As the confrontation between city attorney Jan Goldsmith and Cory Briggs over the city’s so-called Tourism Marketing District heats up, another local media player has entered the fray without revealing a key link to the case.
U-T San Diego, the newspaper and website owned by Republican kingpin and hotel owner Douglas Manchester, reported Friday that “An activist attorney who has blocked City Hall projects and financing mechanisms — all the while using secret clients — went to court on Thursday trying to keep a judge from revealing their identities.”
Added the paper, “Briggs is a well-known environmental attorney who has sued the city of San Diego more than 50 times. Last year, he successfully opposed a financing plan that would have paved the way for a long-sought expansion of the San Diego Convention Center.”
Though the U-T didn’t note it, the defendant in the case, in which Briggs is seeking to end a controversial hotel-room tax, is the San Diego Tourism Marketing District, on whose nine-member board sits Tom Voss, president of Manchester’s 249-room Grand del Mar hotel in the northern reaches of the city of San Diego.
According to the district’s website, Voss was elected to a three-year term on the district’s board beginning July 1, 2013.
As previously reported here, the marketing district doles out cash from the disputed room tax to assist the bottom line of local tourist-industry favorites. Manchester’s fellow Republican donor and the U-T’s next-door neighbor, Town and Country hotel mogul C. Terry Brown, is chairman of the board.
Brown has also been a major donor to San Diego State University, whose KPBS TV and radio stations have carried a series of exposés alleging possible malfeasance by Briggs regarding seven-figure trust deeds and his wife’s purported conflicts of interest and city contracts won by her employer.
Goldsmith says the broadcasts are the reason for his move to unseal the deposition of the case’s mysterious “Member 4.” Reported Manchester’s paper: “Goldsmith told the U-T that unsealing the records will help his office get to the bottom of the alleged conflict.”
The vice-chairman of the marketing district is another big GOP giver, Richard Bartell, who controls 1575 rooms on Shelter Island, Mission Valley, Mission Bay, and La Jolla, according to the district’s website. Bill Evans, who runs a total of 800 rooms, including the Bahia and Catamaran, and is yet another local political money player, serves as treasurer.
Also not reported by the U-T: as part of its defense against Briggs’s legal attack on the tax, the Manchester TMD group is fighting to obtain access to the computer of the late Ian Trowbridge, a self-styled government watchdog who was an original member of the group suing the marketing district to end the tax.
Reached by phone regarding the Friday story under his byline and whether he was aware that Manchester’s executive was on the marketing district board, U-T reporter Jeff McDonald said, “I can’t discuss this with you.”
Update 2/28, 6:30 p.m.
Reached by phone to clarify the remarks posted by McDonald below, he declined to elaborate or be interviewed about his story, saying before he hung up, "You have no class.”
I did not make the statement attributed to me. — M.P.