San Diego City Councilman Carl DeMaio argues his major pension reform proposal is legal. He says he’s got a legal opinion to back it up. But you aren’t allowed to see it.
Former head of the city’s downtown redevelopment agency Fred Maas believes there are legal problems with requiring the agency to pay off the previous expansion of the city’s Convention Center. Maas says there’s a legal opinion to back it up. But you aren’t allowed to see this one, either.
“I wish it was available,” Maas said.
Both opinions are hidden under a veil of secrecy called attorney-client privilege, a legal protection that can keep lawyers’ advice private. The idea is to keep legal strategies and opinions confidential so that a client, in this case the city, isn’t disadvantaged in litigation.
But circumstances over the past few months have raised potential inconsistencies in how the city uses its legal privilege. It has allowed city leaders like DeMaio and Maas to make their case without having to show the nuance, risk and complexity that often accompany these types of discussions.