Andrew Edwards, Staff Writer
Posted: 10/11/2010 05:43:22 PM PDT

SAN BERNARDINO – A Yes on Measure C mailer makes allusions to recent scandals afflicting San Bernardino County government and the Los Angeles County city of Bell, but Measure C would actually make this city’s organization more similar to those places.

Measure C would amend the City Charter to give San Bernardino’s City Council and mayor authority to select the city attorney, city clerk and city treasurer. Bell and San Bernardino County had appointed legal counsel during the events that have led to former officials in both places being charged with felonies.

City Attorney James F. Penman opposes Measure C and described the recent mailer as presenting an “almost schizophrenic argument.”

“They are contradicting themselves, no doubt about it,” Penman said. “That’s all I know to say.”

A leader of the Yes on C group, however, defended the piece. Attorney Mark Edwards said the idea behind the mailer was more about calling for an end to political fiefdoms within City Hall.

“We need a city government that is not multi-headed, where you have unaccountable politicians holding administrative positions,” said Edwards, who is the principal officer of the Yes on C group. Edwards is Penman’s former brother-in-law.

“What happened in Bell was politicians acting without accountability,” Edwards said.

The questions for those who will vote on Measure C are indeed ones of accountability and trust.

As Edwards described, the argument in favor of the referendum is the idea of professionalizing City Hall and taking politics out of the daily grind of local governance.

Trust the council and mayor to choose three top officials, they say, and the results will be the hiring of well-qualified public servants and an end to the political roughhousing that San Bernardino is known for.

Opponents reply that Measure C would diminish San Bernardino residents’ right to vote while eliminating the independence of an elected city attorney who would have power to investigate local officials.

Whereas Edwards sees a city attorney who is only accountable to the electorate every four years, Penman says the choice is whether voters want an attorney who is accountable to them or to a comparatively tiny group of elected officials.

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