SAN FRANCISCO -San Diego deputy city attorney Mark Blake, who led the city's disclosure practices working group, will leave for a job in San Francisco at the end of the month.
Blake - the chief deputy city attorney for public finance, securities, and disclosure - was hired in 2005 to rebuild San Diego's disclosure regime in the wake of a pension disclosure scandal that forced the city's top officials from office and prompted Securities and Exchange Commission sanctions. The city is now close to returning to the public municipal bond market after a four-year absence.
Blake's job was tough because his boss, elected city attorney Michael Aguirre, and San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders bitterly and publicly disagree over the city's financial reforms. Aguirre says the reforms haven't gone far enough, and he's blocking a $103 million certificate of participation deal that he says should face voter scrutiny.
Blake "possessed all the personal skills needed to help establish a new disclosure regime in San Diego," said John McNally, a lawyer with Hawkins Delafield & Wood LLP, the city's outside disclosure counsel.
Indeed, Blake gets high marks from administration officials who do not usually have friendly relations with the city attorney's office.
"He played a key role in getting the disclosure practices working group up and running," said Lakshmi Kommi, the city's director of debt management. "My department will definitely miss him."
The working group is a multidisciplinary committee that reviews all bond documents and city financial reports, letting a broad range of city officials and departments weigh-in on disclosure, Blake said. He said his goal was to create a "cutting-edge" disclosure process that would ensure future San Diego administrations would fully disclose problems to policymakers and investors.
"We've tried to establish a certification and accountability process that allows people to say they're not ready or comfortable," he said. "We have established a much more disciplined and thorough review process."
Blake said he is not leaving San Diego because he disagreed with Aguirre's decision to block the COP deal. Aguirre said the deal requires voter approval because it differs from the lease deals that California courts have approved. In those deals, the COPs raise money to finance improvements on the leased properties. In San Diego's deal, the proceeds would finance unrelated capital projects.
Blake and outside counsel advised Aguirre that the asset-transfer structure is legal, but Aguirre blocked the deal. Blake was diplomatic about the disagreement.
"I as a bond attorney could get comfortable with it," he said. "But this is a healthy debate that I believe is worth having."
Blake said he is returning to a job in the office of San Francisco city attorney Dennis Herrera because he needs to spend more time with his wife and young child. Blake said he is tired of taking the "Southwest bus" to work, joking about his commute by discount airline.
He said he took the job in San Diego because it was an opportunity to work on some of the most important municipal finance problems in the state.
"It was a challenge," he said, that took him "into the eye of the storm. You don't get many jobs like that."
Andrew Ackerman contributed to this story.