Hopeful moved to area 2 weeks ago
Jesse B. Gill, Staff Writer
Posted: 06/29/2011 05:28:13 PM PDT

SAN BERNARDINO – City attorney hopeful David McKenna said he only made the decision two weeks ago to move here and challenge longtime incumbent Jim Penman.

McKenna, 66, held an informal news conference on Wednesday at San Bernardino Valley College to formally announce his bid for the city attorney’s post.

He filed paperwork announcing his intention Tuesday with the City Clerk’s Office.

“I’m looking forward to bringing my experience to an office that really hasn’t had a fresh look in 24 years,” he said.

Penman claimed McKenna was recruited by Mayor Pat Morris – a claim both McKenna and the Mayor’s Office deny – and suggested the man is only interested in becoming the San Bernardino city attorney to “supplement his taxpayer retirement.”

“I think he’s only interested in the salary,” Penman said. “I am concerned about the depth of his commitment to the city.”

Penman said he doubted that McKenna would run for city attorney without communicating with Morris.

“There’s no way (McKenna) woke up one day in the retirement community of Sun City and decided to put his house up for sale and run for San Bernardino city attorney without being prompted,” he said.

McKenna said friends in San Bernardino encouraged him to run for city attorney, and he made the final decision two weeks ago to move to the city and throw his hat in the ring.

He said he and Morris “go way back” but don’t have a personal relationship.

Morris’ son and chief of staff, Jim Morris, said Tuesday that the two don’t have a relationship at all.

As for his residency, McKenna listed a home on Arrowhead Avenue in north San Bernardino. He said he moved in on Friday.

“I signed my lease on (June) 24. I physically moved on the 27th,” he said. “I filed my voter registration from that address on Monday.”

He said he is in the process of selling his Sun City home and plans to live in San Bernardino regardless of the outcome of November’s election.

“I’ve signed an 18-month lease, and I look forward to winning,” he said, “but if I don’t, I look forward to staying here awhile.”

Penman also said Tuesday that McKenna was a criminal defense attorney without significant experience in civil litigation, which accounts for most of a city attorney’s caseload.

“Defending the city when it is sued in civil cases is the most important duty of the city attorney,” Penman said. “it takes most of our time and the lion’s share of our budget (about 59 percent).”

San Bernardino has 123 pending civil lawsuits, he said.

McKenna said Wednesday that the Riverside law firm where he has worked for 10 years focuses on litigation.

“I have done some criminal defense,” he said, “but in the last 10 years, I would say about 80 percent of my law practice has been civil litigation, land use and real estate issues.”

McKenna was elected to the the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors in 1980, but did not finish his one and only term. He said he left the office because he could not live on the salary of a county supervisor, which he said was $24,000 at the time.

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