As San Diego Mayor Heads for Therapy, City Faces Big Mess

By Wood, Daniel B. | The Christian Science Monitor, July 31, 2013 | Go to article overview

As San Diego Mayor Heads for Therapy, City Faces Big Mess


Wood, Daniel B., The Christian Science Monitor


San Diego Mayor Bob Filner - faced with a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by his former communications director - is not only embarrassing his city, but is also presenting it with confusing legal choices, political and legal analysts say.

He has agreed to undergo two weeks of counseling as seven other women have come forward to accuse him of inappropriate behavior. The therapy is to take place Aug. 5-19, during which the mayor has said he will receive twice-a-day briefings about city operations.

But seven of the nine city council members say he should resign. California Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D), House minority leader Nancy Pelosi, and Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz have also indicated as much.

In addition, two potential recall efforts are afoot. One recall group filed an affidavit Monday indicating its plans, and another published an ad over the weekend indicating similar intentions.

It's all adding up to a confusing situation, and questions are multiplying by the moment. Among the questions:

- Who is in control of the city while the mayor is in rehab?

- Can two recalls go on at the same time?

- Are the city's recall measures at odds with those of California?

- Who will pay Filner's legal fees?

"The City Council and other civic leaders throughout the city are responding to the politics of the situation and the outrage that stretches far beyond the region's borders," says David McCuan, a political scientist at Sonoma State University in Rohnert Park, Calif., in an e-mail. "Citizens, comedians, state and national leaders - everyone has the same message for the Mayor: get out and get help. Yet, the Mayor is hunkering down and preserving all his legal options. This sets up a monumental battle through a recall effort and if there is more than one effort, the Mayor could potentially survive."

Filner declared Monday that he thinks the city should pay his legal fees, and the city council rejected that in a late Tuesday vote. The council also voted unanimously to indemnify itself against all damages and legal fees it might incur as a result of the lawsuit.

"If Bob Filner engaged in unlawful conduct and the city is held liable, he will have to reimburse us every penny the city pays and its attorney fees," City Attorney Jan Goldsmith said.

In a statement, Councilmember Kevin Faulconer said: "Bob Filner can't pay back San Diegans for the damage he's done to our city's reputation."

Another figure who says Filner should resign is city council president Todd Gloria, who would become acting mayor in the event of a resignation.

"I applaud his action to seek help, but it only underscores what a lot of us are saying, which is you cannot seek help and run the city at the same time," Mr. Gloria said in an interview with KPBS TV. "That's why myself and so many others have said, Mayor, you need to resign."

Technically, during therapy, the mayor will keep his full authority - signing legislation, if needed, and overseeing parks, roads, libraries, and city services, according to Mr. Goldsmith.

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