Magazine article Newsweek

San Diego's Pole Tax; A Wave of Scandals Roils the City's Leadership Ranks

Magazine article Newsweek

San Diego's Pole Tax; A Wave of Scandals Roils the City's Leadership Ranks

Article excerpt

Byline: Jamie Reno

San Diegans like to call their seaside paradise "America's Finest City." What else to name a place where city councilmen accept illegal campaign contributions on behalf of a strip-club owner looking to make the town safe for nude lap dancing? Last week a federal jury here convicted Acting Mayor Michael Zucchet and City Councilman Ralph Inzunza in a case that's come to be known as "Strippergate." The verdict came just days after Zucchet replaced Mayor Dick Murphy, who resigned July 15 amid controversy over the city's ailing pension fund. "Simply put, I am devastated," Zucchet said, adding that he would resign immediately because "the city of San Diego needs to get on with its business."

These days, San Diego's business seems to be controversy--from extortion to conspiracy to alleged war profiteering to exotic dancing. The city's municipal bonds have been downgraded to junk status because of the $1.7 billion pension shortfall, city services have been slashed, and there's even talk that San Diego might have to file for bankruptcy protection. The U.S. attorney and the Securities and Exchange Commission are looking into possible indictments related to the pension crisis, and the San Diego district attorney has filed criminal conflict-of-interest charges against six former pension-board members. Meantime, Rep. Randy (Duke) Cunningham, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, is under investigation by a federal grand jury for selling his house at an allegedly inflated price to a defense contractor--whose share of government contracts has increased in recent years. …

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