Tourism Marketing District files lawsuit over contract

SAN DIEGO – The San Diego Tourism Marketing District filed a lawsuit in Superior Court Friday, hoping to compel Mayor Bob Filner to sign the T.D.C. contract approved by City Council.

Bob FilnerAt the heart of the debate is $30 million in tourism marketing funds per year.

Council members approved a contract last year that provides the money to the Tourism Marketing District, which in turn is supposed to promote the city.

Mayor Filner is standing by his word and refusing to sign off on the contract.

“$30 million a year of public money,” said Filner. “To advertise their hotels is a giveaway. It’s a sweetheart deal and I’m not going to be a party to it.”

T.M.D. Chairman Terry Brown announced the board’s decision to go to court in a memorandum to City Council President Todd Gloria, Friday afternoon.

“We do this reluctantly, but given the proposed alternatives, which we believe would be severely detrimental to the many thousands of people employed or who work in the tourism and hospitality economy, we feel we have no choice but to move forward in the courts,” said Brown.

The T.M.D. Corporation is not seeking damages against the City.

Filner released a statement in response. “As Mayor I cannot and will not allow a group of wealthy hoteliers to hold our economy hostage to their personal agenda of secrecy and greed.”

“In the days ahead I will be conferring with leaders of our City Council, the Convention Center Board, the San Diego Tourism Authority, and respected business leaders to develop and implement a different approach for marketing San Diego,” said Filner.

In the midst of the debate another drama has unfolded between Filner and City Attorney Jan Goldsmith. Filner is now accusing Goldsmith of receiving campaign funds from tourism leaders associated with the T.M.D. contract.

“He has a conflict of interest here, which he did not disclose,” said Filner. “And that is tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from the very hotel owners who he’s claiming that he’s trying to defend here.”

The City Attorney’s office said Friday Goldsmith is not commenting on Filner’s claim.

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