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Filner Mediation Results In Deal; Council Votes Friday

August 22, 2013 1:27 p.m.

GUESTS

Sandhya Dirks KPBS Metro Reporter

Carl Luna, Professor, Political Science, San Diego Mesa College

Tom Reifer, Associate Professor, Sociology, Affiliated Faculty, Ethinic Studies, College of Arts & Sciences, University of San Diego

Related Story: Filner Mediation Results In Deal; Council Votes Friday

Transcript:

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: After days waiting for news to come out of mediation talks, events are moving quickly at City Hall. We learned last night that a deal had been reached over the city and Mayor Filner over a sexual harassment lawsuit. Others are reporting that the mayor's resignation and part of that deal. We are taking your calls: Do you think the end of this political scandal and in sight now? Do you think the city was right to negotiate a deal with the mayor? Give us a call with your questions and comments. Joining me now is KPBS metro reporter, Sandhya Dirks. Start us off with a little bit of background. The mayor was supposed to return to work at City Hall on Monday. Instead we learned mediation sessions were taking place. Tell us about that.

DIRKS: Well, instead of returning to City Hall, he was just a stone's throw away. And we learned that he was meeting with Gloria Allred, the lawyer who is representing many women who have come out with accusations of sexual harassment against the mayor. And she specifically is representing Irene McCormack Jackson, the woman who is suing the mayor and the City of San Diego. In these negotiations, are these mediations on Monday, was the lawyer Allred, and you also had City Council members, including City Council president Todd Gloria. In addition the city attorney was there. So the various key players in this ongoing drama. And they were hashing it out all day long. And finally they met again on Tuesday, and again on Wednesday. And it wasn't until last night in a press conference where you had City Council member Todd Gloria and Kevin Faulconer and city attorney Jan Goldsmith come out and say we have finally reached a proposed deal. But of course that doesn't necessarily mean anything because the City Council still has to approve the deal.

CAVANAUGH: Now, we heard something yesterday that Mayor Filner's spokesperson reported that Filner was back at work yesterday. What was that about?

DIRKS: Well, there are pictures of him from TV crews who had been staking out City Hall of him going into work. And his office confirmed to me that yes, he was back at work. There were also pictures on Twitter that there was a black SUV that was being loaded up with boxes, that the mayor was seen being driven away in it. We can't completely confirm this. We've seen the pictures, there are boxes, there is a black SUV. So there is some speculation. And at this point, it is just speculation. That yes, he was back in City Hall to potentially pack up some of his things. But that's just talk.

CAVANAUGH: San Diego stations and others are reporting that sources have confirmed that there's a resignation deal with the mayor. Is there confirmation of that?

DIRKS: No. And I've talked to several people high up in City Council and other realms of city government, and they're all saying no. At the press conference last night Jan Goldsmith said don't believe what any sources are saying because we legally cannot tell you what is going on. In fact they legally can't tell us what the deal is until City Council approves it. So we can speculate all we want, but it would be prudent to wait until after 1:00 tomorrow when the City Council goes public.

CAVANAUGH: What's happening today with Gloria Allred? She's apparently having a press conference with Mayor Filner's exfiancee.

DIRKS: She is. And this was a wrinkle in this, wait until Friday narrative that we were hearing. It's 1:00 today. We'll be appearing in Los Angeles, not in San Diego. She'll be there with the mayor's exfiancee. Now, both Ingram and Allred have come out and asked for the mayor's resignation. I'm not sure what he can also. She also attentive talk about the proposed deal. But it might just be her last press conference after she's become so familiar to many. Us San Diegans. But maybe she has something to add. Another time where I've got to say wait and see.

CAVANAUGH: Okay. Joining me now is Carl Luna, political science professor at Mesa†College.

LUNA: Hi there.

CAVANAUGH: And Tom Reifer, from the University of San Diego. Welcome to the program.

REIFER: Great to be here.

