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DECISION 2000 / CALIFORNIA | MAYORAL RACES

San Diego Winner Puts Ethics Panel on Agenda

November 09, 2000|TONY PERRY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SAN DIEGO — Superior Court Judge Dick Murphy, campaigning as an outsider to defeat county Supervisor Ron Roberts in Tuesday's mayoral election, said Wednesday that his first priority as mayor will be to establish an ethics commission to restore public confidence in City Hall.

Murphy defeated Roberts 52% to 48% in a campaign marked by debate over the stalled project to build a downtown baseball stadium for the Padres and controversy over a lease with the National Football League's Chargers that has forced the city to pay millions of dollars for unsold tickets.

A city ethics commission would consider questions of campaign contributions, potential conflicts of interest and the sometimes cozy relationship between city officials and those seeking to do business with the city.

Murphy said he will urge U.S. Atty. Gregory Vega to complete his investigation into whether Councilwoman Valerie Stallings broke the law by accepting a lucrative stock tip from Padres owner John Moores while acting as a major booster of the ballpark project.

Until the Stallings investigation is completed, the city is blocked from selling the bonds to complete the ballpark, which would be the cornerstone of the most ambitious redevelopment project in city history.

Murphy also promised to talk to the Chargers management about renegotiating the team's lease to use city-owned Qualcomm Stadium. During the campaign, Murphy suggested that the city might sue the Chargers rather than continue to pay millions of dollars under the so-called ticket guarantee.

During the campaign, Murphy had repeatedly scorned Roberts as a "career politician" because of his 13 years in office, first on the City Council and then the Board of Supervisors.

With polls showing that voters are angry at the City Council over the Padres and Chargers deals, the term proved unbeatable for Murphy, whose low-key personality contrasted with the more combative Roberts.

"People want a change at City Hall," said Murphy, who--like Roberts--is a Republican and was a protege of Pete Wilson during his decade-long reign as San Diego mayor.

Although Murphy has been away from city politics since being appointed to the bench in 1985, outgoing Mayor Susan Golding said his years as a judge may serve him well as mayor.

"He has learned to make decisions with incomplete information and diverging viewpoints," Golding said. "That's what a mayor has to do."

In other California mayoral elections on Tuesday, Fresno voters chose Alan Autry, who played Lt. Bubba Skinner in the TV series "In the Heat of the Night," over Dan Whitehurst, a former mayor, 61% to 38%. In Sacramento, Councilwoman Heather Fargo defeated Councilman Rob Kerth, 53% to 47%.

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Times staff writer Julie Tamaki contributed to this story.

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