Mayor vetoed council's decision to grant developer a setback. Mayor has since changed his position and now City Attorney is asking about two mystery checks from Sunroad to Mayor's Office
Updated from an earlier version
Is Mayor Bob Filner making secret inroads with developer Sunroad Centrum?
If so, San Diego City Attorney Jan Goldsmith is on the case.
In a June 10 memo, yes another memo, Deputy City Attorney Shannon Thomas raised concerns about two checks, totaling $100,000, from Sunroad to Mayor Filner.
The issue dates back to an April 30 council hearing. At that meeting councilmembers discussed a request by Sunroad Centrum to allow the company to ignore required building setbacks during construction of its Centrum Park mixed-use development. The blueprints for Centrum Park showed a 6-foot setback from a nearby park whereas the City's code required the building to stay 15-feet away.
The council ended up granting the variance without discussing compensation for the land. Two weeks later, Mayor Filner vetoed the deal.
The Mayor's stance on the project suddenly changed. During the June 11 city council hearing, Filner's chief of staff asked councilmembers to override the veto. They followed that advice.
However, at the same time, councilmembers and the City Attorney began to learn about a recent donation from Sunroad, those being the two mystery checks discussed in the City Attorney's memo.
"It recently came to this Office’s attention that Sunroad submitted to the Mayor’s Office two checks totaling $100,000," reads the June 10 memo.
"The following advice regarding the use of the funds is based on the limited facts available to this Office. If the $100,000 was consideration for the interests in real property—the easements, both the San Diego Charter and the San Diego Municipal Code set forth various requirements regarding the sale of City property, which have not been met at this point. If the $100,000 was a donation, the funds may be deposited into the General Fund."
Staffers for City Attorney Jan Goldsmith aren't the only people to question the payment.
"Councilmember Sherman still has questions about the donation," says a spokesperson for District 7 councilmember Scott Sherman. "When were the donations received and under what circumstances were they given?"
But Mayor Filner says he is just a phone call away for the City Attorney or anyone else with a question.
"He keeps issuing these public memos," Filner said of Goldsmith. "Just call me up. They made some donations, a couple of checks, to important initiatives. One of which is the Ocean Beach Veteran's Plaza. It was in need of $74,000 for design work and [Sunroad] said they can help with that. The other donation went to help the bike, CicloSDias, initiative. I could have just told [Goldsmith] that. He didn't have to go and write a memo.
"He says I don't tell him anything but he's the one issuing memos on hearsay. I don't get it. He could just call and ask me."
The back and forth is just the latest attack in the spat between the Mayor's Office and City Attorney's Office. In recent weeks, Goldsmith has gone so far as to pen op-eds explaining his frustration with the new Mayor. In his most recent piece, entitled "Then Along Came Mayor Filner," Goldsmith wrote:
Then, along came new Mayor Bob Filner and things changed. Less than a month after he assumed office, during my first meeting with Bob, he (very loudly) proclaimed that he is not bound to keep our office apprised of matters or follow our legal guidance. “Who do you think you are? God? I decide things around here”!
He has been true to his word. We often learn of matters through rumors or the media, hardly giving us a chance to “watch,” give “clear legal advice” or “push back” as the line of what’s legal is approached. So, we regularly deal with issues after the fact, making corrections and protections for the city more difficult."
I am waiting to hear back from the Mayor's Office on when the check was issued and whether or not it has been disclosed.
Click here to read the entire memo: