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Goldsmith Says Part Of Recall Laws Should Be Repealed

July 29, 2013 1:16 p.m.


Todd Gloria, Council President, City of San Diego

Related Story: City Of San Diego's Recall Process May Be Unconstitutional


This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

CAVANAUGH: Our top story on Midday Edition in an extraordinary public statement heard live here on KPBS on Friday, San Diego Mayor Bob Filner acknowledged that he engaged in intimidating behavior and failed to respect women for many years. And because of that, Mayor Filner said he would be entering a behavior counseling clinic for two weeks of intensive therapy to address his behavior. But he did not say he'd be taking a leave of absence or handing over the powers of his office. If that did happen San Diego's City Council President Todd Gloria would be named acting Mayor and Council member. Pres. Gloria who joins me now and welcome to the show.

GLORIA: Thanks, Maureen.

CAVANAUGH: First, what is your reaction to the mayor's statement on Friday?

GLORIA: It's not enough and it underlines the points that others and I have made that yes the mayor is entitled to due process but that due process is separate from the responsibilities of the mayor and he cannot seek help ease and run the city at the same time. This may be for two weeks, but I don't believe anyone truly thinks two weeks is enough to fix what appears to be a very significant problem by his own admission. So it isn't enough and it's all the more reason for us to double down and ask him to resign his office and allow the city to move on.

CAVANAUGH: Do you have questions about how city government will function during the mayor's stay in the clinic?

GLORIA: The charter is not as clear as we would like it to be but effectively what it amounts to is a vacation for the mayor, a two-week vacation as if you were going on a pleasure vacation. Obviously this is for a different purpose but the outcome is the same. He remains as mayor he still the head of our executive branch. We will lead the legislative branch but you really need both branches working in order for the city to move forward.

CAVANAUGH: He said in a statement he would be briefed mornings and evenings about city business. Do we know about those briefings who may be conducting briefings for the mayor?

GLORIA: I have no idea and certainly his announcement while encouraging at least as the standpoint of a human being I want him to get the help he needs. But it definitely raises questions about where's is this going to be happening, who is paying for it, how are the briefings going to be conducted what information is he going to be receiving and how does the receipt of that information match the need for help. Can you do both at the same time? Myself and many others don't believe that you can and that's why for the good of the city he should step aside.

CAVANAUGH: Do you believe that the mayor will be answering those questions for you before he leaves on August 5 for the therapy?

GLORIA: Maureen, candidly my experience of the mayor is it's been difficult to get any information out of the office and while I hope to I hope he does it to the people to explain how this is going to work, I'm certainly not expecting it.

CAVANAUGH: Where does that's city's chief operating officer Walt Ekard fit into this?

GLORIA: He's definitely a helpful person. He's helping run the organization, said he's there helping to mind the store anyway [but he wasn’t elected] and my point has been that we don't have a staff problem at the city, we have a mayor problem at the city and, while I'm glad Walt is there it does not fix a serious problem we have with the mayor.

CAVANAUGH: One of the many differences between the mayor's behavioral stint and clinic is that if the Mayor were on vacation we would probably know where he was. You expect to know where the mayor will be having his therapy?

GLORIA: I think this probably issues around privacy and his ability to get medical attention privately as anyone would. But I think the thing about public services you are kind of held to a higher standard notes were certainly the allegations against him well they would be acceptable really anywhere indefinitely because his dismissal if you work in any other organization you are supposed to be held to a higher standard and I don't necessarily know all the information that I have but definitely raise questions about the most of which is do we really believe that two weeks of help of whatever kind is going to actually solve the problem. I don't believe that anybody really believes that it will.

CAVANAUGH: Let me put it this way: is it important to you as a city official to know where the mayor is?

GLORIA: If that was part of our issue with the trip to Paris. I certainly was not informed that he was going. I heard anecdotally a day or two before he went that he was going. Definitely asks questions to me in the nature of a natural disaster that happens while he's away who's in charge and how do we get things taken care of. We can working away to make sure that things get done but who actually has the legal authority who is really truly responsible and those are questions I think that we would ask.

