The leak of a confidential City Attorney’s memorandum on the SoccerCity proposal in Mission Valley has been referred to the state Attorney General’s Office, it was announced Wednesday.
“The San Diego City Attorney referred to the District Attorney’s Office for review, the potential violations of law regarding the disclosure of a City Attorney confidential memorandum related to the ‘Soccer City’ matter,” San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan said in a statement Wednesday.
“The District Attorney is the people’s prosecutor, focused on pursing justice and fairness in an equal manner for all, with no regard for politics or political parties. To ensure public trust in the impartiality of the review in this case, we have referred this matter to the Attorney General’s Office, which has concurrent jurisdiction,” she continued.
There will be no further statements from Stephan’s office, she said.
The mystery over who leaked the confidential memo lasted for weeks — until Oct. 3 when San Diego City Councilman Chris Cate stepped forward to claim responsibility.
At a news conference, Cate said he came forward more than three months after the leak became known because City Council members were questioned as part of a lawsuit in the matter.
Cate said the City Attorney’s Office released two memos on the SoccerCity citizen’s initiative, the first of which was public and the second of which was marked for attorney-client privilege. He said he was seeking information just days before a crucial vote on the project.
“Following the release of the second memo, I sent a copy to a representative of the SoccerCity team,” Cate said, referring to an email to Craig Benedetto.
“I was not seeking to undermine the City Attorney or the city,” he said. “My goal was to seek from the proponents input and clarification regarding the points that were raised.”
The 16-page confidential memo was issued June 15, and after it found its way into the hands of the developers, it was published on the San Diego Union-Tribune’s website.
The document raised multiple issues with the plan for the project, which the City Council ultimately decided to put before voters sometime next year.
At a City Council meeting after the memo became public, City Attorney Mara Elliott called the leak an “egregious breach of public trust.” She called on the responsible person to resign.
Cate told reporters he did not intend to step down from office. He said he and Elliott met earlier Tuesday.
The city attorney’s spokesman, Gerry Braun, said Elliott “has made it clear that this was an egregious betrayal of the public trust. The matter is being investigated by the Public Integrity Unit of the District Attorney’s Office.”
He said the City Attorney’s Office would have no further comment for now.
County Democratic Party Chairwoman Jessica Hayes issued a statement in which she accused Cate of fleecing taxpayers for the benefit of developers.
“Chris Cate has proven that he is unfit for office and cannot be trusted to faithfully represent the interests of the people of San Diego,” Hayes said. “He must resign from the City Council immediately and end his campaign for reelection next year.”
Cate is nearly through his third year on the council. Only one opponent has officially declared interest in unseating him.
— Staff, City News Service