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California and the West

Mayor Golding Case Dismissed

July 23, 1999|TONY PERRY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

With a withering blast at the county grand jury, the presiding judge of San Diego dismissed civil misconduct charges Thursday filed by the jury against Mayor Susan Golding.

Judge Wayne Peterson agreed with Dist. Atty. Paul Pfingst that the jury had done a sloppy job of gathering evidence and that Golding was "factually innocent" of the two charges filed.

"The grand jury ignored the Constitution, ignored the facts and ignored common sense," Peterson said.

Using an obscure section of state law, the grand jury accused Golding of back-room politicking to gain support for a downtown baseball park and of ignoring the public interest by letting a utility company get away with not putting lines underground.

If the case had gone to court, and Golding had been found guilty, she could have been removed from office.

The judge scolded the grand jury Thursday for wasting taxpayer money and sullying the reputation of previous grand juries. He said the debacle could have been avoided if the jury had sought legal counsel.

Pfingst found that both charges were false and that public documents that are easily obtainable would have shown that to the jury. He also scored the jury's reliance on hearsay and refusal to let Golding give her side of the story.

Jury Foreman Peter DiRenza declined to comment on Peterson's decision. He and three other jury members had asked that Pfingst be removed from the case because of a supposed political disposition to side with Golding, a fellow Republican.

Golding, who was attending the kickoff of the city's annual celebration of the U.S. Navy, did not attend the hourlong hearing but at a news conference later expressed relief that the controversy is over. "It was like being in Never-Never Land," she said.

She declined to rule out filing private legal action against grand jury members.

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