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LOL Local Politics: City Mayor And Attorney Get Into Painfully Awkward Spat During Press Conference

Oh, local politics. You are normally so unbelievably dull. But not today.

That’s because two San Diego city officials aired their grievances with one another yesterday afternoon in front of a room of news cameras. The painfully awkward encounter has the feel of a Parks and Recreation bit, albeit without the lovable Leslie Knope or the heroic anti-bureaucrat Ron Swanson.

The story goes as follows: San Diego Mayor Bob Filner really doesn’t like the plan for $30 million per year from a hotel surtax agreement going solely towards promoting the region as a vacation destination; and so he demanded the city hotels shorten the revenue contract and provide “living wages” for downtown hotel workers and contribute some of the money to the city’s general fund. The hotel industry is not pleased, and so they are taking the mayor to court to release the funds, warning that without the money, the San Diego tourism industry could lose out to Los Angeles (yuck).

Bored yet?

Well, here comes the fun part: City Attorney Jan Goldsmith apparently disagrees with the mayor’s decision, and so he called a press conference — without the mayor’s knowledge — to blast his boss’ decision.

“I hope in the future we’ll know about these issues and get consulted in advance but if I read them in the newspaper and they are wrong, I have to comment on them,” Goldsmith said in the impromptu presser.

Off camera, the clearly-annoyed mayor, with arms folded, butted in: “I have no obligation to inform you of any policy decisions I make. You have the obligation as my attorney to give me private and privileged communication. I do not have to advise you on my policy considerations. You have the obligation to defend me in the court action, and to give me advice in a privileged fashion. Not to announce your own policy on your own.”

Goldsmith brushed off the mayor: “Let me also explain the role of municipal lawyer. We represent the City of San Diego Municipal Corporation, that acts through the mayor and city council.”

“Neither has approved this press conference,” the mayor shot back, again off-camera, but Goldsmith continued unfazed.

As soon as the attorney wrapped up his statement, the mayor bolted to the podium and brushed shoulders with his attorney. He took the time to reiterate what he had said off camera and then scolded Goldsmith: “You not only have been unprofessional but unethical in this press conference. I resent it greatly that you’re giving your advice through the press. This advice is to me. This advice is to the City Council and besides it’s wrong.”

Isn’t this just fun?

After all was said and done, the two retreated to opposite ends of the room, taking stabs at one another from there. “I disagree with what he said,” Goldsmith joked as he reached for the door.

And then he made his dramatic departure: “We used to have a city attorney who wanted to be mayor; now we have a mayor who wants to be city attorney.”

Oh, wow! Getting feisty up at City Hall.

(But, hey: At least the City of San Diego isn’t using the hotel surtax to fund a mega-corporate-welfare sports stadium. So, in some ways, you all win!)

Watch below, via NBC-7 San Diego:


[h/t Dorsey Shaw]

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