In March, 1984, San Diego Mayor Roger Hedgecock told a group of reporters who were quizzing him about his financial relationship with J. David & Co. principals Nancy Hoover and J. David Dominelli: "The usual punch line is that a politician gets some favors and does some favors. The traditional punch line . . . does not exist in this case."
As he stood before Superior Court Judge William L. Todd Jr. on Tuesday pleading for mercy, former Mayor Hedgecock recycled that 20-month-old line, saying that his case was missing "the punch line typical of a political-corruption situation." No one, he said, "got a single favor from me" because of the hundreds of thousands of dollars that Hoover and Dominelli had provided him personally and funneled into his mayoral campaign.
At long last, the resolution of Hedgecock's guilt and the fate of his mayoralty have been decided at the trial-court level. In two trials, stretching back over a year, Hedgecock has been judged guilty by 23 of 24 jurors. His attempt to show jury tampering in his second trial has failed, and he has resigned.
The hearing during which Hedgecock was sentenced to a year in jail was like a rerun of all the allegations and denials of the past two years played at fast-forward speed. The charges that he had violated the public trust by committing perjury on financial-disclosure forms and conspiring with Hoover and Dominelli to violate the campaign-spending laws were characterized by the judge as "reprehensible in every sense of the word."
His attorney argued that San Diegans believe that he had been an excellent mayor--possibly the best ever. Hedgecock himself asserted that, "as God is my witness, I did not intend to violate these laws in an intentional way."
To underscore the tragedy of it all, as the drama drew to a close and the nervous participants spoke their final words of the proceedings, it was Hedgecock who remained the most composed, his personal plea being far more eloquent than anything that the prosecutor, the judge or even his own lawyer had to say.
There is, of course, a punch line to all this--though it may not be the one that Hedgecock has tried to focus on. It is that the threshold criterion for public office is integrity. And that was the one criterion that Roger Hedgecock failed to meet.