WASHINGTON - It is rare for the Securities and Exchange Commission to sue individual public officials for alleged securities fraud and the commission's case against five former San Diego officials is meant to send a strong message: that public officials cannot avoid responsibility for their disclosures just because they are employees of municipalities, securities law experts said yesterday.

"Clearly the point is the SEC is not going to settle out for a minimal amount if you are signing certifications that are untrue," said one securities lawyer who asked for anonymity. "Just because you are an employee or something like that doesn't absolve you, doesn't give you a get-out-of-jail-free card."

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