With an office staffer paging through a Power Point presentation at City Hall Tuesday, San Diego mayoral candidate Carl DeMaio released a report saying "wasteful" city spending costs the taxpayers $130 million a year.
The current mayor's spokesman called those claims "wild-eyed exaggerations", and two of DeMaio's three political rivals followed up with curt dismissals of DeMaio's "2012 Taxpayer Watchdog Report."
DeMaio began crusading against waste, fraud and abuse in municipal government long before he was elected to the City Council in 2008.
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Now, four weeks before the mayoral primary, he offered more complaints about poor fiscal management -- starting with ordinary, overpriced items.
"While we may not have a $10,000 toilet seat to point to, we do have this air filter that was purchased with a 359 percent markup by the city of San Diego," DeMaio said at an afternoon news conference, hoisting up a white HVAC filter panel he'd parked next to the podium.
The city last fall had ordered a dozen of the filters at a cost of $40 apiece, when the store price was $8.
DeMaio said he compiled his list of wasteful expenses, some identified by city auditors, as part of his annual preparations for the City Council's review of Mayor Sanders' proposed budget.
Other examples included $50 million dollars in "avoidable" annual pension costs, $26 million in "inflated" overtime costs, and $13 million in "excessive" specialty pay and general fund contracts.
"If we eliminated this waste today, we could immediately fund the maintenance deficit for San Diego's roads," DeMaio declared.
He called the office budgets of the mayor and councilmembers "bloated" -- except his own.
"Clearly, when you benchmark us against a city like Phoenix," DeMaio said, "a 15 percent reduction is a no-brainer. I've done it."
But a spokeswoman for one of DeMaio's rivals, Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, pointed out that DeMaio spent $50,000 in council office funds on stage props and teleprompters.
And, sent out 45 times the volume of constituent mail than the rest of the councilmembers combined.
"Once again, Carl DeMaio claims to be a taxpayer watchdog, but he’s all bark and no bite," said a statement issued by Fletcher's campaign. "He’s had nearly four years on the City Council to 'root out' the waste he’s now railing against."
Mayor Sanders' communications director, Darren Pudgil, labeled DeMaio's report "over the top" and took detailed issue with a couple of the claims.
Said a fact sheet from Sanders' office, "Carl DeMaio is trying to get himself elected mayor by making wild-eyed exaggerations and assuming the public is too gullible to see through his act ...
"The Mayor’s Office could spend more time correcting and clarifying every deceitful claim that comes from this mayoral candidate, but we simply have higher priorities."
Without directly addressing DeMaio’s report, District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis took this tack in an interview with NBC 7 San Diego: "One of the things the mayor will face is how to break through the culture, change the culture at City Hall.
"And with my experience with three labor organizations and a thousand employees," Dumanis added, "I know how to do that. You've got to engage everybody, because they know better than we do where the problems are, and how to save money."
U.S. Rep. Bob Filner's campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
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