Devaney carries insider baggage in city attorney fight
San Diego Union Tribune
By Greg Moran
October 8, 2004
In 1992, after seven years of working her way through the San Diego City Attorney's Office,
Leslie Devaney decided it was time for a change.
To the shock of some of her colleagues, she took a job as a senior litigator for insurance giant
American Insurance Group.
Four years later, following a lunch with the new city attorney, Casey Gwinn, Devaney concluded it
was time for a change.
She returned to the office she had left, this time to be Gwinn's top assistant. Now, eight years
after that lunch, Devaney is attempting one more change: moving up from No. 2 in the office to
the top slot...
But in a year when City Hall has been rocked by revelations about its debt-ridden pension fund
and federal investigations into financial disclosure practices, Devaney is faced with an unusual
But at the same time, she has to fend off attacks from her opponent, Mike Aguirre, a securities
lawyer in private practice, that she is part of the City Hall culture that is responsible for the city's
"Devaney's biggest problem is she is too associated with the Gwinn faction," said Carl Luna, a
political science professor at Mesa College. "With all this bad news coming down, it makes
everyone in City Hall look bad."
Education: Bachelor's degree in political science from the University of California San Diego; law
degree from the University of San Diego.
Experience: Executive assistant city attorney (on unpaid leave for campaign); former deputy city
attorney; senior litigator for American Insurance Group.
Personal: Married to Frank Devaney; two daughters, Kaitlin, 16, and Brenna, 14...
She is endorsed by Gwinn and a list of other organizations – such as the Lincoln Club, a
Republican business group, and the association representing state deputy attorneys general.
Devaney has raised $314,881 in cash for her campaign, including a personal loan of $31,000.
Devaney, whose husband, Frank, is also a lawyer in the City Attorney's Office, said she
left the office in 1992 in large part because she felt she was being shut out of the bigger, more
interesting cases. She had begun working there in 1985, concentrating on cases of alleged
police excessive force and dangerous road conditions...
Recruited by AIG to establish a corporate office here, she jumped at the chance. "It
was a whole new world," she said. "There is a whole other mentality in private practice
– the work ethic, other things. You always have to be constantly learning."
But after four years, she got a call from Gwinn asking her to lunch. He was about to succeed
John Witt as city attorney and wanted to discuss ideas he had for the office, she said.
At the end of the lunch, Gwinn offered her the job as second in command. "I thought it
would be a great challenge," she said of her decision to return. "And as the second in charge, I
could help shape it into what I thought the office could become."
...Devaney bristles at Aguirre's efforts to hold her responsible for a series of ills – from the
pension debacle to the Chargers' ticket guarantee and the $100 million verdict against the city in
the Roque de la Fuente II case. The huge verdict came in a suit where de la Fuente said the
actions of city officials devalued an Otay Mesa business park he developed. She tells audiences
she expects Aguirre to next blame her for global warming.
But the task of touting her experience in the office while trying to distance herself
from the office's controversial actions is tricky. "She is trying hard to present herself as a
capable administrator," Luna said. "The problem is, that does not gibe with things not going very
If she is elected, her husband would leave the City Attorney's Office to avoid potential conflicts of
interest, Devaney said. She and her husband have two teenage daughters...
|American International Group