The City Council ordered Mayor Bob Filner to sign an operating agreement with tourism leaders Tuesday after a judge refused to do so last week.

The council voted 6-1 to force the mayor to move forward with a deal he has repeatedly panned.

(For a simple explanation of the substance behind mayor’s battle with tourism leaders, check out this recent San Diego Explained.)

But the Tuesday vote raised more questions than it answered.

Only one thing seems certain: Filner isn’t done fighting. He wants a better deal for the city, as he emphasized in a Tuesday statement.

Here are five questions that remain after the council vote.

Can Filner veto the council’s resolution?

Yes, the mayor has 10 days to sign or veto the resolution, meaning we’ll likely get an update next week unless the mayor puts the item at the top of his to-do list.

To override that veto, the council needs six votes. That means the measure is unlikely to be rescinded unless one or more of the six council members who approved the resolution changes positions.

These rules are laid out in the city charter.

Can Filner be forced to sign the agreement?

If a judge orders the mayor to sign, he must do it or face sanctions.

“The City Council establishes the policy in the city under our city charter and the mayor executes that policy,” City Attorney Jan Goldsmith said after the Tuesday council meeting. “When the council directs him to do something, he’s gotta do it.”

But ultimately, a judge must compel the mayor to act.

If Filner still refuses, he could be held in contempt of court, meaning he could be fined or even arrested.

That could get complicated, as attorney Gil Cabrera explained on Twitter in response to a question from my colleague Scott Lewis:

Goldsmith suggested the judge could also appoint the sort of notary often used in family court cases when a family member is unwilling to sign a deed. This appointed person could sign the mayor’s name on the agreement without his consent.

Still, if Filner appeals, that could change the rules of the game.

When will Tourism Marketing District funds be released?

Goldsmith said releasing any funds requires multiple steps.

First, the council will need to approve a budget for the Tourism Marketing District, which didn’t happen in November when the funding arrangement was originally approved. Council President Todd Gloria said he’d like to hold a budget vote as soon as Thursday.

The council is likely to request more legal protections for the city, which could delay the release of the funds.

Then the mayor will need to sign the agreement. He has 10 days to do that.

But neither action guarantees the marketing funds can immediately flow to the district.

The city’s current Tourism Marketing District contract gives the city discretion when there are pending legal cases. The city can suspend, reduce or delay payouts until they’re resolved.

When can the San Diego Tourism Authority sign off on advertising campaigns and other new efforts to promote the region? Will the money be released in time to avoid layoffs?

Kerri Kapich, senior vice president of marketing and strategic partnerships, said she doesn’t yet have enough information.

“There are still unknowns and we don’t yet have any answers to your questions,” she wrote in an email after the Tuesday meeting.

Could the Tourism Marketing District deal change?

Yes, Filner could keep negotiating with the Tourism Marketing District and submit suggested amendments to the council.

He said in a statement that he plans to continue talks that started late last week.

“We are 90 percent of the way toward an agreement. And I am confident that we can conclude our negotiations in just a few more days,” Filner said.

In a statement of his own, Gloria said he’d be open to a future vote on potential tweaks to the deal.

“We will continue to collaborate on amendments if necessary,” Gloria said. “I’m open and available to make this happen and am prepared to call a special Council meeting this Thursday so we can all move forward, should the mayor be willing.”

Lisa Halverstadt is a reporter at Voice of San Diego. Know of something she should check out? You can contact her directly at or 619.325.0528.

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Lisa Halverstadt

Lisa is a senior investigative reporter who digs into some of San Diego's biggest challenges including homelessness, city real estate debacles, the region's...

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