San Diego Hoteliers Win First Court Battle Against Filner
A court hearing on Mayor Bob Filner's refusal to release funds needed to manage San Diego's Tourism Marketing District will take place on March 22, a judge ruled today.
The decision by Judge Timothy Taylor gives hotel operators an initial victory in their lawsuit against Filner, which seeks to get him to implement a 40-year extension of the TMD approved by the City Council last fall. The TMD wanted an expedited hearing on the case.
Taylor rejected arguments by Filner that he had to get himself a lawyer because he cannot depend on City Attorney Jan Goldsmith to adequately represent his interests. The two have been at loggerheads since Filner took office in December.
"The city -- I'm trying to protect the taxpayers -- deserves adequate representation for the mayor,'' Filner told reporters after the hearing.
During the hearing, Taylor told the mayor he had 17 days to find a lawyer.
"I don't agree with your tentative ruling,'' Filner responded.
The mayor said he will have to ask the City Council for authorization to hire outside counsel at municipal expense.
The TMD receives 2 percent of hotel room bills, on top of the city's 10.5 percent room tax, and uses the money to advertise San Diego as a vacation destination. The collection works out to around $30 million annually.
Tourism officials told members of the City Council last week that the dispute has forced them to postpone a $5.4 million advertising campaign designed to bring visitors this summer.
Filner wants to shorten the deal from 40 years to a couple of years, a livable wage paid to employees by hotel owners, more revenue to be used for public safety, and indemnification if judges rule against the TMD's funding mechanism in separate cases.
The city attorney says the money isn't allowed to be shifted into other purposes, and the city's agreement with the TMD includes indemnification. Filner's other issues are up to the City Council, according to Goldsmith.