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At the March 26 council hearing nearly one hundred hotel and tourism employees urged, sometimes yelled, at Mayor Bob Filner to sign the Tourism Marketing District agreement. The 39 and one-half-year agreement, they said, was vital not only to the city's economy but also to the hundreds of employees who could lose their job if the contract was not renewed.

And while the claims from tourism officials are debatable, there is one man who would lose a great deal if San Diego ditched the district. That man is John Lambeth, the Sacramento-based lawyer and consultant for the Tourism Marketing District and founder and president of Civitas Advisors, the authority on Tourism Improvement Districts.

According to the Civitas Advisors website, the company has helped form 100 tourism and other improvement districts throughout the country.

"Civitas provides unmatched expertise in district formation and renewal," reads the website. "Civitas' founder and current president, John Lambeth, has authored business improvement district laws in California, Nevada and Hawaii. He helped form California's first property and business improvement in 1995, a vigorous district that continues to operate today. Civitas has also worked with international districts in South America; in 2011 our efforts led to formation of Central America's first BID in San Salvador, El Salvador."

And of course, he was instrumental in the formation of San Diego's TMD. In a May 2008 contract with TMD executive director Lorin Stewart, Lambeth was hired to "provide legal advice in relation to the Brown Act and Corporation Code."

During the past five years, the attorney and his company has collect nearly one-half million dollars from the 2 percent surcharge on hotel rooms.

Invoices obtained through a California Public Records Act request show the TMD has paid Lambeth $275 dollars per hour for a total of $297,047 in consultant fees since the district's formation in 2008.

But that's not all. Lambeth's firm, Civitas began charging a separate monthly fee in January 2011, totaling $139,587.

Lambeth couldn't do the work alone. He had help from his employees. Since April 2008, $65,816.90 in TMD revenues have gone to pay other Civitas employees. Hourly fees for his employees ranged from $125 to $180 per hour.

Consulting fees were not the only expenses. There are the monthly flights from Lambeth's home-base in Sacramento. In the past five years, the attorney and tourism improvement district expert spent $26,755.89 on air fare, $14,782 in office supplies and other expenses, $767 in postage, $716 in airport parking, $895 in cab rides and rental cars to and from Lindbergh Field, and $648 in hotel fees.

In all, the Tourism Marketing District has paid Lambeth and his firm a total of $547,016 and counting.

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nostalgic March 30, 2013 @ 2:24 p.m.

Always keep your ears open at a meeting. Any time a community member shows up and says "I love my Community", "this is vital to , then you can be assured that person is taking cash out. The ones who show up with statistics and the law don't stand a chance.


nostalgic March 30, 2013 @ 6:17 p.m.

I accidentally clicked on the ad next to your column - The Grand Del Mar - Daily Rates from $495. Maybe costs have something to do with the reduction in tourism. I saw a relatively nice Hotel advertising $55 in LED lights today. Do you think both hotels benefit proportionally from the added advertising?


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