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In a Tizzy Over a Tiff : Cleator-Hedgecock Snit Puts Developer in 'Lose-Lose' Spot

December 11, 1986|ARMANDO ACUNA | Times Staff Writer

Radio talk-show host and former Mayor Roger Hedgecock is nothing if not acerbic toward some of the activities of his former colleagues on the San Diego City Council.

Now it appears that Hedgecock might be feeling the aftershock of those on-the-air comments. On Monday, Hedgecock told his listeners that Councilman Bill Cleator had threatened to reject any projects promoted by developer Roque de la Fuente II as long as Hedgecock is employed as De la Fuente's land-use consultant.

Cleator flatly denies he ever said such a thing, although he acknowledges that Hedgecock's sniping has angered the City Council.

And De la Fuente, who wants to develop his large land holdings in Otay Mesa, is reluctant to get in the middle of the argument, contending that the less said about the matter the better, since he feels he could end up the big loser.

The genesis of the Hedgecock-Cleator tiff was the City Council's ouster of City Manager Slyvester Murray in October.

Hedgecock railed against Murray's forced resignation on his top-rated KSDO talk show, saying that the City Council had held Murray to a different standard of scrutiny because he is black.

Word of the criticism got back to the City Council. Cleator says he was told by several people that Hedgecock had accused the council--if not directly, certainly by implication--of racism. Coming on top of other caustic comments Hedgecock had made about the council, it made Cleator seethe.

About a month later, at a San Diego fund-raising luncheon for Republican U.S. Senate candidate Ed Zschau, Cleator ran into De la Fuente, who had hired Hedgecock as a land-use consultant after Hedgecock's resignation a year ago following his felony conviction for violating campaign and financial disclosure laws.

Cleator said he told De la Fuente: "I don't think it's all that great an idea for your PR man to be defecating all over the council and your having to come before us on matters very dear to you and ourselves. It's hard to get interested in that project."

What's more, Cleator said he told De la Fuente that Hedgecock's comments about the Murray affair "not only bothered me but my other colleagues as well."

According to De la Fuente, Cleator told him: "If Roger Hedgecock came before the council, how did he (Cleator) expect he could look at any project in a friendly way when Roger is attacking council members on the radio."

De la Fuente says Cleator never threatened to reject any of De la Fuente's projects because of the developer's connection to Hedgecock. De la Fuente said he came back from the luncheon and told Hedgecock: "Look, Roger, Bill thinks you're attacking him on the radio."

According to Hedgecock, De la Fuente told him: "Bill Cleator didn't like my statement (about the Murray ouster) and as a consequence, he couldn't vote for any Rocky de la Fuente projects as long as I was involved."

Hedgecock says he called Cleator at home that same day.

"He admitted he said it . . . and he apologized and backed off. He said, 'Look, I'm not going to vote (against) projects because of that. I just wanted you to know I was upset,' " Hedgecock said.

Cleator confirmed that Hedgecock called him at home and that Hedgecock said: " 'I didn't call you a racist.' "

It appeared that the flap would end there. But an item last weekend in Tom Blair's column in the San Diego Union mentioned that an unnamed City Council member had told De la Fuente that Hedgecock's sniping was jeopardizing his Otay Mesa development.

On Monday, a caller to Hedgecock's radio show asked him what the fuss was all about. "I decided I didn't know why I should keep it a secret," said Hedgecock, who then discussed the details on the air.

Hedgecock says that, partly because of the ill feelings he has engendered on the council and partly because his talk-show job is taking up more of his time, he and De la Fuente mutually agreed that he should drop his consulting business. He said the decision to leave consulting was made about two weeks before Cleator and De la Fuente had their conversation at the Zschau luncheon.

"I didn't want to work two full-time jobs . . . and also I didn't want to see Rocky hurt," Hedgecock said. "You can say I'm temporarily knocked out of the consulting business by these political statements." Hedgecock said, however, that he may get back into the consulting business next year, although probably not full-time.

As for Cleator's statements, Hedgecock said: "I think he got angry and did something stupid, and that's not the first or last time that will happen with Bill Cleator." But he also acknowledged that his critical comments have angered other members of the City Council, specifically Mayor Maureen O'Connor, and he believes they have taken it out on De la Fuente.

As evidence of that, Hedgecock claims the mayor has unfairly delayed De la Fuente's application to make his property part of a proposed foreign trade zone in Otay Mesa.

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