A Superior Court judge has issued a tentative ruling in favor of San Diego Mayor Bob Filner, saying the court cannot compel the mayor to immediately sign an agreement renewing a Tourism Marketing District.

Judge Timothy Taylor’s ruling noted that a resolution passed in November by San Diego City Council, renewing the marketing district, authorized the mayor to “enter into an agreement” with the TMD corporation, but did not say “the TMD agreement,” which would denote a specific contract, thus leaving the mayor some discretion.

“The 2012 Resolution ‘authorized’ action; it did not ‘direct’ action,” Taylor’s ruling said. It noted that City Council, if it wishes, can adopt a resolution directing mayoral approval of a specific pact, similar to language that enacted the original TMD contract in 2008.

The issue is among others to be decided in a pending lawsuit filed by the TMD executive board against the city and Filner, for which hearings have begun in Taylor’s courtroom.

Reacting to the tentative ruling, Filner reiterated calls to renegotiate terms of the TMD renewal, currently set to run 39.5 years and raise $30 million annually for local tourism promotion through a 2 percent surcharge on hotel room bills.

“I have maintained from the beginning that I am open to negotiating with the TMD representatives to come up with a deal that protects taxpayers,” Filner said. “I also recognize the importance of the tourism industry and want to give the TMD board the ability to market San Diego with a full complement of employees.”

In its own statement, the TMD executive board said City Council and the City Attorney’s Office are in the process of addressing issues raised by Taylor.

“We are disappointed that the Court did not bring this quickly to a close, but the Court has outlined the path forward and we are hopeful the Council will act as soon as possible to resolve this issue,” Tourism Marketing District Chairman Terry Brown said, in the statement. “It is important that the thousands of men and women who work in the tourism industry can continue to generate the hundreds of millions of dollars of economic benefit that visitors bring to our economy.”

— SDBJ Staff Report