Filner Says He'll Pay for Paris Trip

Embattled Mayor Bob Filner released a statement Wednesday saying he plans to pay for a controversial trip to Paris he took late in June.

The trip in question was initially said to be funded by the Organization of Iranian-American Communities (OIAC), believed to be a non-profit organization.

The mayor’s travel drew questions about whether or not state limits on gifts were violated.

State law says local elected officials may not accept gifts in excess of $440. However, if the trip has a "governmental or legislative" purpose, and it is paid for by a nonprofit, it falls under one of several loopholes.

However, it turns out OIAC inaccurately represented itself as a non-profit, meaning that loophole no longer applies, and the group should not have covered Filner’s travel expenses in the first place, Filner said.

“I have become aware that OIAC’s representations regarding its non-profit status were inaccurate,” said Filner in a statement released Wednesday. “For this reason, I will reimburse OIAC for all amounts it paid for my travel expenses to participate in its International Conference in Paris, France, above the $420 gift limit.”

Councilman Kevin Faulconer has been calling for more transparency on Filner's trip for four weeks.

“As Chairman of the City’s Audit Committee, I’ve continued to ask questions about Mayor Filner’s junket because the story doesn’t add up," Faulconer said Wednesday. "Nothing makes sense about a San Diego Mayor taking this trip to France. I’m going to continue to investigate to determine if other rules meant to protect taxpayers were broken.”

Earlier this month – prior to explosive accusations of sexual harassment involving Filner coming to light – Filner briefly discussed the trip, but did not initially release details of its cost or purpose.

Last Thursday, Filner’s office released more information about the trip, including figures.

Filner’s office said the mayor was invited to speak at the OIAC’s 2013 Annual Conference for Democracy and also traveled to the city of Lille, France, where he was briefed on energy and sustainability programs that he would like to use as a model for San Diego.

That release said, in part:

“Building and maintaining these international relationships will support several of the Mayor’s most important priorities for San Diego, including increasing cargo imports that lead to good-paying maritime jobs and his vision for an innovative energy and sustainability program.”

Filner’s office revealed that the costs for the mayor’s trip to Paris totaled $31,363.

Nearly one-third of that – the expenses for Filner himself to travel – were paid for by the OIAC. That included airfare that totaled $8,304, lodging that totaled $971 and meals totaling $564.

Two city security detail officers and Filner's former fianceé accompanied him on the trip.

Travel expenses for his security detail were paid by the City of San Diego and amounted to $16,462 in airfare, $3,183 in lodging and $1,599 in meals, according to the figures released by Filner’s office on Jul. 25.

NBC 7 reached out to the OIAC for comment on Wednesday. OIAC vice president Ross Amin said his group is a non-profit, but said he’s unsure what kind, and does not know why the organization doesn’t appear in a federal database of such agencies.

Amin said he was unaware of any conversations between his organization and Filner’s office about the reimbursement, but said he would look into it further.

Meanwhile, NBC 7 Investigates has been requesting more details about the trip to Paris, such as receipts and back-up material for the past month. The mayor’s office did not take any questions on the matter beyond sending out the press releases on Jul. 25 or on Wednesday.

Felipe Monroig, president of the San Diego County Taxpayers Association (SDCTA) had this to say Wednesday night about Filner’s plan to cover some of the travel expenses:

"Mayor Filner has announced that he’ll cover the roughly $9,000 cost of his recent trip to Paris. Yet, there remains a much larger cost for his security detail that taxpayers are still on the hook for," said
Monroig. "Since it’s clear the Mayor’s trip to Paris was little more than a vacation, the Taxpayers Association calls on him to do the right thing and reimburse the full cost, which was upwards of $30,000.”

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