CAVANAUGH: What kind of a deal do you think would fairly resolve this scandal? What do you think is likely to come next for San Diego City government? Carl, there was supposed to be a cloak of silence over the results of this mediation deal. Now as we hear, news organizations say there is a resignation in sight. What is going on? Is it where are these sources coming from, do you think?

LUNA: Well, we have social media, twitter and all the rest. Where there is no news in the modern news cycle, media can make its own news. All it takes is a photo that shows up on Twitter. And in this age, it's hard to keep anything secret for long.

CAVANAUGH: Do you think

LUNA: It could, if all the parties aren't happy with it. I have a question, did Gloria Allred schedule this press conference yesterday in the reports or afterward? Is is she using this as a way to torpedo what she doesn't like as a deal coming down? There's all kinds of things could be happening. Or maybe they're just waiting to see if the mayor gets a pony to go away with.

CAVANAUGH: It's being reported that the decision before the council will be whether taxpayers should pay Mayor Filner's potential liabilities in exchange for his resignation. Is that the crux of the matter as you see it?

LUNA: That's probably going to be the most important issue. The major leverage the mayor had on this was his resignation. And he's going to want an indemnity shield of liability from the lawsuits. The question is will the voters, the public accept the deal as being too sweet, payment for bad behaviors?

CAVANAUGH: We are taking your calls. Chance is on the line from Old Town. Welcome to the program.

NEW SPEAKER: Thank you. I had a question. We've been hearing a lot about how nobody is allowed to talk about the deal. But if Mayor Filner's resignation is part of the tentative agreement, will he be holding some sort of press conference or releasing a video announcing his resignation or just go away quietly?

CAVANAUGH: Tom, let me put that to you. I don't think we know that yet, but what do you think the mayor should do?

REIFER: Should do. Well, I wrote an oped piece many, many weeks ago, and for a long time, I thought the mayor should resign and go and seek help, and apologize to his constituents. Some people brought up the issue of due process. And it's a different situation when the mayor himself has admitteds there's a monster inside him and so many women have come forward. A lot of people supported Bob Filner because we have a new multiracial majority in San Diego. There's a lot of serious issues on the table, jobs and schools. And that progressive agenda is now imperiled.

CAVANAUGH: Do you think it will be enough for San Diego if indeed the mayor does resign to release a statement? Or should he actually go before the microphones and say something to the people of San Diego?

REIFER: Well, his last going before the microphones didn't go very well because mainly what he did is not resign. I think that he obviously needs help. He seems to be in denial about the problem. And I don't think going on the media is going to cut it. I think he really needs to recognize the damage that he's caused and perhaps issue a statement or apology. But it's going to be a long process for him and all the survivors and victims out there.

CAVANAUGH: Carl, what do you think would be the way if the mayor indeed is going to resign tomorrow, the way he should do it in order to help San Diego get through this?

LUNA: Well, there's should and would and will and all the rest. My bet would be you get a statement out of the mayor's office, the mayor leaves City Hall trying to avoid the press as much as possible and takes up residence in a mountain top some place.

CAVANAUGH: Greg is calling us from San Diego. Welcome to the program.

NEW SPEAKER: Yes, good afternoon, Maureen. I don't think this is a happy event for anyone. And now San Diego has its own Richard Nixon. I think the best that we can hope for is to get a Gerald Ford. The divisions have become strong, the feelings against him have become strong. But it's his own personal tragedy. Up until a year ago, he was a successful Congressman, now he turns into a Mr. Hyde. This community needs to heal. We need someone who won't be vindictive, who won't try to make political hay out of this.

CAVANAUGH: Right, well, thank you very much for the call. We're looking forward a little bit to see what happens if indeed he does resign. That's an interesting take. Some sort of Gerald Ford after a Nixon resignation.

LUNA: Well, we had that once. That's when Dick Murphy resigned and we got Jerry Sanders. It may well be that we need somebody who can be dynamic enough to pick up the mantel of Filner's relationship. He was elected to do certain things and had public support for it. The special election will be about whether or not you can continue that legacy.

