Politics Report: SANDAG Executive Search … Has to Start Over

Former SANDAG head Gary Gallegos/ Photo by Andrew Bowen, KPBS

The San Diego Association of Governments is re-starting its search for a new executive director.

The board of directors last week re-opened recruitment, five months after selecting a search firm and weeks after narrowing the field to four finalists.

The position opened last August, when Gary Gallegos stepped down after 16 years on the job amid a scandal ignited by a Voice of San Diego investigation revealing the agency failed to disclose a series of major problems facing its sales-tax funded transportation program.

What’s next? Pam Derby, executive recruiter with CPS HR, the firm handling the search, said she was meeting with the recruitment subcommittee next Friday to begin again.

“I think the board wanted to extend the pool,” she said. “We knew from the beginning that we had an aggressive timeframe for a position of this magnitude. … I don’t consider the first attempt a failed attempt. We’ve just decided to continue the process for now.”

  • Derby said there wouldn’t be a new round of community outreach.
  • She said they would include more personalized outreach to potential candidates.
  • And where the last round had a hard deadline for people to apply, this one would be more open. “If we bring in three great candidates in the first few weeks, we’ll move to interviews,” she said.

Derby said she hopes to have a candidate identified by September.

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Congressman Leaning on Pot Donors

Jesse Marx on location: Rep. Dana Rohrabacher thanked a group of San Diego pot activists and businesspeople on Wednesday for standing by him when so many others had fled. The Orange County Republican — a Trump supporter who claims to have once lost a drunken arm-wrestling match to Vladimir Putin — acknowledged he’s fighting to keep his seat.

Democrats are trying to flip several traditionally conservative districts in Southern California, including Rohrabacher’s, which makes the relationship between the congressman and the marijuana industry so intriguing. Many of the leading marijuana lobbyists in San Diego are Democratic political consultants.

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher speaking by video to members of the Association of Cannabis Professionals at Stone Brewing in Liberty Station, May 16, 2018. / Photo by Vito Di Stefano

Speaking by video from D.C., Rohrabacher assured members of the Association of Cannabis Professionals who’d gathered at Stone Brewing in Liberty Station that he would continue to champion their causes in Congress.

“The mood has changed,” he said. “The public perception has changed.”

What gives? The activist crowd is loyal to Rohrabacher, despite his political affiliation, because of an annual amendment he carries prohibiting the Department of Justice from interfering in legal medical marijuana markets. Rohrabacher has also admitted to using marijuana and wrote a scathing critique of Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ decision to rescind Obama-era protections.

It’s natural that he would now seek donations from people in the marijuana industry, even those who live outside his district.

“Our money’s as green as anyone’s,” said Jared Sclar, ACP’s communications director.

In related news: The political arm of Weedmaps, a popular though controversial digital marketplace for marijuana sellers, entered the San Diego supervisor’s race this week. It gave $12,000 to another PAC that’s connected to the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council and opposing Lori Saldaña.

— Jesse Marx

The City Is Suing SoccerCity and SDSU West

Top: SDSU’s vision for the Qualcomm Stadium site in Mission Valley. Bottom: SoccerCity’s vision for the site.

Last week, City Attorney Mara Elliott announced the city is suing SoccerCity and SDSU West, the competing measures to redevelop the former Qualcomm Stadium property.

She asked a Superior Court to boot both measures from the November ballot because they infringe on the mayor and City Council’s authority.

The City Council voted in closed session last month to hire a private firm to pursue the suit.

  • Michael Colantuono, a high-profile municipal lawyer, thinks Elliott’s right. “I agree that a measure trying to force sale or purchase of property is not a proper subject of an initiative,” he wrote in an email. “In technical terms, it is an ‘administrative act’ not a ‘legislative act,’ and only legislative acts are subject to initiative.”

What Can a City Attorney Tell Private Ballot Initiative Proponents?

A statement from Friends of SDSU, the group backing SDSU West, caught our attention: “The Friends of SDSU provided the city attorney with a draft of the initiative, and then met with her and her senior staff,” they told the Union-Tribune. “Based on that meeting, Friends of SDSU revised our initiative to address issues raised by the city attorney.”

We asked municipal law experts when a meeting like that crosses into an illegal gift of public funds.

City attorneys can help initiative proponents by pointing out ambiguities to make implementing the measure easier, said Leslie Devaney, a private lawyer and former deputy city attorney.

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