San Diego mayor says he didn't extort money from developers in exchange for dropping veto of project

Filner says developers need to 'give back'

SAN DIEGO - San Diego Mayor Bob Filner says money the city received from a developer was a "donation," but it was not the reason why he flip-flopped on his veto of the project.

"We asked them, and they volunteered to contribute to certain projects that mean something to the city, and so we think that they understood that they have to give back and not just take and that was the whole purpose of the veto to begin with," Filner told 10News reporter Allison Ash.

Filner was opposed to city council's decision to grant the apartment complex in Kearny Mesa an extra 9-foot easement. Last week, his chief of staff told council there was no compensation for the easement. 

"Money exchanges hands and then he goes away from his veto," said Councilman Scott Sherman, who takes issue with the tactics being used by the mayor. "If it was really a shake-down of a developer, then I don't really care where the shake-down money goes for or what the purpose is. It seems to me that things could be worked between the city and the developer in a much more business-like fashion than threats."

When Filner was asked whether he was extorting money from developers, this is what he said: "That's a ridiculous word. What we're trying to do is make sure that people that get things from the city understand that they also have to give things back. You don't get free things."

City Hall insiders say the two checks totaling $100,000 will go to Filner's pet projects, including bike paths and veterans' issues.  When asked about whether the donations passed the "smell test," Filner mentioned one such project.

"I think the veterans who are going to look at a new monument to their sacrifices smell it a little differently," Filner responded.

The City Attorney issued a memo on the issue in part it reads, "If the $100,000 was consideration for interests in real property—the easements, both the San Diego Charter and the San Diego Municipal Code set forth various requirements regarding the sale of City property, which have not been met at this time. If the $100,000 was a donation, the funds may be deposited into the General Fund."

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