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The Legal Issues Surrounding Mayor Filner And Sexual Harassment Allegations

Evening Edition

Aired 8/8/13 on KPBS Midday Edition.


Dan Eaton, Employment law attorney, Seltzer Caplan McMahon & Vitek


SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A dispute is brewing over whether the sexual harassment suit filed against Mayor Bob Filner by his former communications director should be moved to Imperial County.

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's lawyers declared in court filings that they would seek a change of venue to Imperial County for the lawsuit filed by Irene McCormack Jackson.

Attorney Harvey Berger said media coverage of the allegations in San Diego County has been "widespread, unrelenting, intense and outspoken.''

Los Angeles attorney Gloria Allred, who represents McCormack Jackson, said on Wednesday she would oppose the motion.

"We believe that the case should be heard and decided by a jury of Mayor Filner's peers who reside in San Diego,'' Allred said.

San Diego Superior Court Judge Richard Strauss set a Sept. 16 hearing to consider pretrial motions, including the attempt to have the case heard in Imperial County.

Filner was initially scheduled to give a deposition in the sexual harassment lawsuit filed by his former communications director on Friday.

However, it was rescheduled for Sept. 17 after a psychologist sent a letter that said Filner would be unavailable because he was undergoing "an intensive treatment program.'' Filner started the two-week behavioral therapy program at an undisclosed location on Monday.

On Wednesday, the number of women claiming the 70-year-old San Diego mayor made unwanted sexual advances to them reached 13 after two women told CNN Filner came on to them at an event where they were speaking about being raped while serving in the military.

Eldonna Lewis Fernandez, a retired Air Force master sergeant, said Filner, who was running for mayor during their encounter last year, told her she was beautiful and asked her to dinner. He later left her a voice mail.

"Hi, it's your newly favorite congressman, Bob Filner,'' he says on the message. "You know, the one who fell in love with you at your last speech?''

Fernandez said she deleted the message but later found it in her phone's trash file.

Gerri Tindley said Filner sat next to her in a waiting room at the event and kept moving closer to her on a couch. Tindley, who said she was raped while in the Army and bore a son as a result, said she nearly fell off the couch trying to get away from him.

"He got as close as he could to me -- his jacket was touching my jacket,'' Tindley told CNN. "I was bent down. He was bent down with me, rubbing like he cared, like he was consoling me.''

Some San Diego political consultants have signed on to an effort to recall the mayor. Public relations man John Hoy, campaign treasurer April Boling and fundraiser Jean Freelove will lead the campaign to collect nearly 102,000 valid signatures between April 18 and Sept. 26. The three were able to gather 115,000 valid signatures to qualify a pension reform initiative for the June 2012 ballot.

Their presence should convince potential donors that the campaign is credible, according to Rachel Laing, who signed on to help with communications.

Filner's predecessor, Jerry Sanders -- now the CEO at the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce -- sent Filner a letter disinviting him to a trip to Washington, D.C., in September.

"We simply cannot risk any major distraction that would further impede the region's business,'' Sanders wrote.

Several business leaders, including Sanders, last week joined the chorus of calls for Filner to resign.

KPBS' Maureen Cavanaugh, Patty Lane and Peggy Pico contributed to this Midday and Evening Edition segment

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Avatar for user 'Mmikey'

Mmikey | August 8, 2013 at 8:13 a.m. ― 3 years, 7 months ago

stalling tactic

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Avatar for user 'strata66'

strata66 | August 8, 2013 at 9:11 a.m. ― 3 years, 7 months ago

As another writer wrote, all of this heavy unprecedented local and national media coverage could be construed as "Jury Tampering" by a select few of Bob's haters. Bob will not get a fair trial here or anywhere else for that matter and because of that it could possibly be thrown out of court. Besides, yesterday my neighbor yelled out of his window, "Hey your boy Bob is in a lot of trouble, laugh laugh. But he's just looking for a girlfriend like we all are, laugh, laugh. It's no big deal to me, he's a good guy laugh laugh."

