By JULIE WATSON, Associated Press
SAN DIEGO —
An attorney for a woman suing San Diego’s embattled mayor for sexual harassment said Monday the two sides are in settlement talks but declined to say whether a possible resignation was being discussed.
Lawyer Gloria Allred, who represents Mayor Bob Filner’s former communications director, said a retired federal judge is mediating the negotiations. She added the talks are ongoing and she couldn’t comment further.
It wasn’t known if Filner was present for the talks, but he was seen earlier in the day entering the same downtown office building where the mediation took place.
Allred said she and her client would not be returning Tuesday.
Filner is facing a recall effort prompted by a cascade of sexual harassment allegations that also led the entire City Council and many leading Democrats to call for him to step down.
“He needs to resign,” City Councilman Kevin Faulconer said Monday as he headed into City Hall. “He doesn’t represent us, and he does not represent this city.”
Faulconer was later seen entering the building where Filner was spotted by KFMB-TV in San Diego. The councilman referred questions to the city attorney’s office, which declined to comment.
Filner has been out of the public’s eye for the past three weeks while undergoing therapy.
Steve Erie, a political science professor at the University of California, San Diego, said Filner’s resignation must be part of the discussions. Erie added Filner would benefit from waiting it out, since his pension would spike after serving a year, which would be in December.
“As long as he doesn’t resign, he has leverage,” Erie said. “So stay tuned.”
Allred represents Irene McCormack Jackson, who was the first of more than a dozen women to go public with harassment allegations. Since then, his accusers have ranged from a university dean to a retired Navy rear admiral. Some contend he cornered, groped and forcibly kissed them.
McCormack filed a lawsuit claiming Filner 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. The latest accuser came forward Thursday — a 67-year-old great-grandmother and volunteer city worker who assists senior citizens.
The accusations have prompted an avalanche of calls for Filner to resign, including from U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer. A recall effort started Sunday.
Hooters restaurants in San Diego even posted signs saying he’s not welcome.
Filner, 70, served 10 terms in Congress before being elected mayor in November. The feisty liberal has long had a reputation for berating employees and has been dogged by rumors of inappropriate behavior toward women. But nothing in his past approaches what has surfaced in the past six weeks.
City Council President Todd Gloria said Filner is not obligated to show up at City Hall but owes the people of San Diego an explanation of his whereabouts. The city’s daily operations have been running fine without Filner, Gloria said, and should the mayor appear it could make female employees uncomfortable.
“Those of us who have called on the mayor to resign know he is not being effective at this time,” Gloria said. “The mayor’s presence is a distraction.”
Filner’s spokeswoman Lena Lewis and lawyer James Payne did not respond to calls.
If Filner should resign, Gloria would step in as acting mayor.
Before going into therapy, Filner asked voters to be patient while he gets help.
He vowed when he returned that his “focus will be on making sure that I am doing right by the city in terms of being the best mayor I can be, and the best person I must be.”
Filner has agreed not to meet with women alone on city business and has delegated broad authority to a new interim chief operating officer.
A few dozen Filner supporters rallied outside City Hall on Monday, engaging in heated arguments with opponents.
The recall effort must collect 101,597 signatures of registered San Diego voters by Sept. 26. If the petition has fewer than that, the recall campaign will have 30 more days to circulate a supplemental petition to gather additional valid signatures.
If enough signatures are validated by the city clerk, the petition will be presented to the City Council, which must schedule an election within 60 to 90 days.