CAVANAUGH: I want to hear your take on that. The caller was talking about the fact that Bob Filner a successful political career for 20 years in Washington, he has completed less than a year as mayor of San Diego, and then this avalanche of perhaps his own creation falls on him.

REIFER: Well, are I don't think the Nixon analogy is inapt at all. The Tribune said that the disappointment of Bob Filner's implosion is proportionate to the grander vision. And unlike Nixon who was carrying out an unpopular war in Vietnam, Bob Filner comes from the opposite direction. There's this new multiracial coalition that is animating the idea of a progressive San Diego and addressing real issues. So the real tragedy is that his personal behavior was so at odds with his life in public office, those issues aren't going to go away. And what makes it especially tragic is that there's a lot of communities that have been underserved, that have been hurting, that haven't had hope for a long time. They had some hope with this mayor. And now they're really left in the lurch. And if there's going to be a special election again, I hope those issues remain front and center as well as the larger issues of violence against women and sexual abuse that have been brought up by the very unfortunate -- I don't even know what to call it.

CAVANAUGH: Situation.

[ LAUGHTER ]

CAVANAUGH: Let me take another call. John is calling from Kensington. Welcome to the program.

NEW SPEAKER: Hello, thank you for taking my call. I've heard some whispers that the retirement benefits are in jeopardy for him. Is there any correlation between a city job and his Congress job as far as his retirement benefits? Someone has mentioned that he needs to work until December in order to get some type of full compensation of retirement, which is something of the nature of $200,000 a year. Does that seem right to you?

CAVANAUGH: Actually, I don't know that either. So let me ask Carl.

LUNA: Voice of San Diego was going to the various pensions that the mayor pulls out because he already has time accrued from the city from his previous time on the council. He's got his congressional. The amount you're looking at, as I recall of course was in the thousands of dollars. $1,000 or more a month, per se. It's not huge money. But you go into retirement, and you can get what you want.

CAVANAUGH: We were talking about the kind of negotiation that the City Council might have to look at as they get this deal, and they weigh it tomorrow before they vote. One of the implications of the lawsuit that Irene McCormack Jackson filed was that it was -- it seemed to be complied in the news conference that perhaps his resignation will be all that she was asking for. So what potential liabilities might the city face in taking up a kind of exchange with the mayor for his resignation?

LUNA: Well, those are the dogs that haven't barked yet. It may be that Allred's client will settle for a resignation. There are 16, 17 women who have already come forward. There are a lot more out there, are possibility. There are a lot of lawyers in the world. And just because you resolve this one sexual harassment claim doesn't mean more will be coming down the pipe. How they deal with that becomes a more problem attic issue.

CAVANAUGH: Tom, the idea that the city could indemnify the mayor from some things -- but not from everything, right?

REIFER: Yeah. It's the big unknown. We don't know. The women who have spoken up are women who apparently managed to resist his advances. We don't know how many other women there are, and if he was successful if getting women to go to bed with him, they're probably extremely reluctant to speak up. So the city is looking at potential liability that they don't even know at this point. And we're in a very strange situation because in effect, I feel the city is being held hostage because there's a huge amount of people who want the mayor out, and new leadership. And however people feel about indemnification against liability, yet we have this person who won't resign at this point. So it's a really difficult situation for the city, and for all the people who have been hurt and feel betrayed by Mayor Filner.

CAVANAUGH: Let's take a break. When we return, we will continue our discussion about mayor Filner and the settlement reached with the City of San Diego.

CAVANAUGH: What do you think the city should have negotiated with mayor Filner? And if you still supporter mayor Filner, tell us why. 1-888-895-5727 is our number. Let me go right to the phones. Bridgette is calling from Rancho Bernardo. Welcome to the program.

NEW SPEAKER: Thank you. I have kind of a remark about the coverage of all of the media. But KPBS is just as implicated. All of his accusers were always identified by their professional title and their rank. The implication that their accusations carried more weight and had more traction because of their status. Implying that if some ordinary woman that was not a director or a retired admiral could have just turned this into a he said, she said. And it disenfranchises most women who don't have lofty title when is they make an accusation.

