Googins, Faigin Battle for First City Attorney in Chula Vista History


Published June 8, 2010 by San Diego News Network (

Up to now, the city attorney in Chula Vista was appointed by the city council but Proposition Q — a 2008 ballot measure — changed city charter to make it an elected position and Chula Vistans will go to the polls Tuesday to choose between Glen Googins and Robert Faigin as their first elected city attorney.

With a salary of more than $200,000, the city attorney will be the highest paid position in Chula Vista city government.

Both Googins and Faigin promise to follow the rule of law, claim to be independent and accuse his opponent of being beholden to special interests trying to influence City Hall.

They see the position as an advisor, not policy maker, and share concerns expressed by members of the City Council and Proposition Q opponents that the office has the potential to become politicized and impact legal advice offered to the council and city departments.

But that’s also why both claim he should be elected, not his opponent.

“Obviously, now theoretically they’re more responsible to the people than the city council members,” said current City Attorney Bart Miesfeld, “but day to day responsibilities won’t change.”

Faigin, a resident of Lakeside, has been the county sheriff’s chief counsel since 2002 and decided to run after members of the South County sheriff’s office told him no qualified candidates sought the position.

Googins opened his private practice handling real estate and development issues in 2004 after 11 years of similar work in the city attorney’s office. Disagreements with then City Attorney Ann Moore led Googins to resign, in the process receiving a $175,000 severance package.

Joseph Casas, the candidate endorsed by the San Diego County Democratic Party, dropped out of the race in March and is currently representing Police Chief David Bejarano against accusations of fraud by a former business partner.

“The downside to turning it into an elected position is that instantly the developers, Corky McMillan, all of those people start pumping money into campaigns because they want to influence city politics,” Faigin said.

By the May 27 financial filing deadline, Googins had raised $33,000 from 100 donors, including teachers, border patrol agents and city residents, but also several lawyers and real estate developers. In addition he raised nearly $1,000 from executives from The Corky McMillin Companies, including company president and CEO Mark McMillin.

Googins endorsers include the Chula Vista Police Officer and Firefighter Associations, former City Attorney John Kaheny, state assemblymember Mary Salas, County Supervisor Greg Cox and The Republican Party of San Diego County, though it is a non-partisan race.

About one-third of donors to Googin’s campaign are Chula Vista residents.

“I’m not promising anyone anything,” Googins said. “Just because I’ve represented developers doesn’t mean I’m going to favor any developers. When I’m with the city, the city’s my client.”

Faigin’s campaign raised $2,450 and put $10,000 of his own money into his campaign. Endorsers include former Sheriff Bill Kolender, La Prensa San Diego and The San Diego Union Tribune.

Seven of 10 donors to his campaign are Chula Vista residents, including Eric and Karen Jentz.

Jentz, owner of Balboa Realty, has heavily funded candidates and ballot measures in the last three Chula Vista city elections, also supporting mayoral candidate Steve Castaneda as well as Pamela Bensoussan and Pat Aguilar who is currently running for a seat on the city council.

Through various organizations, the Jentz gave Faigin’s campaign more than $10,000 and gave San Diego County Citizens for Representative Government about $80,000, who sent out mailers supporting Faigin and Aguilar.

For the 2008 campaign to make Chula Vista’s city attorney an elected position, Jentz and his wife spent more than $70,000 on Yes on Proposition Q campaign, three times more than No on Q committee.

During the Proposition E campaign, the two spent about $300,000, more than half of all money spent by those for or against the measure to limit city building height.

In total, the couple may have spent more than $1 million in Chula Vista campaigns and lawsuits against the city since the 2006 election, becoming two of the largest contributors in city politics, according to reports.

Days after Faigin was endorsed by the Union Tribune, Googins campaign filed a complaint claiming Eric Jentz “creates political committees through which he appears to funnel his expenditures in an attempt to conceal his or his company’s involvement.”

According to the Political Reform Act, if more than 80 percent of funding for a committee comes from a single source, use of the committee’s name must include the name of the major funder. Violators may face fines. Jentz name was included in previous Proposition Q and Proposition E committee campaign statements.

Copies of the complaint were sent to the current Chula Vista city attorney, district attorney, the state attorney general and the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC).

The FPPC said it will not pursue an investigation, they said, because sufficient evidence wasn’t provided by the petitioner.

Faigin, who said he met Jentz twice, said he never asked the Jentz to spend a dime on his campaign.

Attempts to get in touch with Eric Jentz over the past week were unsuccessful.

Mark Baber, a resident of La Mesa and general counsel to Republican Party of San Diego County who has acted as treasurer to three committees heavily funded by Jentz, declined to comment. Baber is the current treasurer of the Yes on Proposition G committee Chula Vistans for Jobs and Fair Competition.

Googins has lived in Chula Vista for almost two decades. He thinks Jentz opposes his candidacy because of past policy disagreements while Googins was on the board of directors of Third Avenue Village Association, but said his past in the city gives him a better understanding of the community and the city attorney’s office.

“I’m going to be that much more accountable to this place because I’m going to go home to this community,” Googins said.

“He could [Faigin] be coming in with all sorts of crazy ideas.”

Faigin, a resident of Lakeside, sees his lack of connection to the community as an asset. It means he comes to the office with no entrenched special interests, he said.

“When I’m hiring an attorney, I don’t care where he lives,” Faigin said. “When the Chargers needed a quarterback, they didn’t go out and get the best guy in San Diego. They got the best guy available.”

“My entire time in dealing with one particular individual in Chula Vista couldn’t be more than an hour. I’m not beholden to anyone.”

Both candidates say their opponent is talking about campaign financiers and nasty flyers sent to people’s homes to distract from a lack of qualification.

Faigin has done internships for city attorney’s offices in Los Angeles, Malibu and Reno and has a masters in public administration but as a lawyer spent less than a year working directly for city governments. The county sheriff’s department is In contrast, Googins has never faced a jury before.

“The guy who wants to defend the second largest city in the county and hasn’t tried a jury trial,” said Faigin, who has tried more than 50 trial cases. “Living in Chula Vista doesn’t make up for a lack of experience.”

Ultimately, Googins said, he wouldn’t be getting support from current and former city staff if he wasn’t qualified, and criminal court experience has little to do with the daily duties of a city attorney.

Comments are closed.