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Former San Diego COO: Mayor’s Office Canceled Harassment Training

Evening Edition

Aired 8/1/13 on KPBS Midday Edition.

Jan Goldsmith, City Attorney, City of San Diego


San Diego Mayor Bob Filner's private attorney is arguing that his client's legal bills should be paid by the city because it failed to provide him with sexual harassment training, but a new report claims the mayor's office canceled multiple new employee and management training sessions in his first months of office.

Special Feature Read the Backstory

All of the accusations, statements and apologies from the key players in the developing story about allegations of sexual harassment in Mayor Bob Filner's office and calls from former mayoral supporters for his resignation.

Filner and the city are being sued by his former communications director, who along with seven other women, said she was the victim of unwanted advances and inappropriate groping by the mayor. Earlier this week, the City Council voted against paying Filner's legal bills and decided to sue him to recover any damages the city may have to pay out because of his actions.

Since then, a letter from Filner's attorney, Harvey Berger, to the City Attorney's Office accusing city trainers of unilaterally canceling the sessions has gone public. In response, former city Chief Operating Officer Jay Goldstone told Voice of San Diego that the mayor's office ordered the session to be canceled because it didn't have time for them.

"Absolutely not. I am 100 percent certain that they did not cancel it,'' Goldstone said, referring to Berger's assertion that city trainers were to blame.

Goldstone said the mayor's office eventually relented and held one training session that covered only benefits after they were told they wouldn't receive their benefits without it.

Filner has denied his actions constitute sexual harassment but has apologized for mistreating women. He said he will check himself into a behavioral clinic for treatment for two weeks, starting Monday.

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Avatar for user 'HarryStreet'

HarryStreet | August 1, 2013 at 12:09 p.m. ― 3 years, 8 months ago

Filner playing dumb is a stretch beyond reason. His actions have been same for years. Is he going to hold the state financially responsible when he was a congressman, too? If his claim holds up in court it will only be a demonstration how our courts allow the taxpayer to be manipulated.

Nice try, Bob, but no cigar.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | August 1, 2013 at 1:39 p.m. ― 3 years, 8 months ago

Eight is too many people to come out six months or four years later to say they were "afraid of his power."

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Avatar for user 'David Lucero'

David Lucero | August 1, 2013 at 5:28 p.m. ― 3 years, 8 months ago

The harassment training Filner refers to is not the form of training that would have taught him right from wrong. That would have come from his parents when growing up. In today's workplace we've all gone through sexual harassment training, or some form of it. It's the law. I do not recall any part of the training stating:

1) Don't put a women in a headlock and whisper sexual innuendos in her ear.
2) Don't force kisses on women
3) Don't grope them

I agree with a statement from his lawyer that not everyone understands what sexual harassment is in the eyes of the law. However, Filner's actions go beyond that and his history of harassment is his own fault and shame.

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Avatar for user 'theRose'

theRose | August 1, 2013 at 6:19 p.m. ― 3 years, 8 months ago

That's a good point, David, but by now we're really beyond the stage of parsing terminology. Sexual harasser or not, Filner cannot effectively lead a city and a staff that don't want to be led by him. The dignified and ethical move at this point is to resign. Semi-retirement will leave him time to read, travel, lecture part time, drink heavily, and flirt with all the women he wants. It's a win-win-win.

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Avatar for user 'obshellums'

obshellums | August 1, 2013 at 7:07 p.m. ― 3 years, 8 months ago

Sexual harassment training is or isn't required. That t isn't required by City of San Diego, per Goldsmith's statement tonight, it is because City of San Diego doesn't care about sexual harassment. Goldsmith claims the mayor chose not to take the training or declined to do so. If its required he'd have had the training and it wouldn't be an option to decline. He simply would be unpaid or prohibited from working without completion by the date required. Orientation type requirements are typically completed within days of starting to work. There is much that is shown by this City employment situation that is unlike any civil service I'm accustomed to. The victim didn't have to go to the employer's HR or designated individual to complain, didn't use the City's EEO or whatever existed for such matters. How does San Diego operate usually when getting rid of this mayor isn't a goal? I am not surprised that San Diego residents don't believe in the training and the City offers it only optionally. Requiring training and making workplaces at the City as well as elsewhere is the least important part of being an employer in San Diego and comes far behind giving good pay, benefits, and respect to employees.
Pretending the City is taking these extreme, rushed and highly publicized actions now to make sure such a situation does not again exist as Mayor Sanders just said in an interview is really hard to believe if the training as well as diversity training is not mandatory for employees and managers who work for the City of San Diego. I am aware there has been some quick fix-it efforts to come up to speed by the city after the smear was engaged in and supported by interested parties. I shudder to think how much was not stated or provided for employees before this effort began.

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Avatar for user 'BarryJohn'

BarryJohn | August 1, 2013 at 7:11 p.m. ― 3 years, 8 months ago

Filner's lawyer's argument might be relevant for a lower level employee, but as the Strong Mayor/CEO, Filner would ultimately responsible for the enforcement of all City policies & procedures. A subordinate coordinator-position type employee could not make or force the top executive to engage in the training, whereas other employees could be directly ordered to take the training if they for some reason were not addressing it by their own accord per the City's policy. Also, a narcissist would tend to avoid the training from the standpoint of they don't need it, its a waste of time, because they kinda know everything, in a delusional sense.

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Avatar for user 'SDhiker'

SDhiker | August 2, 2013 at 1:13 a.m. ― 3 years, 8 months ago

Frustrated sigh...

This was the fastest and most over used joke at the gym today: "I didn't act like a decent human/adult/leader/etc....because I didn't have training." I refer to it as the (yes, I am using Seinfeld) George Costanza strategy. When confronted with video of his after hours activities with the cleaning woman on his desk, he says something to the effect of, "Oh... are you telling me that I am not supposed to do that?"

This is not a party issue. Democrats and Republicans are equally guilty. Somehow these community "leaders" feel entitled to get away with what the rest of us would never consider doing - let alone expect to actually keep our positions! Seriously. The average person earns a fraction of what these spoiled politicians take for granted, and we deserve people who represent us at least somewhat accurately. Of course not everyone agrees on specific controversial issues, but I thought it was just common sense to treat women and people in general with respect and dignity. It doesn't take a rocket scientist (or "training") to realize that no one wants a tongue shoved down her/his throat. Perhaps Filner ought to spend some time with Castro as a cell mate?

San Diego has a long history of poor mayors. I am ashamed to admit I voted for this one. My apologies.

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Avatar for user 'philosopher3000'

philosopher3000 | August 2, 2013 at 1:20 a.m. ― 3 years, 8 months ago

So, If I accuse my boss of Harassment, then I can bankrupt him with legal fees, even if he did nothing? Cool.

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Avatar for user 'SDhiker'

SDhiker | August 2, 2013 at 8:11 a.m. ― 3 years, 7 months ago

What I said is with the understanding of guilt.

Then I would really like to know iexactly what he was apologizing for the first time he said he was sorry. Then, when he said he needs two weeks' counseling for sexually inappropriate behaviors, how did that not count as his own admission of responsibility? If I have issues that mean I act as a predator, why should the city have to pay for my therapy?

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