Chris Cate
Councilman Chris Cate Photo by Alexander Nguyen

By Raoul Lowery Contreras

The attempt to smear San Diego City Councilman Chris Cate by alleging he committed a crime by forwarding a memo from City Attorney Mara Elliott to the SoccerCity developers is over.

No charges were filed by California Attorney General Javier Becerra after the matter was forwarded by the San Diego County District Attorney, who apparently wanted nothing to do with the City Attorney Mara Elliott’s complaint.

The attempt to derail Cate came about for three reasons:

  • Republican Cate is running for reelection and is heavily favored to win if one can judge from campaign fund contributions
  • The recently elected Elliott thinks she should be the next mayor of San Diego and sees Cate as a rival
  • Elliott over-reached her responsibility to advise the council on the issue of proposals to develop the former Qualcomm stadium property in Mission Valley

This amateurish witch hunt failed, but her efforts are continuing.

Raoul Lowery Contreras

She has recently asked the Superior Court to decide if there are any potential legal problems with competing ballot proposals for the stadium property.

The court may or may not even look at the proposals, but no matter what, any negatively affected side will appeal to the state Supreme Court.

All in all, years could be involved and hundreds of thousands of dollars — millions maybe — spent on lawyers. In the meantime, San Diego State football would have no place to play. Perhaps that is Elliott’s motive.

A competent city attorney would hire one, two or three retired judges to examine both proposals and recommend solutions to any problems they find in them before ballots are printed in September.

Cate is now officially absolved of criminal responsibility and of violating the phantom confidentiality of an Elliott memorandum. The memo was not about a personnel issue, lawsuit or active real estate negotiation. It was Elliot’s negative observations of a proposal to be voted on by the people if placed on the ballot.

Was it a crime for the councilman to forwarding of a memo from her to a representative of a group proposing to lease the former Qualcomm Stadium property to develop a new residential and entertainment district with a tiny 22,000-seat soccer stadium? No. The lack of charges by the Attorney General proves that.

There is, however, the matter of the San Diego Ethics Commission. While the Attorney General has decided no state or local law was violated, the Ethics Commission found Cate violated two of the provisions of the ordinance that set up the commission. It fined Cate $5,000 for potentially compromising “the bargaining position of the city” and “pending litigation.”

While the Ethics Commission thinks Cate violated the ordinance, it is more significant that Becerra disagrees. One can be certain that a newly appointed Democratic California Attorney General would be delighted to charge a Republican city councilman with a criminal charge if he could, but he couldn’t and didn’t. No law was broken.

With Becerra brushing aside Elliott’s complaint — what she called “an egregious betrayal of the public trust” — San Diego voters can now weigh in on the subject by reelecting Cate by a huge margin over a couple of unknowns who have tried to make an issue out of “Memogate.”


Raoul Lowery Contreras is a political consultant and the author of “The Armenian Lobby & American Foreign Policy” and “The Mexican Border: Immigration, War and a Trillion Dollars in Trade.” His work has appeared in the New American News Service of the New York Times Syndicate.