CAVANAUGH: That's a very interesting point. And I just need to say though, even with the titles for some people, this is a he said she said. Tom, bring that to you.

REIFER: Well, it's a very powerful point. One of the things that we've been talking about is that so far a good percentage if not most of the women who have come forward have had these titles. But there could be a lot of women out there who don't have the titles. And maybe who Filner was successful in getting to bed. We don't really know. But one of the important things is to take this moment to realize that there's a lot of survivors out there of this type of abuse, especially women. It can happen to anybody. And it's important for us to recognize that it doesn't matter what the title is, what the status is, it's an issue of ethics and morals and how people are treated. Filner himself has admitted that there's a monster inside him. I think this shines the light on how people in power, even people who may have done very important things in public life can abuse that power. And I think the caller makes an important point which you really, really need to think about.

CAVANAUGH: Carl, say the City Council approves this proposed deal, and say Mayor Filner does step down tomorrow. What happens next?

LUNA: Well, if the mayor does step down, it depends on what the timeframe and windows for his evacuation of City Hall. Todd Gloria takes over as acting mayor of the City Council. The city clerk moves toward organizing the special election, and the candidates then start to file paperwork. So sometime between Halloween and Thanksgiving, we try to get a new mayor.

CAVANAUGH: And Todd Gloria would apparently become acting mayor?

LUNA: In the current strong mayor system, the council president becomes the lead. I would assume Mr. Eckert would continue to do management in the mayor's office. What happens to the mayor's personal staff, I'm not certain.

CAVANAUGH: And this also filters down to Kevin Faulconer then becomes City Council president, and we have a Republican/democratic split on the City Council until we get a new mayor.

LUNA: That's basically it. It's hard to move forward because you don't have the mayor pushing things through. As a Democrat working with a democratic majority, you don't have the veto proof position.

CAVANAUGH: Let's take another call. Barbara is calling us from San Diego. Welcome to the program.

NEW SPEAKER: Hi. I think that the mayor should stand and fight. And I think honestly he was an oldfashioned guy that got away with some oldfashioned ideas about how you talk to women. Nobody went to the hospital, nobody died. And nobody had DNA on their dress. But saying that -- obviously he had amends to make and needed to get into some counseling and therapy. But I was so excited when he got elected, finally a democratic mayor in San Diego, addressing issues that long needed to be addressed. And I really like his track record. I think that he should continue to fight for what San Diego's citizens wanted and needed.

CAVANAUGH: Barbara, thank you. I want to get our guests to respond. This goes to what you were saying before, Tom, about the idea that a lot of people who voted for Bob Filner were looking forward to a new agenda for San Diego. And apparently what has happened, women who have come forward with their stories, are just simply in the enough for some people to get over that idea of wanting this new vision for San Diego.

REIFER: To be honest, I honestly think that the thought however understandable in some contexts is pretty horrifying. Sexual abuse and sexual harassment is no joke. And one doesn't have to die to be deeply hurt by it. It affects all members of society, women and men, people in the military. And the thing is, for people who support a progressive vision, the first thing you realize is no matter what their moral calculus is, Bob Filner, it's very unlikely that he's going to survive. And hold onto him when he himself has admitted that there's a monster inside him, if you want to harm the progressive agenda, that's the way to do it. For moral and practical reason, people need to realize, if we're going to address the serious issues in San Diego, including issues of sexual abuse and violence and larger issues of race and classification, we need to find a new leader.

CAVANAUGH: And who are some of the potential candidates that bring to mind?

LUNA: The usual suspects. Todd Gloria, Kevin Faulconer, Jan Goldsmith is an outside possibility. He strikes me more as a Bonnie Dumanis, a good attorney, not necessarily a city-wide candidate for consecutive leadership. Carl DeMaio will sit it out. But the guy you haven't heard from is Nathan Fletcher. And the greatest threat to the progressive Democrat Bob Filner is Bob Filner. You've got a 5-4 democratic majority in the council, a 3-2 democratic registration advantage. This is a town that has become certainly purple heading toward blue.

