— Freshman San Diego city councilman Kevin Faulconer -- a close ally of Mayor Jerry Sanders -- is in the clear regarding a vote he cast January 9 to advance Doug Manchester's Navy Broadway Complex plans. At least that's the opinion of city Ethics Commission general counsel Cristie McGuire, who was asked by Faulconer before the vote to analyze any conflicts of interest he might have due to his wife Katherine's ownership of two downtown businesses, one on Fifth Avenue, the other in the One Harbor Drive condo complex across the street from the convention center. "Restaurant Events and Spa Tiki. Restaurant Events is a corporation wholly owned by your spouse in the business of planning and coordinating restaurant events for incoming convention attendees," notes the January 8 opinion. "In addition, Restaurant Events sells Gaslamp Quarter Gift Certificates and coordinates corporate block parties for private entities seeking to use the Gaslamp as a venue for an event. Restaurant Events had gross sales in 2006 of approximately $520,000."

Besides that lucrative operation, the opinion continues, "Your spouse is the sole owner of Island Spa, Inc., the general partner of Spa Tiki. Spa Tiki is a spa and retail facility located in the Harbor Club. Spa Tiki had gross sales in 2006 of approximately $1.8 million. Both of your spouse's businesses are located in the downtown area, and both are operated out of leased premises."

But as to whether any of this would create a conflict of interest for the councilman during the impending hearing on whether to approve Manchester's environmental impact report in the face of an appeal brought by opponents, McGuire wrote, "You have indicated that your spouse's business entities have absolutely no connection to the project's environmental review process or the parties involved, and that there is no basis upon which to believe that the City Council's decision to approve or deny the appeal will have any financial impact whatsoever on Restaurant Events or Spa Tiki." McGuire rendered her final opinion in true lawyerly style: "we may conclude that there are no grounds for rebutting the presumption that the NBC project decision will not have a material financial interest on your spouse's leasehold interests." Thus Faulconer went on to vote with the 5-3 council majority in favor of the project -- which will include lots of hotel and retail space near his wife's spa -- saying, "This was a project agreed to a long time ago, and it is what it is."

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