David McKenna, left, is challenging City Attorney James F. Penman. The two addressed issues Tuesday ranging from the office’s budget to its role at City Hall. (Sun file photos)

Josh Dulaney, The (San Bernardino County) Sun
Posted: 10/11/2011 02:10:57 PM PDT

SAN BERNARDINO — Two candidates vying for the City Attorney’s Office clashed again during a Tuesday afternoon forum held at the Arrowhead Country Club.

City Attorney James F. Penman and challenger David McKenna addressed issues ranging from the office’s budget to its role at City Hall.

Penman won a coin toss to make the first opening statement.

He immediately touted his long history in the city and said his office has led crime sweeps and shut down drug houses.

Penman also said McKenna moved here in June at the request of 4th Ward Councilman Fred Shorett on behalf of Mayor Pat Morris because his office investigates alleged corruption in City Hall.

“San Bernardino needs a public watchdog, not a political lapdog, not my opponent,” Penman said.

McKenna said he wouldn’t be running if he didn’t believe he could do an excellent job.

He cited his 16 years of experience as the county’s public defender.

“I believe I have the qualifications to run an excellent City Attorney’s Office,” McKenna said.

McKenna said he is friends with Shorett.

“If you define recruiting as he called me and said `hey, we need you in San Bernardino, would you consider running?’ I guess you can call that recruitment,” McKenna said.

The candidates scrapped early over what an elected City Attorney should be doing on behalf of the city.

McKenna said the city charter’s outline is short and general so that it boils to down to who occupies the post.

He said an elected city attorney is not to set policy and added that Penman is “obsessed with anybody who supports anything in this town – if it’s supported by the mayor – he’s against it.”

Penman said an elected city attorney is to defend the city against lawsuits and enforce the Political Reform Act.

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