CAVANAUGH: President Todd Gloria, this situation has brought up some gaps and some great areas and to whether the city council can intervene and force the mayor to step down for instance the city council has no impeachment power. Why is that?

GLORIA: You have to ask the folks who drafted this form of government. A few years ago the folks were asked to transfer from the city manager form of government to a charter strong form of government what we've seen in other issues is that there are real flaws in our charter. I've asked our rules committee even before this crisis to really explore those and perhaps come forward because these are changes only the voters can make the City Council cannot change the charter the voters have to so we were working looking at that obviously with the current situation looking at different sections of the charter more closely but we don't have the ability to impeach the only way this nightmare can and is eager to recognition or recall

CAVANAUGH: Or a connection?

GLORIA: Or a connection.

CAVANAUGH: Can the City Council change to the city charter and put a vote on it?

GLORIA: We can do that but the reality is that probably would be timely for the current situation. Whether it's municipal code changes which we made it relative to the recall or charter changes issues of incapacitation or lack of fitness for office again those are changes placed on the ballot by the City Council but the reality that probably wouldn't happen any sooner than next year and again, we need him to leave now.

CAVANAUGH: Indeed you bring up a good point because it's not just the situation but what you are saying is the San Diego city charter provides no recourse for the city Council if a mayor is incapacitated or is just really no longer fit for office for a variety of reasons.

GLORIA: Right and I want to be cautious because you know, institutions are designed to withstand personalities and obviously we have a difficult personality now. We shouldn't make any radical changes based on one person but it does expose a flaw and whether it's this or other issues that you can imagine there's a reason why there's a line of succession at the federal and at the state level for issues of incapacitation and we don't have that now and that's obviously a flaw that we may need to address sooner than we ever would've thought.

CAVANAUGH: Speaking of city laws, there seems to be some confusing language in the municipal code about recall elections. The biggest problem that's been identified is that the law says that no one can cast a vote for a new mayor unless they voted in the recall election. What does that actually mean?

GLORIA: It means that we are not in compliance with state law and Councilmember Mark (inaudible) he has been working with the city attorney. They've identified this problem. We have reason to believe that if this were challenged in court the city would lose and as a consequence he is working to bring something forth. He's requested of me last Friday to docket something for the Council's consideration. It's my anticipation that I will do that. Again not because necessarily the personalities involved but if we do have exposure where we are out of compliance with state law and have vulnerability to the lawsuit. The Council would be wise to act quickly to fix that and we will try to do that.

CAVANAUGH: Would you say are quickly going to fix, how quickly can a counsel fix that, in other words that language and municipal code if you decided, if you all voted and decided you wanted to change it what would the process be like?

GLORIA: It's not as swift as you think. If we were to vote today would be a municipal code change in the way our laws and rules work you would have to vote twice that would take a couple of weeks and the mayor would have the opportunity to veto it and I would venture that he's likely to do that the Council could override the veto and it's 30 days until it's implemented. So that is the normal process and of course we would follow our normal process and the normal laws, so it's not something that could be done overnight nor should it be. Another part of my consideration with looking at putting this on the Council's agenda we want to make sure this has been fully vetted by the city attorney, city clerk and others to make sure that what we are doing is good, sound policy but given that we are out of compliance with state law it seems that the right thing to do.

CAVANAUGH: Since we are out of compliance with state law right now does that mean that people who are promoting a recall have actually no recourse because our city laws don't make a legal recall possible?

GLORIA: I don't know that for a fact. That's a question I've asked the city attorney and it will help us decide timing and how swiftly we need to act but it's a concern. This is, this crisis has caused us to focus on things that we have not had to look at before. I spent most of my time looking at potholes, roads and public safety. We have not had to talk about succession, recall, these kinds of issues now that we are it is my response ability to try to get it right.

