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Mayor Filner and City Attorney Goldsmith Get Dysfunctional

San Diego Mayor Bob Filner and City Attorney Jan Goldsmith went head to head on Wednesday at press conferences.

What City Attorney Jan Goldsmith calls a "dysfunctional" relationship with recently seated San Diego Mayor Bob Filner went public today in an exchange of words at a news conference over the controversial extension of the city's Tourism Marketing District.

Goldsmith called the news conference to discuss legal aspects of four changes Filner wants in the 40-year TMD deal, which has been approved by the City Council. Filner has not signed off on financial transactions called for in the agreement.

Filner, who showed up partway through the event, accused the city attorney of failing to provide him with legal advice.

"It would have been nice, Mr. Goldsmith, to have a memo, it would have been nice to have advice," Filner said. "I am your client. That's privileged communication. You not only have been unprofessional but unethical in your press conference, and I resent it greatly that you're giving your advice to the press."

Goldsmith said he only learned about Filner's objections to the TMD extension by reading the newspaper.

Filner responded that he has "no obligation to inform you of any policy decisions I make; you have the obligation as my attorney to give me private and privileged communication."

"I do not have to advise you on my policy considerations, but you have the obligation to defend me in any court action and to give me any advice in a privileged fashion," Filner said.

Goldsmith said he represents the city of San Diego, which he calls a "municipal corporation" which includes the mayor and the City Council.

"I just hope to learn of these (issues) earlier, and we will give guidance. But when I see something that is not right, I have to speak out," Goldsmith said.

Filner countered that Goldsmith sees himself as a policy-maker, not a city attorney.

Goldsmith responded by saying, "We used to have a city attorney who wanted to be mayor," in reference to his outspoken predecessor Michael Aguirre, "and now we have a mayor who wants to be city attorney."

The TMD agreement establishes a room tax levy on hoteliers that raises around $30 million to spend on advertising San Diego as a destination. Area hoteliers have threatened to sue to get the funds released.

Filner said he wants to make sure the city is indemnified against adverse court decisions over the charge in a pair of lawsuits; direct more money to public safety; shorten the deal to a couple of years; and have hotel workers be paid a "livable" wage.

He called the agreement a "free ride" for multinational hotel corporations.

Before the verbal sparring started, Goldsmith said the agreement already includes an indemnification provision; that directing money into the city's general fund to pay for public safety would make it an illegal tax; and that the other two issues were policy questions for the City Council.

When the mayor said he expects the funding mechanism to lose in court, he addressed a woman in the back of the room who he believed shook her head. "Are you an attorney? Are you an attorney? Are you an attorney?" Filner asked.

Goldsmith told the mayor she was his assistant.

After Filner left, Goldsmith said Filner was welcome to speak at his news conferences but should also be willing to listen and consult more often.

"I'm fine with him acting the way he wants to act," Goldsmith said. "He's the mayor, he's got his own personality, his own character. It's not for me to criticize him, but I'm going to be the city attorney I promised I would be."

Filner previously got into a public spat with City Council President Todd Gloria, when he went to a meeting to challenge appointments to the San Diego Association of Governments.

—City News Service

Charles Arnold February 21, 2013 at 02:10 AM
This should come as no surprise to those who have followed Mr. Filner's career in congress. He was dysfunctional there; expect him to be dysfunctional here. I was so glad that San Diego seemed to have, unlike San Francisco, Detroit, etc, etc, more "Makers" than "Takers." No more. Now we have the whiners, greedy, selfish and incompetent leading the way. I am glad I have passed to "Geezerhood" and will not be around, hopefully, when it is time to pay the piper. I do feel sorry for the youngsters and even some of the middle aged workers who will be asked/directed/forced to support the overlords at the expense of their loved ones. I do not believe we can expect any relief for this. Mr. Filner will destroy our city as he as helped to destroy our nation. People will stand around and cheer the fall of the rich and the demise of the workers. Fools are leading fools. Charles Arnold Rancho Bernardo
norma damashek February 23, 2013 at 07:43 PM
What Mayor Bob Filner has been doing -- in his own inimitable way -- is revealing how dysfunctional city government has been when it comes to serving the people and neighborhoods of San Diego rather than the special downtown interests. He's been saying no, he's not going along with giveaways and special deals to the tourism industry and sports team owners and other heavy hitters who've been allowed to call the shots for much too long. So now they're launching a smear campaign to try to stop Filner in his tracks before he takes away their free ride. You don't have to love our mayor's personality, but you gotta love what he's set out to do for the good of the people who live and work in our city.

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