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Inexperience Experience

August 24, 1986

San Diego City Atty. John Witt has decided to shrug off Councilwoman Abbe Wolfsheimer's disgraceful behavior in requesting the forced resignations of two high-ranking city employees. Because Wolfsheimer is an inexperienced office holder, Witt won't pursue an investigation into whether she violated a City Charter provision against coercing the city manager on a personnel issue. That's fine, but we hope Wolfsheimer has learned a lesson from the embarrassing affair.

Since joining the City Council late last year, Wolfsheimer has developed a reputation as somewhat of a loose cannon. Often on the losing end of 8-1 votes, she has left colleagues and those with business before the council baffled about her philosophy in general and confused about her intentions on specific issues.

There is, of course, nothing that says a council member has to run with the rest of the pack. But it's one thing to be an individualist, something else to cavalierly attack the integrity of two men based on the flimsiest of evidence, as Wolfsheimer recently did.

Wolfsheimer is ostensibly worried about the influence developers and their attorneys have at City Hall, and there may well be some practices that bear examination. But the letter she produced as a "typical example" of the problems elected officials face trying to harness the synergistic forces of the developers and the city bureaucracy showed absolutely no wrongdoing. That didn't stop Wolfsheimer from calling for the sacking of "those parties involved" in a meeting described in the letter, a thinly veiled reference to Deputy City Manager John Fowler and Property Director Jim Spotts.

Wolfsheimer called a press conference to expose "a cancer of deceit" and a conspiracy between developers and the city staff "to undermine my duty to my constituents." Her supporting documentation was a letter from a land-use attorney to his developer client that described a meeting held with Fowler and Spotts about a proposed sale of city land.

In the letter, the attorney, Paul E. Robinson, says he was given a draft copy of a report from the city manager that was scheduled to go to the City Council.

He also acknowledges his failure to persuade Spotts and Fowler not to issue the report. Nothing in the letter points to behavior by the two city employees that could even remotely be considered firing offenses.

City Manager Sylvester Murray responded to Wolfsheimer's request for an investigation by doing what she should have done herself before racing to call a press conference: He asked some questions.

When he did, he determined that Fowler and Spotts were not guilty of any impropriety.

That Wolfsheimer would take a miniature slice-of-life from a single land-use controversy and use it to try to wreck the careers of two men is appalling. She owes Fowler and Spotts a real apology, not the mealy-mouthed non-apology she issued earlier this week after her allegations blew up in her face.

Integrity is a commodity most people hold dearly. So are jobs. To try to strip these things from people with no more justification than Wolfsheimer had shows a temperament unbefitting a member of the City Council. It's true Wolfsheimer is inexperienced as a member of the council--but city government doesn't need any more experiences like this one.

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