CAVANAUGH: There's another issue regarding recall. I've just been told that a second recall petition has been submitted by Michael Pallamary, land-use attorney. So there are now apparently two recall petitions circulating against Mayor Bob Filner. But there is some confusion about whether there can be multiple recall efforts for the same official. Are you clear on that provision?

GLORIA: I am not either. He's a very unusual times we are in and I guess it just begs the question, Maureen, that the mayor needs to do the right thing and just resign. This is becoming so complicated and so difficult. It's very difficult clear the business of the city is getting mired down in this morass that even if we sort out all these questions we are stuck with the problem with the mayor has lost his ability to lead and while we answer these questions we will and make the corrections necessary the easiest and most appropriate fix is for the mayor to resign.

CAVANAUGH: The City Council starts its recess [in two weeks] is that right?

GLORIA: It does.

CAVANAUGH: Does that coincide with the stay of the mayor in the behavioral clinic?

GLORIA: Almost perfectly.

CAVANAUGH: I see and does that mean that you lose time to make any possible changes you want to make any of these municipal codes regarding the recall?

GLORIA: No, I have ability to call a special meeting of the City Council at any time and only have one scheduled in order to do some essential business in the middle of August is unrelated to these matters and it's my expectation that if there's something urgent along these lines I will schedule a special meeting of the city Council and my staff is meeting with the council members to identify any time they may not be physically present to vote so that we get the maximum numbers of members there but I will do whatever it takes that's necessary to get the city's business done and obviously because of this crisis there may be a need to call special meetings and we will do that.

CAVANAUGH: If Mayor Filner does not resign how do you see the relationship with the city Council in the months to come?

GLORIA: It wasn't great to begin with. I think that's important to note. He and the council have been clashing on a number of issues from almost day one, this is more complex and perhaps more uncomfortable sitting in rooms of the Council without seven of the nine of us saying that you need to go. It just makes things difficult. Another barrier toward getting things done but you know myself and all my colleagues who've weighed in on this issue have said we will do what we can to get the city business done but the reality is that it's incredibly awkward and you know my personal comfort is not the priority here, but it sure shows that, again, what I said a moment ago in order for this form of government to work you have to have both coequal branches working and working efficiently and I think it's very easy to see that the executive branch, through the multiple resignations that have happened, to having to respond to legal complaints, they are not capable of being fully focused on the people's business. The counsel, the mayor cannot be (inaudible) until they both are able to do that the city is pretty unable to perform the way it should.

CAVANAUGH: What is your sense of you don't mind me asking about how the women who work at City Hall are feeling about all of this and feeling about perhaps the return is Mayor Filner after therapy?

GLORIA: You know I haven't really asked anyone that direct question but after being made aware of these allegations I asked Mr. Ekard, our interim Chief Operating Officer to provide alternative workstations for any woman who may have concerns and that was granted and I'm not sure if anyone has availed themselves yet but we are trying to do what we can to make sure we limit liability, that we have a positive working environment. But I don't necessarily know how the women who work for the city feel about it. I just don't know personally.

CAVANAUGH: And finally, what are the issues in San Diego that you don't want to see get overshadowed by Mayor Filner's problems?

GLORIA: Any of them. The business of the city, we're the eighth largest city in the country. We are America's finest city regardless of what's going on that's still true we've been working really aggressively on infrastructure. I sit on the infrastructure committee—for the first time ever in the city we have an infrastructure committee and we are doing good work and the city's budget is coming along I think it's better than it was a few years ago there's a lot of progress that's made and the progress we are not able to talk about because in the last week all we do is talk about the allegations against the mayor. No one has had me on to talk about road repair, no one has had me on to talk about the police retention program that we will be voting on tomorrow. They're all things we are doing that are good work but is getting lost in the static around this, around these allegations and again it's another reason why it's very obvious the mayor cannot stay. He must resign.

CAVANAUGH: And I've been speaking with San Diego city Council President Todd Gloria. Thank you so much.

GLORIA: Thank you, Maureen.