Originally published March 21, 2013 at 11:25 a.m., updated March 21, 2013 at 5:21 p.m.
Demands by San Diego's Tourism Marketing District to require Mayor Bob Filner to sign an operating agreement that would release administrative funds to the visitor promotions agency were tentatively denied today by a San Diego Superior Court judge.
Filner has the discretion whether to sign the deal, something the mayor has argued since he first refused to give his blessing to the agreement, according to Judge Timothy Taylor's tentative ruling. He will issue a final decision after hearing oral arguments tomorrow afternoon.
The City Council renewed the TMD last November, but ex-Mayor Jerry Sanders did not sign the operating agreement before he left office. His successor, Filner, calls it a bad deal for taxpayers.
In his ruling, the judge pointed to the City Council's renewal resolution that authorizes -- but does not require -- the mayor or his designee to sign an'' agreement, not "the'' agreement.
"A plain reading of the 2012 resolution simply does not yield the conclusion that the council directed the mayor to enter the specific contract petitioner now claims must be signed,'' Taylor wrote.
Sanders seemed to think he had discretion, since he didn't sign the deal, according to the judge.
The City Council attempted to clarify its intention this week with a proposed resolution that sought to require the mayor to sign the TMD operating agreement, but the document was returned to staff before it was introduced. The judge said he knew about the new resolution but was unaware of its fate as he wrote his ruling.
In a statement, Filner said he was grateful for the “thoughtful consideration" from Taylor.
"I believe that the TMD contract is flawed and could potentially cost taxpayers millions, so I refused to sign it," Filner's statement continued. "It is now time to return to the negotiation table...I am prepared to work out a deal that is good for the taxpayers and the City.”
Filner last week issued a counter-offer to the TMD which, among other things, called for stronger indemnification for the city in case a judge rules against the agency's funding mechanism, which is being challenged in a separate court action.
He also demanded that the TMD spend $6 million on the 2015 centennial celebration of Balboa Park, encourage member hotels to pay a living wage to employees, and prohibit funding to organizations that pay annual salaries above $160,000.
The agency rejected the demands.
The TMD receives a 2 percent surcharge on room rates to advertise San Diego as a destination. Money also goes to organizations that stage events that attract visitors.