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Filner, Goldsmith Clash Over Hotel Fee Agreement

It was supposed to be City Attorney Jan Goldsmith’s press conference. But Mayor Bob Filner slipped in midway, and then took the podium.

Aired 2/21/13 on KPBS News.

San Diego Mayor Bob Filner showed up unannounced to a press conference today and got into a heated debate with City Attorney Jan Goldsmith.

City Attorney Jan Goldsmith speaks at a press conference over the Tourism Marketing District agreement.

Filner crashed the party because of his dispute with the Tourism Marketing District over money raised from a 2 percent hotel room fee. He says that fee is really a tax, so it is illegal to impose it without a public vote.

Although the City Council already approved a 39.5-year agreement with the TMD, Filner has not signed off on financial transactions called for in the agreement.

Now Filner is negotiating with hoteliers over their agreement. He wants four things: legal protection for the city if the hotel fee goes to court, a shorter tourism marketing district agreement, a requirement that downtown hotels pay their employees a living wage and a cut of the hotel fee for other city services.

Goldsmith called the news conference to discuss legal aspects of Filner's four requests. He said the city already has legal protection and that taking a cut of the hotel fee for the city would be illegal, because then that fee would become a tax.

“Then it’s no longer just benefitting you, that is a tax, and it is illegal to impose a tax without a vote of the people,” he said.

Goldsmith said Filner’s two other requests are up to the City Council.

Mayor Bob Filner speaks after crashing a press conference held by City Attorney Jan Goldsmith.

“The mayor under our City Charter is empowered to make recommendations to the City Council, the mayor may appear and argue in front of the City Council, and has a veto power over legislation adopted by the City Council," he said. "But he cannot unilaterally impose policies.”

Filner slipped in part of the way though the press conference. When a reporter asked if Goldsmith had shared these opinions with the mayor, Filner shouted “no” and then took the podium.

“He did not advise me," he said. "It would have been nice, Mr. Goldsmith, to have a memo, it would have been nice to have advice. I am your client. That’s privileged communication. You not only have been unprofessional but unethical in this press conference.”

Goldsmith said he could not comment on whether Filner has to release the hotel money, or what would happen if he didn’t, because it’s a legal matter.

But before he left the room, he let loose a final quip.

“We used to have a city attorney who wanted to be mayor, now we have a mayor who wants to be city attorney,” he said.

Comments

Avatar for user 'Stu333'

Stu333 | February 20, 2013 at 6:36 p.m. ― 1 year, 6 months ago

Funny how that strong Mayor Charter was so aggressively supported when the Mayor was with the Republican leaning City Council members and City Attorney Goldsmith. Mayor Filner is correct he was due some prior communication from his City Attorney before calling a Press Conference to cry about these issues that are in disagreement. Anything can be litigated of course and interpretation disputes are common between legal counselors. Keep in mind San Diego resident Taxpayers all remember the sleepy City Attorney Casey Gwinn and his negligence on the Chargers contract guarantees and the City Pension fiasco & Petco park bond SEC issues. Also negotiations never have been the city councils strong point as we see how the city got hammered on the sale of MCRD water front properties to McMillian Company for a steal. So let the Mayor have another eye & input on that overly extended 39 yr contract.

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Avatar for user 'kristenaliotti'

kristenaliotti | February 20, 2013 at 8:33 p.m. ― 1 year, 6 months ago

Filner did not shout, by the way.

"When a reporter asked if Goldsmith had shared these opinions with the mayor, Filner shouted “no” and then took the podium."

If you are referring to the question by the Channel 10 reporter who asked Goldsmith twice if he had contacted Mayor Filner...with Goldsmith not replying twice.....you can clearly see on the Channel 10 video that Filner did not shout. Not at all. He answered in a very civil but clear manor.

Your KPBS report is either inaccurate, or purposefully biased.

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Avatar for user 'kristenaliotti'

kristenaliotti | February 20, 2013 at 8:35 p.m. ― 1 year, 6 months ago

whoops, *manner* - "a clear and civil manner"

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Avatar for user 'Claire Trageser'

Claire Trageser, KPBS Staff | February 20, 2013 at 9:33 p.m. ― 1 year, 6 months ago

Hi Kristen,

I was at the press conference, and I'd say that Filner shouted "no" while Goldsmith was speaking. He was making sure he was loud enough to be heard over Goldsmith and the reporter. But I agree that Filner was very civil throughout the event.

Thanks for your comment!

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | February 20, 2013 at 9:43 p.m. ― 1 year, 6 months ago

When there was a Republican mayor, Goldsmith played the obedient lap dog and hid inside his office all day.

Now that a Democrat is in power he is suddenly coming out from under his rock?

Go back into hiding sir, you are making a bad hairpiece out of yourself.

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Avatar for user 'mhcfires'

mhcfires | February 20, 2013 at 10:21 p.m. ― 1 year, 6 months ago

Filner is a first class jerk. He is and always has been a very rude person. He has no honor. I may be a Democrat, but I would never vote for him. He wants to renege on every contract that doesn't go his way. He will screw the city's tourism industry just to get his way. I say to hell with Filner.

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Avatar for user 'grassisgreener'

grassisgreener | February 20, 2013 at 11:49 p.m. ― 1 year, 6 months ago

This just proves a couple things we already know.
1. Filner has aboslutely no tact -- how that guy ever survived as a Washington politician I'll never know
2. He puts scoring political points ahead of making rational decisions based on what's best for everyone in the city -- The hotel tax is collected because tourists come into the city, stay in hotels, eat in restaurants and shop at local businesses. This means jobs and tax revenues so wouldn't it make sense that a portion of that hotel tax goes back into promoting San Diego tourism?

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Avatar for user 'padredave'

padredave | February 21, 2013 at 11:07 a.m. ― 1 year, 6 months ago

Bob Filner is a breath of fresh air. Its about time the Old Boys Club was taken to task. Go Bob

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Avatar for user 'CaliforniaDefender'

CaliforniaDefender | February 21, 2013 at 11:54 a.m. ― 1 year, 6 months ago

“We used to have a city attorney who wanted to be mayor, now we have a mayor who wants to be city attorney,” he said.

===

Very true. Why did Filner leave his cushy Congressional seat? Because he wasn't ever going to be Speaker of the House. He couldn't rule Washington, so now he wants to rule San Diego.

He views everyone around him like subjects, not partners. His leadership style is more suited to his hometown Pittsburgh.

Filner, it's time for you and your massive ego to return home. And don't forget your Steelers jersey.

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Avatar for user 'interested'

interested | February 23, 2013 at 1:57 p.m. ― 1 year, 6 months ago

Mayor Filner is a breadth of non-developer/non-insider fresh air. Keep up the good work, Bob.

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