SAN DIEGO - San Diego Mayor Bob Filner told Team 10 Friday he will give back a $100,000 gift because he didn't realize it was meant as a quid pro quo.
However, a voice message obtained by Team 10 suggests the mayor knew more than he let on.
The voicemail says: "Hi, this is Tom Story with Sunroad Enterprises. It's 11:20 on Friday, June 7."
On that day, developer Tom Story was calling City Council members to make sure they knew the mayor was "on board."
Story and his company had given the mayor's office a $100,000 gift. In exchange, Filner agreed to give Sunroad Enterprises, of which Story is a vice president, public land so the company could complete a project in Kearney Mesa.
"I'd like the council member to know that we have reached an agreement with the mayor's office," Story said on the voicemail. "We have paid him the money that was requested and was told that the mayor would support the override."
The voice message Team 10 obtained was left for City Councilman Kevin Faulconer.
"The content of the voicemail speaks for itself," Faulconer said. "This is not how the mayor of San Diego should be conducting business."
Filner said he is returning the money because he didn't realize it came with strings attached.
"I did not have any notion that [that] was what they were doing," the mayor said.
Sunroad Enterprises issued a statement that said, "Sunroad did what we were asked to do by city staff."
"I thought it was donations and I took it as that," Filner said.
The mayor pointed to a letter from Sunroad to Allen Jones, Filner's former deputy chief of staff, who resigned last week.
Filner said all communication about the so-called "pay-for-play" deal went through Jones.
"I had no knowledge he did this, or I would not have allowed it to happen," Filner said.
Filner said he has not been contacted by anyone questioning the legality of the donation. When asked by Team 10 if this was an ethical issue, the mayor replied, "I don't think the city should be giving away this stuff, so yeah."
City Attorney Jan Goldsmith would not talk about the legality of what the mayor has done, but he did tell Team 10 his office is investigating the situation.
The state Attorney General's Office said it enforces state laws involving quid pro quo, but would not say if this situation was illegal.
Team 10 is looking into what it would take for the state attorney general or other law enforcement agencies to initiate action.
According to U-T San Diego, Jones told the newspaper Friday that Filner is lying. Jones told U-T San Diego, "I met with the mayor, I know, at least twice in the February-March timeframe. He was fully informed and approved it."
"It's possible that you could have a criminal case for conspiracy to commit bribery as well as accepting a bribe," said Thomas Jefferson School of Law Professor David Steinberg, who says bribery in California is nothing more than giving something of value with the intent to influence official action."It's possible it's all a coincidence. $100K comes in, valuable land is given and there's no connection. But again, it would be an extraordinary coincidence. People do get hit by lightning but not very often."
Click to Like the ABC10 Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/ABC10News) or follow 10News on Twitter (@10News).
Also download our 10News mobile and tablet apps to stay up-to-date with developing stories when you are on the go: http://www.10news.com/about/mobile.