Maureen O'Connor (California politician)

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Maureen O'Connor
Maureen O'Connor.jpg
31st Mayor of San Diego
In office
June 3, 1986 – December 7, 1992
Preceded byRoger Hedgecock
Succeeded bySusan Golding
Personal details
Born (1946-07-14) July 14, 1946 (age 74)
San Diego, California, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
(m. 1977; died 1994)
Alma materSan Diego State University

Maureen Frances O'Connor (born July 14, 1946) is an American Democratic politician from California. She was mayor of San Diego from 1986 to 1992, the first woman to serve in that position. In 2013, federal prosecutors charged her with money laundering, but deferred prosecution based on her agreement to pay back the funds involved.[1] The charges were formally dismissed by Judge David Bartick on February 24, 2015.[2]

Early life[edit]

Maureen O'Connor was born in 1946 in San Diego, California. She was one of 13 children; her parents were Jerome O'Connor, formerly a local boxer known as "Kid Jerome" who later owned several liquor stores in San Diego, and Frances Mary O'Connor. She and her twin sister Mavourneen ("Mo") were avid athletes in their youth—she a swimmer and her sister a tennis player. All seven O'Connor daughters competed as precision swimmers, together winning more than 1000 team and individual medals and trophies.[3] Maureen graduated from San Diego State University in 1970. After graduation, O'Connor was a physical education teacher and counselor for Rosary High School for a few years.

Political career[edit]

Although shy, she got her start in politics after being treated rudely at City Hall. In 1971 she ran for and was elected to the San Diego City Council and served to 1979. O'Connor was commissioner for the Port of San Diego from 1980–1985.

O'Connor met her future husband Robert O. Peterson, founder of the Jack in the Box fast food chain, while first running for city council, and were married in 1977 in Europe. Although a Republican, he supported her in her political campaigns. He filed for divorce in 1985 but they soon reconciled. Peterson died in 1994. They had no children.

In 1983 she ran unsuccessfully for mayor against Roger Hedgecock, but won in 1985 after Hedgecock resigned under a cloud of scandal. O'Connor was San Diego's first female mayor, and the first Democrat to hold the office since 1971. She served two terms. O'Connor once spent a few nights incognito with the homeless to see first-hand how they were doing. A nun recognized her and whispered to her that "if you want to conceal your identity, you should remember that homeless women don't read the financial pages."[4]

Although known affectionally as "Mayor Mo" by her supporters, her critics included members of the city council. Former councilman Bob Filner accused her of avoiding debate and "bullying people, one issue at a time." Others charged that she avoided difficult issues and concentrated on her "'populist' appeal that [is] . . . 'a mile wide and an inch deep.'"[4]

In 2000 she joined consumer activists in decrying the notoriously destructive effects of utility deregulation on California. "This is turning into a nightmare for San Diego," O'Connor said. "It [deregulation] didn't work, unfortunately. . . Let's admit it, fix it and save San Diego."

O'Connor lives in San Diego.

2013 money laundering charges[edit]

In February 2013 O'Connor was charged in federal court with money laundering. Under an agreement with prosecutors, prosecution was deferred, contingent on her repaying $2 million which she allegedly took from a nonprofit foundation she managed, the R. P. Foundation, created by her late husband Robert O. Peterson. The fund is reported to be virtually defunct, its sole assets being $2 million owed to it by unspecified foundation insiders.[5] Prosecutors said her gambling activity exceeded $1 billion over the period 2000–2008, with net losses of around $13 million, leaving her "destitute".[6][7]

O'Connor attributed a brain tumor, which she had surgery for in 2011, as the reason for her addiction to gambling.[8]


I came in as a maverick, and I will go out as a maverick.

The mayor and the council in the past decade have decided to support the dessert menu: pay for ballparks, the Republican convention, anything that supports the chamber of commerce and the big downtown corporate leaders. They have neglected the basics: potholes in the streets, clean bay, clean ocean, affordable housing. When I left office there was an AAA bond rating, money in the bank. . . . [later] city government underfunded the pension fund to pay for this dessert menu.[9]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Moran, Greg (14 February 2013). "Ex-mayor gambled away $1 billion". U-T San Diego. Retrieved 14 February 2013.
  2. ^
  3. ^ Zamichow, Nora (September 14, 1992). "Mayor's Father, Jerome O'Connor, Dies at 87". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 16 February 2013.
  4. ^ a b "Lady Power in the Sunbelt", Time, March 19, 1990 by Jordan Bonfante
  5. ^ Potter, Matt (February 14, 2013). "Foundation at heart of O'Connor scandal was big donor to San Diego police, John Burton Foundation". San Diego Reader. Retrieved 16 February 2013.
  6. ^ Ex-Mayor of San Diego Confronts $1 Billion Gambling Problem, NY Times, Feb 14, 2013
  7. ^ "Ex-San Diego mayor gambled away nearly $1 billion, prosecutors say", LA Times, Feb 14, 2013
  8. ^ Jennifer Medina (14 February 2013). "San Diego Ex-Mayor Confronts $1 Billion Gambling Problem". The New York Times. Retrieved 17 February 2013.
  9. ^ Bauder, Don (October 27, 2005). "Corporate Welfare And Ethical Meltdown". San Diego Reader, cited at Archived from the original on 21 October 2013. Retrieved 16 February 2013.
Political offices
Preceded by
Ed Struiksma (acting)
Mayor of San Diego, California
Succeeded by
Susan Golding