Sparks fly at city council meeting over tourism dollars - San Diego, California News Station - KFMB Channel 8 - cbs8.com

Sparks fly at city council meeting over tourism dollars

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    Monday, March 18 2013 10:36 PM EDT2013-03-19 02:36:35 GMT
    The board of San Diego's Tourism Marketing District Monday rejected new terms proposed by Mayor Bob Filner to resolve a standoff over releasing administrative funding needed to run the travel promotion agency. 
    The board of San Diego's Tourism Marketing District Monday rejected new terms proposed by Mayor Bob Filner to resolve a standoff over releasing administrative funding needed to run the travel promotion agency. 

SAN DIEGO (CNS) - The San Diego City Council today passed a resolution to require Mayor Bob Filner to sign an operating agreement for the city's Tourism Marketing District that the panel originally approved in November.

Filner has so far refused to sign the deal, which would release administrative funds to the agency that takes a 2 percent surcharge on hotel room rates, and uses the proceeds to promote San Diego as a vacation destination.

Last week, a judge ruled that Filner was not required to sign the document because the council only "authorized" his signature. The judge said Filner would have to sign the agreement if directed to by council members.

The mayor told the council members that he came close to reaching a deal on a revised operating agreement with TMD officials in the last couple of days and asked them to wait two days before taking up the issue. If the resolution passed, it would cause nothing but delays, he said.

"As you know, I can veto the resolution," Filner said. "As you know, I think it's illegal. As I've said, I think it's a bad deal for taxpayers. I've tried to make it better; I think we're this close.

"You can override the veto," Filner said. "I can refuse to sign it. We can go back to court. The court will make a decision, and I can appeal that decision. As the city attorney pointed out, right in the contract is the ability to hold up the whole expenditure of funds as long as there is litigation."

The mayor also told the council members that they should recuse themselves, since they all received campaign donations from TMD board members. City Attorney Jan Goldsmith later told them that they were covered by a legal exemption.

Before the vote, council President Todd Gloria said he would schedule a special meeting to offer amendments to the operating agreement, should the mayor and TMD negotiate a settlement.

The council vote was 6-1, large enough to override a veto.

Councilwoman Marti Emerald, who agreed with the mayor that indemnification in the contract was not strong enough, cast the dissenting vote. Separate lawsuits have been filed over the way the TMD is funded.

Filner issued a counter-offer earlier this month, which included stronger indemnification in case a judge rules against the agency's funding mechanism, challenged in a separate court action.

It also required the TMD to put money toward Balboa Park's 2015 centennial celebration, demanded a livable wage for employees, and prohibited funding to organizations that pay annual salaries above $160,000. The agency rejected the demands and took the mayor to court.

According to the proposed resolution, the mayor's obligation to sign the agreement is a "ministerial duty" and "he has no discretion to refuse to sign said Operating Agreement, and has no authority to further negotiate said Operating Agreement."

The TMD distributes funds to organizations that stage events that attract visitors. A $5.4 million campaign advertising San Diego as a vacation destination this summer has been put on hold.

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