City Council likely to amend resolution to nullify judge’s ruling
Last Friday Judge Timothy Taylor affirmed his tentative ruling in favor of Mayor Bob Filner in the Tourism Marketing District’s suit against him personally, determining that the Mayor was not in fact obligated to sign a contract negotiated by the City Council and previous mayor. The language in the resolution authorizing the city to enter into an operating agreement with the Tourism and Marketing Authority, Taylor found, allowed the Mayor to sign an agreement, but did not mandate that he sign this agreement.
There is one caveat, however: The judge will entertain another hearing should the City Council see fit to revise its resolution and close the loophole and instead require Filner to sign the contract in front of him. The City Council was due to take up the matter in closed session last week, but tabled it until after Friday’s court hearing. They are now slated to discuss it Tuesday.
Taylor’s ruling, in other words, is not the end of it. Instead of heading back to the negotiating table and perhaps considering Filner’s counteroffer or some other compromise position, we’re likely headed back to the courtroom.
This is not how city government is supposed to operate.
Shortly after the ruling was announced, I reached out to several members of the City Council to get their reaction, and to see if maybe it was possible to see the two sides work together for once. Of the five members contacted, only two responded.
Council President Todd Gloria’s spokeswoman Katie Keach sent along this terse reply: “The item has already been docketed for Tuesday, March 26. The Council President has no comment until then.”
So much for the spirit of cooperation. I mean, the voters did pretty overwhelmingly select Bob Filner as their mayor, so it stands to reason that they’d like to see the City Council at least try to work with him.
For her part, Marti Emerald is standing firm with Filner. “I think the Mayor is right on here. He is looking out for the best interests of the city,” she said in a phone interview, saying that the judge’s ruling was the right one. “It’s time to sit down with the Mayor and take him seriously.”
Emerald says that she supports the proposal that the Mayor has offered as an alternative. “It addresses some major concerns that we all have,” she said.
Chief among those is the issue of indemnification for the city, and members of the City Council. When the agreement was initially signed, protections for public officials were stripped out, leaving members of the City Council personally liable if the courts rule the levy called for in the TMD agreement an illegal tax, as the Mayor asserts it is. The city’s general fund would also be on the hook for restoring any expenditures by the TMD, since the hoteliers are shielded from liability even though they’re the ones spending the money.
The TMD, says Emerald, should be required to carry an insurance policy that would cover the costs in case of a ruling against them, as called for in the Mayor’s counteroffer.
Emerald also says she liked the requirement that the TMD be required to put $5 million toward the Balboa Park Centennial celebration, noting that it is an event that explicitly promotes tourism in San Diego, the chief function of the TMD. She says that she would also like to see the TMD contribute to the San Diego Film Commission to help promote more events, which again would also help promote tourism in the city.
Also at issue, she says, are the salaries being paid to TMA executives. “It is unconscionable that the head of the TMA is making almost $500,000 a year. They are gorging themselves at the public trough.”
Emerald said she has asked Council President Gloria to take the modified resolution off of the docket for Tuesday, saying that it’s a distraction from the business of the city and hoping to encourage the Council to work with the Mayor. She was the lone ‘no’ vote when the Council approved the contract in November.
“I can’t stand up and defend them on this. This contract would be bad for the city,” she said of the current agreement.