Tensions have intensified in recent weeks between two of the four high-profile candidates in the race to become San Diego’s next mayor.

The latest spat between Nathan Fletcher and Carl DeMaio began March 8, a couple days before the local Republican Party was scheduled to vote on making an endorsement in the election. At least two-thirds of the party’s Central Committee must approve a candidate to get the coveted nod.

Just before the vote, on the blog San Diego Rostra, Fletcher accused DeMaio of sending Republican committee members an anonymous mailer attacking his credentials. Fletcher called the move cowardly and blasted DeMaio’s own conservative credentials.

Then, Fletcher expanded his offensive to an interview with NBC 7 San Diego reporter Gene Cubbison on Friday. Fletcher listed five claims he’s previously aired during candidate forums to cast DeMaio as a hypocrite. Fletcher said of DeMaio:

He says he’s a taxpayer watchdog and then he spends $50,000 on a campaign prop. He spends taxpayer money on plastic plants and teleprompters. He spent 45 times more money on taxpayer-funded mailers than the rest of the City Council combined. He called on city workers to take a 6 percent pay cut, which he refused to do, while giving his staff raises and bonuses. He said no one should get rich off the taxpayer while making millions of dollars. That’s a watchdog, Gene, who’s all bark and no bite.

Because Fletcher has continually cited all of them along the campaign trail, we felt they merited a closer explanation with links to the original sources. The sections below break down each claim and provide a determination for the claim’s accuracy.

‘He spends $50,000 on a campaign prop.’

DeMaio spent more than $50,000 from his City Council office’s budget to pay for his Roadmap to Recovery plan, CityBeat reported last year. The 80-page document outlines how he wants to address the city’s financial challenges and change its retirement system.

Fletcher called the document a campaign prop because DeMaio’s displayed a copy of it while talking about his candidacy for mayor and has posted it to his campaign website. But the same could be said of any proposal drafted by an elected official. As we’ve previously noted, Fletcher often describes his own legislative record along the campaign trail.

The $50,000 figure is accurate so we’ve rated the claim True. We’re not determining the accuracy of calling the document “a campaign prop” because it’s a subjective term.

‘He spends taxpayer money on plastic plants and teleprompters.’

DeMaio spent City Council money on decorative plants and teleprompters for two annual speeches, CityBeat reported last year. The plants cost $162.50. Renting the teleprompters cost $1,680.

Fletcher’s description of the spending was accurate — City Council funding comes from taxes and other revenue — so we’ve rated the claims True.

‘He spent 45 times more money on taxpayer-funded mailers than the rest of the City Council combined.’

DeMaio sent 45 times more mailers during his first year in office than the rest of the City Council combined, U-T San Diego reported in 2010. But he spent only 25 times more on mailers.

By saying DeMaio had spent 45 times more, Fletcher essentially overstated the cost of the mailers by $26,000. The actual cost was about $31,000. Fletcher’s claim may have been a misstatement of the U-T story, but the numbers don’t check out so we’ve rated it False.

In 2010, DeMaio defended the mailers by describing them as a key component of his community outreach efforts. When asked if the mailers had been used to boost name recognition for a future election, DeMaio told the U-T, “I’m not even going to dignify that with a response.”

In response to this Fact Check, DeMaio’s campaign again said the mailers were used to keep constituents informed. “It is irrelevant whether other Councilmembers choose to communicate with their constituents or spend their budgets on staff instead,” a spokesman wrote in an email.

‘He called on city workers to take a 6 percent pay cut, which he refused to do, while giving his staff raises and bonuses.’

In 2009, DeMaio did not take a 6 percent compensation cut when virtually all city employees and some council members did, and provided raises to his staffers.

The councilman’s critics often call the pay decisions hypocritical because his campaigns have denounced employee pay and benefits as bloated. However, he’s also made personnel decisions to save money.

DeMaio declined a city pension and cut his City Council office’s budget after taking office (though it’s risen slightly since).

We’ve rated Fletcher’s claim Mostly True. It’s accurate, but there’s an important nuance to consider. DeMaio made the pay decisions Fletcher described as well as others.

‘He said no one should get rich off the taxpayer while making millions of dollars.’

Before entering public office, DeMaio owned two for-profit companies that consulted government agencies on how to be more efficient. In 2005, DeMaio told the U-T that the bulk of $8.5 million in annual revenues at one company came from these activities.

DeMaio sold both companies in 2007, according to his campaign website. It’s unknown how much he received for them, though he has since drawn hundreds of thousands of dollars from his own pockets for campaign-related activities.

We’ve chosen not to rate this statement because we don’t know precisely how much money DeMaio made in actual profits from the companies. It’s undeterminable at this time. It was a private company, and we’d need DeMaio to open his books to make a determination.

To review, we’ve determined that two of Fletcher’s claims during the NBC 7 San Diego interview were True, one was Mostly True, one was False and one was undeterminable. If you disagree with our findings, please express your thoughts in the comments section of this blog post. Explain your reasoning.

For those wondering, the Republican Party announced Saturday night that it had endorsed DeMaio for mayor and passed on Fletcher and Bonnie Dumanis, another high-profile Republican in the race. Our Scott Lewis posted a roundup of initial reactions on Monday.

Keegan Kyle is a news reporter for voiceofsandiego.org. He writes about local government, creates infographics and handles the Fact Check Blog. What should he write about next?

Please contact him directly at keegan.kyle@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5668. You can also find him on Twitter (@keegankyle) and Facebook.

Like VOSD on Facebook.

Leave a comment

We expect all commenters to be constructive and civil. We reserve the right to delete comments without explanation. You are welcome to flag comments to us. You are welcome to submit an opinion piece for our editors to review.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.