Battle over TOT taxes

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) — Attorney Cory Briggs is a well-known litigation activist who has sued the city numerous times over financial issues involving the city.

He’s currently waging a war on two tax fronts.

One is the Chargers Stadium Initiative, the other is the Tourism Marketing District (TMD).

On Tuesday, his ballot measure that competes with the Chargers initiative got a scathing review from the city attorney, and his claim that his lawsuit against the TMD sort-of blew up in his face.

A city attorney memo found that the Briggs’s "Citizens’ Plan for San Diego" had a number of elements Jan Goldsmith deemed to be illegal. It raises hotel taxes and if a court at some later date finds the plan invalid, the taxpayers are on the hook.

"The tax goes away and the city may have to reimburse the taxpayers who paid it, class action whatever, and it comes out of our general fund putting us at risk," Goldsmith said.

Goldsmith indicated he would advise the city council to reject putting it on the ballot.

"Nobody in this initiative is looking out for the city, the city and the taxpayers are hanging out to dry," Goldsmith said.

Then a controversy erupted between Briggs and the TMD over Briggs’s lawsuit three years ago, challenging the hoteliers voting to raise the hotel tax by 2 percent without a vote of the people. The case is still pending.

Briggs claimed on April 4, he and the TMD had reached a settlement.

"I made sure that the TMD was comfortable with me at least saying that we had an agreement, I did that last night, and what I’m authorized to tell you is one of the elements is endorsement of the citizen’s plan," Briggs said.

A short time later, TMD Board Chair Bill Evans issued the following statement: The TMD Directors have not taken any action in regards to a settlement. We have had and will continue to have productive conversations, but there has been no action taken by the board."

Briggs would offer no details of the settlement, leaving that to the TMD.

"The TMD has to be the ones that talk to the Mayor in a meeting on April 15th, I’m gonna honor that request," he said.

"The proposal has been sent to the city attorney’s office and if I understand correctly its been sent to the Mayor’s office as well," Briggs added.

Goldsmith said he never got the settlement and released his memo, which Briggs saw as pressure to drop his initiative, leaving only the chargers initiative on the ballot.

"The TMD is connected to the TOT issues and it appears to me that somebody doesn’t want the public to have an opportunity," Briggs said.

Three weeks ago, the city attorney had met with Briggs’s lawyers, hoping to settle the legal issues.

"I asked the lawyers give me some response, maybe there’s something we’re missing, they didn’t give us a thing, the only thing they asked was, hey hold off on this, give us a chance, and I kind of figured maybe they’re gonna drop it," Goldsmith said.

The TMD has already spent $2 million fighting the Briggs lawsuit.

The Briggs plan threatens the existing TMD organization. If approved by the voters, it might exist in a different form, or it could go away.

Categories: Local San Diego News