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City, Newspapers Sue Each Other; Both Want Secret Settlement Revealed

May 29, 1991 GMT

SAN DIEGO (AP) _ Two newspapers and the city of San Diego are suing each other but both want the same result - a court order releasing details of an apparent hush-money payment at City Hall.

The Superior Court lawsuits filed Tuesday concern a secret $100,000 settlement deal between top city bureaucrats and a former city planner.

City Manager Jack McGrory and other officials have refused to release the information, saying a confidentiality agreement with the former planner, Susan Bray, prohibits them from doing so.

Bray, 45, was awarded a $100,000 stress-related disability payment in March to settle a claim that initially was filed as a sexual harassment complaint against her boss, former city planning director Robert Spaulding.

Spaulding was forced to resign by Mayor Maureen O’Connor after the settlement, negotiated by former City Manager John Lockwood, was uncovered publicly earlier this month.

The deal was even concealed from the City Council, which has hired a special independent investigator.

The lawsuit filed by attorneys for The San Diego Union and the San Diego Tribune contends the city is violating the state Public Records Act by keeping the information secret. The newspapers are seeking an order to release details of the settlement and bar the council from discussing the matter privately.

Despite the city’s initial position that it can’t release the information, its unusual lawsuit contends that city officials actually want the information made public.

″The City Council agrees with me (that) the lawsuit is the best way to make (information about the case) public,″ said City Attorney John Witt.

The city’s lawsuit names the Union, the Tribune, the Los Angeles Times and the parent company of San Diego television station KNSD as defendants. All four have made formal requests for the settlement agreement and related documents.

The city’s suit is designed to obtain a judge’s direction as to what aspects of the settlement must or could be released to the media and what must remain confidential, Witt said.

The city’s lawsuit says Spaulding and Bray object to releasing any material related to the matter, citing their rights to privacy.