CAVANAUGH: Now, I'm just recalling here that there is a recall campaign underway. If Bob Filner does resign, if a resignation is part of deal that has been reached, what happens to the recall campaign? They've apparently raised a substantial amount of money.

LUNA: They return the money, fold up shop, and move on. Now, maybe Bob Filner is doing all this to gut the recall, and at the last moment, he decides not to resign. Until that piece of paper is filed and he's out of City Hall, you can't guarantee them anything at this point. So the recall people shouldn't be going anywhere quite yet.

CAVANAUGH: If he's going to resign, when will that paper be filed? When will this be -- if the City Council votes to accept this deal tomorrow, and if resignation is part of the deal, when is this finally a done deal?

LUNA: One of the other things down the pipe, the council files, this are the mayor decides to resign, and then somebody challenges it in court, argues that the council has acted inappropriately with their deals with the mayor. There's a lot of 21sts and turns.

CAVANAUGH: Go ahead, Tom.

REIFER: I heard that the democratic national committee did vote to ask Filner to resign and said if he wouldn't, they would support the recall.

CAVANAUGH: Okay. Malack is calling from Point Loma. Welcome to the program.

NEW SPEAKER: Thank you. Following up on the next candidate issue, sexual harassment is a very deep and concerning issue. Following your coverage, and just yesterday I heard the women from occupy, and I learned even on other coverage how the media has even admitted that this is an ongoing joke. Volunteers, not high-end people were being Harried and had issues with the mayor, yet the democratic people calling for his resignation are saying they were aware of it, yet they still promoted him. Is there any way that could substantiate some protocol to prevent rather than react issues like this for our next candidate? Because it's all coming at the taxpayers' expense, even if he stays or resigns. It's still forgetting the public.

CAVANAUGH: That's a great question, thank you. Carl, will this perhaps make the City of San Diego -- institute some background checks or the parties within San Diego, some more precautions being taken about candidates?

LUNA: Well, are Democrats had suspicions, and some people knew what the mayor had been doing in the past. Republicans, if they could have found out and gotten hard proof, they could have used that in the campaign. So he was careful. Coming out of this, Bob Filner is now a poster child for you don't do this anymore to the gentlemen of America. Between Anthony Weiner and other gentleman in scandal, the new politicians have to be much more sensitive to their behavior.

CAVANAUGH: And Tom I would imagine that the people themselves in the various parties might be much more -- give much more scrutiny to the people who want to run for office and want their dormant

REIFER: Yes. But the best protection is to create an environment, which hopefully we're starting to do in San Diego, where people have been sexually harassed and survivors of sexual abuse can come out. I got survived in this issue because I was sexually exploited when I ran away from home. I didn't want these women to be out there for home. So I for the first time told my story in the San Diego Union Tribune. The best protection we can offer to make sure this doesn't happen again is realize this is an endemic problem, it's not just with the mayor, it's around the country, around the world. We need to create an environment where women and people are respected and they feel they have the right to speak up. And men need to also speak up and support women in realizing that we still have to change. I'm not saying that Filner is bad. I'm saying that I'm a man, I have to change, we have to continually work against sexism, and when we create that environment, we don't have to do as many background checks because the people who are affected by this will be empowered to speak out.

CAVANAUGH: Are you surprised that this story has grown into such a big national story?

REIFER: Well, no. It's such an extraordinary story. He sailed through the mayoral candidacy without this coming out. And I knew a lot of progressive people that were supportive of him. I was supportive of him. I had no idea about this. And what led it to get worse and worse is that he refused to resign. And when everybody thought he was going to, he didn't. And he had the gall to say I'm going to go into therapy for two weeks and then come out. Well, I've been recovering from trauma for decades. So for someone who's admitted they're a perpetrator, to say they're going to deal with this for two weeks and then come out -- it's not really surprising. And it shows that some things have changed. The climate around issues of sexual abuse in the last 30 years, despite the fact that it goes on in secret has changed. And that's very important to build on.

