i have some family history in san diego (my mom is from there; my parents met there; though i don't have any relatives there now), as does my girlfriend, so san diego news interests me more than it might if it were any other city. and some seriously crazy shit has been happening there lately, politically.
first there was last year's mayoral election, where write-in candidate donna frye got more votes than incumbent dick murphy, though in a recognizable pattern, the courts gave the mayoral mantle to the republican (murphy) on a technicality.
then there was the big real-estate scandal involving san diego's congressional representative, randy "duke" cunningham. this is a complex, multifaceted scandal that is hard to describe or summarize (or even find a definitive link to; josh marshall did an excellent job covering the story, so i'll just link to a search for "cunningham" on his blog: as you can see, lots of stuff there)... but basically, duke sold his house to a contractor (who paid a lot more than it was worth, and then later resold it for around half of what he'd bought it from duke for), lived on the contractor's huge yacht while not paying all the rents and fees a normal citizen would, "selling" his own yacht to someone else but never filling out the paperwork for it (and even trying to claim the "sold" yacht as his own for tax purposes), and more similarly shady dealings. it eventually ended in a huge raid where law enforcement raided his home, his office, the yacht, and everywhere else; not long after cunningham announced he wouldn't run for re-election.
not that murphy had happy days in front of him. in fact, he resigned on friday in light of the city's huge financial problems and a federal investigation into a scandal involving the city's use of pension funds.
so murphy picked deputy mayor and councillor michael zucchet to succeed him as acting mayor. but zucchet (a democrat) was able to one-up murphy as far as term length goes: zucchet resigned today over yet another scandal involving yet another federal investigation. remember, he only took office on friday. but this isn't entirely a surprise, as zucchet was already under investigation when he was chosen as the new acting mayor.
Acting Mayor Michael Zucchet and Councilman Ralph Inzunza were convicted Monday of trading political favors for campaign contributions from a strip-club owner — adding to the political turmoil gripping the city where the mayor has resigned and the pension system is under federal investigation.
Prosecutors charged that the two men, both 35-year-old Democrats, took $23,000 from the owner of Cheetahs Totally Nude club and his associates and, in exchange, agreed to work to ease a city law that prohibits nude dancers from touching their customers.
Under state law, Zucchet and Inzunza were immediately suspended from office without pay, although they will not be removed until the judge accepts the jury's verdict, set for Nov. 9, or their fellow City Council members oust them.
As the verdicts were read, Inzunza shook his head slowly and turned his gaze toward his wife. Zucchet, who had been sitting ramrod straight, pursed his lips and bowed his head.
"I believe I have done nothing wrong so I'm going to continue to fight this," Inzunza later told reporters. "I will be back."
Within two hours of the verdicts, the City Council named Councilwoman Toni Atkins as mayor pro tem through next week. Atkins promised residents in Zucchet's and Inzunza's districts that other council members would respond to their calls for service.
"The business of the city will continue," Atkins said.
Zucchet and Inzunza, each free on $25,000 bail, were convicted of conspiracy, wire fraud and extortion. Each faces a possible three to four years in federal prison.
now i'm all for getting rid of no-touch laws for strip clubs, but these guys were convicted of taking bribes. zucchet's lawyer tried the "everybody else is doing it" defense, claiming "There isn't a single public official in the country that hasn't done the same thing."
even if that's true (and it could be, though i suspect he's exaggerating), san diego is now on its third mayor in a week.¶