Jerry Sanders, Downtown Partnership CEO Kris Michell, Kevin Faulconer
The Downtown San Diego Partnership won't be able to dip into taxpayer funds to help pay for legal help needed to fight a lawsuit over mismanagement of the $5.5 million in annual revenues collected under the Property and Business Improvement District (PBID).
An October 11 email from Luis Ojeda, the person in charge of overseeing assessment districts for the city, denied the partnership's request to pay for legal fees using money collected as part of the Downtown PBID.
"We are deducting $5,000 from July 2013 request and $1,882.50 from August 2013 request (both for legal fees). Based on legal advice we received, all subsequent legal fees regarding [the] San Diegans for Open Government [case]...will not be reimbursed at this time," read the email from Ojeda, which the Reader obtained through a California Public Records Act request.
News of the rejection came one month after a September meeting at which PBID advisory board members approved setting aside $100,000 to hire Colantuono and Levin, a specialty law firm headquartered in Sacramento. (The same lawyers were hired to file suit against former mayor Bob Filner in an attempt to force the release of Tourism Marketing District dollars.)
The suit from watchdog group San Diegans for Open Government was filed in August of this year and accuses the partnership of having free rein to spend money collected from property owners in the five downtown neighborhoods that make up the downtown PBID.
Critics of the private/non-profit organization claim head of the partnership (and former chief of staff for Jerry Sanders), Kris Michell, and the board of directors have had an open mind when interpreting the law governing assessment districts. That interpretation has allowed them to open the checkbook for goals such as ridding downtown streets of panhandlers, preventing public urination, or any other issue said to "detract from the business being conducted" in San Diego's downtown neighborhoods.
The partnership has also directed taxpayer revenues to pay for the organization's new business plan, the Downtown Partnership's new logo, and their fresh new website.
The next hearing is set for November 22 with superior court judge Ronald Styn.