Restoring the sanctuary - Page 3

Newsom leaks legal document to counter strong support for pro-immigrant legislation

But that does not negate the fact that we are right on this issue. We should stand up for what is right and we should not be afraid of litigation."

Avalos was equally appalled by this seemingly unethical leak by the Mayor's Office. "I thought we just had something to celebrate, having a rally to support David Campos' legislation and now we have memos being leaked," Avalos said. "It's unfeeling at best. By leaking a confidential memo that contains privileged attorney-client information, you are undermining the city's legal position on an issue. And obviously you are putting your personal career interests over the city. If the mayor's political position is more important than the welfare of the city, that's pretty worrying to the Board of Supervisors."

The City Attorney's Office responded to the leak by issuing another memo, this time outlining the legal and fiscal perils of leaking attorney-client privileged materials. "Confidential legal advice is not intended to be fodder in political disputes," City Attorney Dennis Herrera stated, noting that he was "not aware of a city official or employee who has acknowledged responsibility for the disclosure."

And, initially, no one in the Mayor's Office took responsibility for the leak.

"It is my understanding that the Chronicle got it from a confidential source," Newsom Press Secretary Nathan Ballard told the Guardian, claiming that "the Campos bill paints a target on us and puts our entire sanctuary city policy at risk."

But by week's end, pressure was building on Newsom to reveal whodunit.

"While I welcome the issuance of the City Attorney's legal guidance reminding the Mayor's Office and the Board of Supervisors of their obligation to keep attorney-client privileged information confidential, a thorough investigation is needed to hold those responsible accountable," Avalos stated, asking the City Attorney's Office and the Ethics Commission to get involved.

Shortly after Avalos asked for an investigation, I covered the swearing-in ceremony for Gascón at City Hall, during which Gascón told the assembled that "safety without social justice is not safety."

Struck by the chief's words, I asked the mayor if he was concerned about the apparent breach of security that occurred in his office when the memo was leaked. Newsom responded angrily, noting that clients, in an attorney-client privilege arrangement, can release memos if they so choose.

"So, you did leak the memo to the Chronicle?" I asked.

"I handed it," Newsom answered, pausing to look at Ballard, "to some of my people." Chronicle reporter Heather Knight was also there and wrote in a story published the next day that Newsom "authorized the leak."

When I asked if leaking the memo was a preemptive strike against the Campos legislation, the mayor went into a rant about how Campos' proposal could open the city to the threat of lawsuits and the loss of the entire sanctuary ordinance.

But concerns about lawsuits didn't stop Newsom from pushing for same-sex marriage in 2004. When I asked Newsom to explain this disparity, he dismissed my question and Ballard announced it was time to move along.

Angela Chan, staff attorney with the Asian Law Caucus, challenged Newsom's claim that Campos' legislation puts the city's entire sanctuary ordinance at risk, telling the Guardian, "It's a false ultimatum."