National News

August 23, 2013

With deal in place, will San Diego mayor leave?

SAN DIEGO — Mayor Bob Filner kept his low profile Thursday amid speculation he will resign as part of the sexual harassment settlement negotiated by his lawyers and city officials. Meanwhile, the lawyer for the former Filner aide who sued the mayor said the deal doesn’t resolve her lawsuit, a potential sticking point to approval by the City Council.

Details of the agreement struck Wednesday were kept private ahead of Friday’s expected closed-door vote by the council on whether to accept the terms.  

A person with knowledge of the negotiations said the main sticking points during the talks involved granting Filner indemnity in the lawsuit brought by his former communication’s director, Irene McCormack Jackson, and paying his legal fees. The person was not authorized to comment publicly and spoke only on condition of anonymity.

McCormack Jackson and her lawyer, Gloria Allred, participated in the first of three days of negotiations before a mediator but Allred said she never signed off on a settlement and doesn’t know any details. She wants Filner to resign but doesn’t believe he should have legal bills covered by the city and urged the council to reject the proposal if it includes that provision.  

“There should be no payoff for Mayor Filner,” she said.

At least 17 women have claimed Filner sexually harassed them, though only one lawsuit has been filed. All nine member of the City Council along with a laundry list of fellow Democrats including U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer and U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi have called on Filner to quit.

Filner’s lawyers issued a statement Thursday confirming the settlement but declined to provide details “due to the confidential nature of mediation and settlement discussions.”

Francine Busby, chairwoman of the San Diego County Democratic Party, said voters will accept nothing short of resignation as part of a settlement.

“The voters are ready to get this behind them and move forward. It has to be resignation,” she said.

Former city attorney Michael Aguirre said he expects that next week the political discussion will be about who will be the next mayor.

“I think it’s pretty clear he’s going to resign,” he said.

Filner hasn’t had any public events since returning to work this week following therapy for his behavior. He has acknowledged disrespecting and intimidating women but has denied any sexual harassment.

City Attorney Jan Goldsmith, who negotiated on the city’s behalf, also has declined to comment about terms of the deal. Goldsmith previously presented the City Council with a resolution to not pay for Filner’s defense and to countersue to distance the city from the scandal.

Steve Erie, a political science professor at the University of California, San Diego, said Filner’s resignation obviously is part of the proposed resolution.

“He had to have Filner’s scalp in order to compromise and handle Filner’s fees,” Erie said of Goldsmith.

Tony Krvaric, chairman of the San Diego County Republican Party, said voters may disapprove of the settlement if the city is stuck with high legal bills.

There’s a middle ground where it’s probably reasonable,” he said. “We’ll see who got the better of whom.”

The sex scandal has plunged the city into political turmoil. A recall effort has started and organizers have gathered about 10 percent of the roughly 100,000 signatures needed to call an election. Meanwhile, women have continued coming forward and saying Filner made unwanted advances and inappropriate statements to them.

Dianne York, the latest of at least 17 accusers that include a great-grandmother and retired Navy rear admiral, said Filner placed his hand on her buttocks while she posed for a photo with him about three months ago. York said the incident took place after a meeting at his office. She said she reported it to the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department.

McCormack Jackson was the first woman to go public with harassment allegations against Filner, a twice-divorced, 70-year-old former congressman who took office last December. She claimed the mayor asked her to work without panties, demanded kisses, told her he wanted to see her naked and dragged her in a headlock while whispering in her ear.

Other accusers contend he cornered, groped and forcibly kissed them.

Should Filner resign, City Council President Todd Gloria would become acting mayor until a special election is held. Gloria and Councilman Kevin Faulconer were among those at the settlement talks.

 

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