All public officials say they are in favor of greater government transparency. The reason is simple: Whether we are talking about campaign finance and lobbying laws, community budgeting or police body camera videos, the public believes they have a right to the whole truth about government decision-making — as they should. But talk is cheap, and it is important that candidates have a proven track record of transparency and a plan to continue moving the ball forward.
My default position has always been to be as transparent as possible when serving the public. That’s why I worked so hard as chair of San Diego’s Ethics Commission to increase campaign disclosures and overhaul lobbying restrictions. It’s why I took pride in my work on the San Diego Police Department Use of Force Task Force, where we made recommendations for more transparency from the Police Department and closer collaboration between neighborhoods and police officers. If you are on the right side of the law (and the right side of the public interest), you have nothing to hide. That’s why, when I become the city’s head lawyer, I will lean in to transparency.
Immediately upon taking office, I will issue a public written policy on the criteria the office will use to determine what legal opinions are withheld because of the potential harm public release could do to the city and taxpayers as long as doing so does not violate the attorney-client privilege. If we withhold an opinion, we will identify the reasons for it so that we can also be held accountable. If time reduces the potential harm to the city, we will revisit releasing a previously withheld opinion.
I will consistently issue – and make public – legal opinions to the City Council, mayor and other city officials when doing so won’t compromise the city’s (and taxpayers’) position. Providing more legal opinions to the public will increase transparency and accountability by giving San Diegans an understanding of the information city officials use to make their decisions.