetahs Totally Nude. The owner sought to have a change made in an ordinance that banned customers from touching dancers at strip clubs -- isn't that the type of issue to crater an entire career and go to jail over? A Los Angeles Times story (here) discusses the verdict, including a statement by Zucchet's attorney that "[t]here isn't a single public official in the country that hasn't done the same thing." That's heartening.
While San Diego has a reputation as a conservative town, it is still a military outpost in many ways. The city's problems likely will continue as the SEC and U.S. Attorney's Office push forward with their investigations of the pension fund, for which six former trustees face criminal conflict of interest charges in state court. Of course, it's not just the city government that has been tainted by scandal, as local Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham had his home searched in connection with the sale of a house to a campaign contributor whose company has received defense contracts (see earlier post here). Rep. Cunningham has announced that he will not seek another term next year. (ph)