CAVANAUGH: And is there another aspect to this in terms of this becoming a major national muse story? That it's sort of like an unfolding political drama?

LUNA: Well, there's seldom been a story this dramatic in San Diego's history, where you have a mayor so personally flawed. And it's part of also the context of the time between the Catholic church abuse scandals, Mr. Winer and other politicians. We seem to have reached a point where we're tire have had men being jerkish like this.

CAVANAUGH: We have Lori SaldaÒa on the line. Welcome to the program. Oh, okay. She was with us, and she couldn't stay on the phone. She did say that there will be the highest level of investigation for the next candidate. So that's one voice from the Democratic Party saying that. Ed in Chula Vista is on the line. Welcome to the program.

NEW SPEAKER: Thank you. My comment is that I think you guys should stop going around saying sexual harassment. Because as far as I know, Bob Filner has not admitted to anything. So he's innocent until proven guilty. And there's a lot of people in this city in San Diego who were out to get him from the very beginning. And to some people, his election was a nightmare. And they didn't want it to happen. And you know who I'm talking about. So I think he's not being treated fairly. I think he's done too much for the country and too much for civil rights.

CAVANAUGH: Thank you so much. And I understand where you're going with this. We have talked about Mayor Filner's credentials when it comes to civil rights and his progressive agenda. I think it's fair to point out that he was being sued for sexual harassment, which is why we are talking sexual harassment. But Carl, to the larger issue here of our caller, that there were forces that weren't particularly thrilled that Mayor Filner was mayor of San Diego --

LUNA: There were a lot of people who didn't want Richard Nixon to be president, but then he served it up on a silver platter with watergate. If the mayor hadn't committed these actions -- there's courts and courts of public opinion. There's administrative procedures. You don't have to be convicted in a court of sexual harassment to be labeled a sexual Harrisor and have it be vetted out. That being the case, he is also the poster child for the problem of increasingly politicians seeing their office as a personal fiat rather than a public service. He believed he deserved this office, and no matter what he had done, he should be in office. At some point, we have to start separating people from their offices. And there's a lot of other people to do it in the progressive job.

REIFER: There's another tipping point that we reached too. In a Roman Catholic institution, they emphasized the sexuality that people have. Recently the pope came out and said who am I to judge? And now what we're talking about is are relationships based on voluntary love or coercion? And that's a much more important point than somebody's sexual orientation. I think we may be in the context of another tipping point here. And for the callers who continue to call in, obviously everybody is innocent until they're proven guilty. But it's strange that the callers don't mention that the mayor himself has said that there's a monster inside him, he went into therapy for two week. So we're not in the usual situation here. If somebody accuses somebody offing some, of course they're innocent till proven guilty. But when the person admits to varying extents that they're responsible for behavior that is disrespectful to women and they're the leader of a city, we're in a different situation. So I think that people have to be clear about the separation between innocent till proven guilty even though it's not actually the situation in California, and around the country, because of the loads that defense attorneys have, it's really the poor who can't really get a fair shake. Of course the caller is right, but that's not exactly this situation.

CAVANAUGH: There's a press conference at 1:00 today. Gloria Allred says she and the mayor's exfiancee will be at this conference. We don't know what they're going to say. But earlier when I was speaking to you, you made the point that Filner's position to retain office was weakened because his exfiancee cut off their relationship. She was not at his side. Explain that a little bit.

LUNA: Well, in cases where would you have had such issues where a man has been accused of bad behavior, if the wife stands by them, people are more prone to cut them some slack to believe that they're going to change. Bob Filner became a man alone out there. And that certainly didn't help women with public opinion.

CAVANAUGH: I have to wrap it up there. Carl Luna and Tom Reifer, thank you both very much.