Marco Verdugo sworn in as Chula Vista’s new city attorney

Chula Vista swore in its newest elected city attorney on Tuesday.

Marco Verdugo, 41, joined the City Council on the dais after winning the special election in March with nearly 60 percent of the vote.

“As your city attorney, I pledge to work tirelessly to protect our city’s interests,” Verdugo said after taking the oath of office at City Hall. “Our office will collaborate closely with city officials, community leaders and residents to tackle the issues that matter most to you.”

He also said he was committed to keeping communities safe and to “always put the law first.”

Verdugo had campaigned, in large part, on the promise of restoring the public’s trust in local governance and safeguarding City Hall from scandals.

Late last year, he unveiled a plan for that: amend the city charter to give officials voting rights to suspend an indicted council member (currently, the council can only suspend one of their own if convicted of a felony), establish a limit for how long candidates running for office can carry debt after an election, and create an independent auditor’s office that would randomly audit city departments and share its findings with the public.

Chula Vista just lost a council member to corruption. Former District 4 Councilmember Andrea Cardenas pleaded guilty in February to two charges of grand theft related to more than $200,000 she and her brother, Jesus Cardenas, fraudulently obtained from the federal Paycheck Protection Program and the state Employment Development Department. She resigned from office that month and is scheduled to be sentenced in late August.

The criminal charges had only worsened issues of public trust.

A year ago, state election regulators began investigating Andrea Cardenas for allegations that she violated conflict-of-interest and economic-interest disclosure laws related to cannabis companies represented by Grassroots Resources, her brother’s political consulting firm that employed Andrea Cardenas and helped get her elected in 2020. The case remains pending.

Several residents had also questioned the motives behind City Council votes, including a previous effort spearheaded by Cardenas to explore Harborside Park’s housing potential.

The special election for city attorney was not devoid of controversy. City officials called for the special election after Simon Silva won the November 2022 election, but died two months prior. His name could not be removed from the ballot. Many had criticized the San Diego Democratic Party for promoting and encouraging voters to elect him despite his death and the potential for a $2 million special election.

Verdugo beat Bart Miesfeld, 65, who was Chula Vista’s last appointed city attorney from 2008 to 2010. Glen Googins followed as the first elected city attorney. He served through February 2023 after being barred from running again.

Jill Maland, a lawyer with Lounsbery Ferguson Altona and Peak LLP, served as acting city attorney in the interim. She was recognized for her work Tuesday.

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