Dennis Herrera Called Out Over Pension Reform Ethics

Categories: Politics
Deciphering what's legally dumb
Public Defender Jeff Adachi's crusade continues, but now he's turning his sights on City Attorney Dennis Herrera, claiming he is using his role as the city's chief lawyer to influence pension reform.

Adachi's SF Pension Reform group fired off a letter to Herrera today, asking him to recuse himself from anything related to pension reform measures planned for the November ballot. The letter points out that Herrera, who is running for mayor, has too much power when it comes to writing the ballot language. In other words, he can decide whether it's called "benefits reform" instead of "pension reform."

Essentially, the group claims, that because Herrera has taken a clear position against Adachi's pension reform ballot measure -- known as Proposition B -- he shouldn't be allowed to draft any of the ballot language or work on any pension reform measure in the role of city attorney.

According to the letter, Herrera states on May 17, 2011, that Proposition B is "incredibly insulting [and] denigrating the work that was done [by organized labor]." The group also claims that Herrera is putting together a union-backed pension reform measure that would directly compete with Adachi's measure --  the San Francisco Pension Reform Act.

"City Attorney Herrera's political involvement in developing and advocating for a particular pension reform measure calls into question whether he can remain impartial in carrying out the significant responsibilities of his office with regard to competing measures," Adachi said in a statement.

He then called on Herrera to appoint an independent outside counsel to assume the role of city attorney while working on any pension reform ballot measures.The group accused Herrera of using his city attorney position to take a political side on pension reform, and then use that to attract money and support for his mayoral campaign.

"To allow him to continue in this dual capacity is the equivalent of letting the proverbial fox guard the henhouse," says Craig Weber, former member of the Civil Grand Jury, which released reports on pension reform.

SF Weekly
called Herrera's office to ask whether the city attorney would recuse himself from pension reform work. Here is what his spokesman Matt Dorsey told us:

"I assume that Jeff Adachi publicly opposes murder and rape, and yet that doesn't prevent him from representing murders and rapists in court as the public defender," Dorsey says. "That same principle applies to the city attorney -- and Jeff knows it. Dennis has the absolute right, as a candidate for office, to articulate his views on public policy.

He then punctuated his statement with this scathing remark: "Public policy can be both dumb and legal. The city attorney's job is only to defend legal aspects. Dumb is a job for others."

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My Voice Nation Help

Why don't you reprint Herrera's Prop B ballot questions so people can see for themselves if it was an unbiased presentation?  We already know Herrera purposefully omitted the word "pension" from the Prop B ballot summary.  He certainly should recuse himself. 

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