Judge to Expedite Ruling on Hotel Surcharge Funds

A San Diego judge agreed to expedite a decision on whether the City of San Diego should release millions of dollars to the Tourism Marketing District (TMD).

There are four lawsuits pending involving the surcharge for hotel guests that nets about $30 million every year.

The city’s lodging industry says it has rights to that money raised through a special tax to promote San Diego as a tourist destination.

The longtime deal was approved by former mayor Jerry Sanders but he didn’t sign the paperwork before leaving office.

Mayor Bob Filner has refused to sign the contract releasing the funds without concessions that hotel owners have rejected.

Attorney David Ruderman, representing TMD in a downtown San Diego courtroom Tuesday morning, asked Judge Timothy Taylor to expedite his decision on whether the mayor must sign the contract and avoid loss of jobs.

“I have no desire to weigh into the political controversy today,” Taylor said when deciding to postpone the ruling until March 22.

He added that courtrooms are not good at running city government.

“We feel this is a victory for jobs and economic benefit to the city of San Diego because in order to expedite the case, it recognizes the impact the mayor's inaction has had on the tourism economy and community,” said Lorin Stewart, Executive Director of the San Diego Tourism Marketing District Corporation.

“They can afford the money to advertise right now,” Mayor Filner said to the media outside court referring to the hotel industry. “They are used to getting their own way – they want public money for their private benefit – and they finally have a mayor who is standing up to them.”

When Judge Taylor told Mayor Filner he had 17 days to hire an attorney to represent him, Filner argued with him saying “I don’t agree with your tentative ruling.”

He told the judge that it's wrong to assume he has personal funds to pay his own counsel.

City Attorney Jan Goldsmith, who has said he does not represent the mayor in this contract dispute, agreed with the judge’s suggestion.

Watch: My Client Is the City of San Diego

"Should it get to a point where the council is adamant on this strategy and the mayor is adamant on that strategy and I feel we have a conflict then under the law, a municipal law firm can create what's called an ethical wall and we can have one lawyer for the mayor and have one lawyer for the city," Goldsmith said.

Filner listened in on Goldsmith's comments outside of court and then said he would discuss hiring his own counsel with the city council.

“C’mon you guys have seen, I’m not going to get zealous representation by an attorney who thinks I’ve already done, my positions are illegal,” Filner said.

Watch Filner: I Won't Get Zealous Representation

On Feb. 20, Filner crashed a news conference called by Goldsmith concerning the hotel surcharge.

The exchange was heated with Filner arguing he hadn't been advised by the city attorney's office and Goldsmith arguing he hadn't been consulted by the mayor's office. Read more

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