Andrew Edwards, Staff Writer
Posted: 01/04/2010 08:23:08 PM PST

SAN BERNARDINO – A divided City Council refused to reimburse female employees of the City Attorney’s Office for nearly $4,000 in legal fees incurred during a recent investigation of an alleged document theft.

The Police Department’s investigation concluded without any charges being filed.

Monday’s vote was the latest development in the intracity conflicts stemming from the leak of internal memo that occurred during 2009’s mayoral campaign between Mayor Pat Morris and City Attorney James F. Penman.

The allegedly stolen memo reportedly went missing from a women’s restroom on the top floor of City Hall before being delivered to Penman’s office. An unknown party subsequently leaked the memo, which pertained to a police inquiry into the circumstances of a sex offender who performed work at a church that hosts one of the city’s Operation Phoenix youth centers.

The memo reported that children were not in danger. Penman has repeatedly contended the document revealed an attempt to cover up the offender’s presence.

Women working for the City Attorney’s Office said Monday that they endured undue suspicion during the Police Department’s investigation into how the document got from the restroom to Penman’s office.

“Silly as it sounds, some of the employees were afraid to go the restroom by themselves,” deputy city attorney Stephanie Eastland said, adding that her 19 years working for the city convinced her that the theft allegation was just another part of the past year’s election campaign.

“For me personally, I took it with a grain of salt,” she said. “I considered the investigation to be business as usual in San Bernardino politics.”

The female employees hired attorney Andrew Roth, husband of senior assistant city attorney Diane Roth, to represent them during the investigation.

The mayor said from the dais Monday that it would be “ludicrous” to spend taxpayer money on Andrew Roth’s fees, maintaining the attorney advised Penman’s employees not to cooperate with police.

Morris referred to the document’s disappearance from the restroom as a crime and said prosecutors did not file charges only because they did not have enough evidence to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the memo was actually stolen.

“I can’t imagine the City Council agreeing to this type of reimbursement,” Morris said.

Penman shot back that the document was accidentally picked up by one of his employees after being left in the restroom. He also disagreed with Morris’ contention that employees did not cooperate.

Morris and Penman were locked in argument when Councilman Chas Kelley interrupted them to demand a vote.

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