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Mayor, City Attorney Dispute Expands To Criminal Accusations

City Attorney Jan Goldsmith (L) and San Diego Mayor Bob Filner
City Attorney Jan Goldsmith (L) and San Diego Mayor Bob Filner

City Attorney Jan Goldsmith said today accusations -- made by the mayor -- that he and members of the City Council have been bought off by the hotel industry are "baseless and defamatory.''

Mayor Bob Filner said in a television interview Wednesday that Goldsmith and six City Council members who back the city's Tourism Marketing District were bought off by thousands of dollars in campaign donations. He made the same point at a news conference the day before, without using the words "bought off.''

Filner is refusing to sign an operating agreement that releases funds to the agency that promotes San Diego as a vacation destination, saying he believes it's a bad deal for taxpayers. He said he has tried to negotiate revisions to the deal.


The City Council voted Tuesday to require Filner to sign the agreement as written.

Filner, who based his campaign for mayor on challenging the political status quo in San Diego, contends that owners of a small portion of the city's hotels are trying to push the tourism district through.

"They have the votes, they have given campaign contributions to buy off the City Council,'' Filner said on KUSI's "Good Morning San Diego.''

Before the City Council voted on Tuesday, the mayor told the panel members should recuse themselves because of the campaign donations. He continued the argument at a news conference.

"Jan Goldsmith, who has made rulings in this, has got tens of thousands of dollars from people who are on the TMD board and the major hoteliers who passed this thing,'' Filner said. "He didn't have a campaign for election, so what are they giving him money for? It's simple, they want his rulings on their behalf.''

Hotelier donations to the city attorney and city councilmembers.
Hotelier donations to the city attorney and city councilmembers.

But inewsource, KPBS' partner on the investigations desk, examined the campaign contributions to these candidates from hoteliers and TMD board members since 2007 and found no individual candidate received "tens of thousands of dollars." Councilmembers Sherri Lightner, Kevin Faulconer and Lorie Zapf each received more than $10,000 and Goldsmith received at least $12,000 between his two campaigns. (See table for numbers.)

Goldsmith and council President Todd Gloria were reelected in November without opposition.

"Todd Gloria did not have a campaign, and he got thousands of dollars from the people who are responsible for this contract today,'' Filner continued. "Half of the council -- I'm sure, I have not looked at those figures, but I bet it's tens of thousands of dollars and up. What are they doing? Why are they giving this money? So they can get this kind of shady deal approved.''

Goldsmith told the council members that they were covered by exemptions in the state law.

"Accusations such as this against the City Council and the city attorney should have no place in a civilized, public-policy discussion,'' Goldsmith said.

In a KUSI interview, he pointed out that Filner, whose campaign was largely funded by organized labor, is negotiating with unions the implementation of a pension reform initiative passed by voters.