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Avatar for user 'thompsonrichard'

thompsonrichard | August 8, 2013 at 9:24 a.m. ― 3 years, 7 months ago

Sanders should stick to his knitting. Bush doesn't attack Obama. Schwarzenegger doesn't attack Brown. In American political life, we are subject to three kings: President, Governor, Mayor. Sanders should ride off into the sunset, following a part of the Unwritten Constitution. The lawsuit claims the mayor asked his own director of communications (a former U-T reporter) 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 Recall Filner group is optimistic because of the emotional response evoked by Filner’s alleged actions and the widespread news coverage: “Basically all of San Diego knows what’s going on and they want to have a say.” And some of the subsequent accusations by other women are truly dubious. "He touched me on the cheek? He asked me out? This is dissolving into a farce.” Look at the accompanying KPBS article about raped military women. The have a group phobia which has fixed
on the man who did a lot for veterans as Chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee for several years. No good deed goes unpunished. Two weeks ago, noted literary agent Sandy Dijkstra, a longtime supporter of Mayor Bob Filner, sent him a note, advising him to step down. Now she has reversed course, decrying what she called “a Scarlet Letter witch hunt” to drive him from office. “He deserves the chance to clean up his act and be the mayor we thought we elected,” she said. Dijkstra was “sickened” by a Steve Breen editorial cartoon in Sunday’s U-T. It showed a leering Filner looking at a copy of Playboy magazine tucked into a sexual-harassment workbook. Dijkstra called it anti-Semitic and “a vile caricature right out of Hitler’s playbook.”
A native New Yorker, Dijkstra is known as a relentless, sometimes abrasive negotiator on behalf of the authors she represents. Her roster includes Amy Tan, Lisa See and Pulitzer Prize winning historian Eric Foner.

Soren Kierkegaard, 1847 Diary~ ' The Crowd' is really what I have aimed at polemically, and that I have learned from Socrates. I want to make men aware so that they do not waste and squander their lives. The aristocrats take for granted that there is always a whole mass of men who go to waste. But they remain silent about it, live secluded, and act as if these many, many human beings did not exist at all. This is the wickedness of the aristocrats' exclusiveness — that in order to have an easy life themselves they do not even make people aware. I want to make the crowd aware of their own ruin — or do not misunderstand me. I do not intend to strike them (alas, one cannot strike the crowd) — no, I will constrain them to strike me. The reformer who, as they say, fights a powerful individual (i.e., an emperor or a pope) has to bring about the downfall of the mighty one; but he who with justice alone confronts "the crowd" -- from which comes all corruption -- must see to it that he himself falls.

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Avatar for user 'MarineRoom'

MarineRoom | August 8, 2013 at 1:35 p.m. ― 3 years, 7 months ago

Thompson: excellent points, particularly about the unseemly intrusion of a former mayor into this tragicomedy. He could have not done that and been ahead. Found it very odd. Apparently Ms. Dijkstra agrees.

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Avatar for user 'linked'

linked | August 8, 2013 at 2:04 p.m. ― 3 years, 7 months ago

I'd like media to explore why these women haven't come forward before and delve into the issues of why the media didn't bring this to people's attention. I think it's because of the pervasiveness and acceptance of sexual harassment in the workplace. I think there is a huge problem with sexual harassment (both women and men) in the workplace and it is accepted as being part of being able to be a professional. If you react you will not be considered professional and there will be consequences for your professional development and retribution, including threats to one's job. In this economic environment that is used and is successful. By the time one can plan for a way to escape that workplace environment, the statute of limitations is over. Forget being a whistleblower or taking it to the state board - it's not an economically viable alternative.

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Avatar for user 'benz72'

benz72 | August 8, 2013 at 2:55 p.m. ― 3 years, 7 months ago

Are people objecting to the disinvitation or to his statement about the recall or to us being told about it? I agree that Sanders view of Filner isn't any more or less relevant to any recall effort than yours or mine, but surely his view of Filner IS relevant to a trade trip Sanders is organizing and therefore the disinvitation is appropriate.

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Avatar for user 'Tired_of_PC'

Tired_of_PC | August 8, 2013 at 4:01 p.m. ― 3 years, 7 months ago

Well, let's see. A dictionary definition for peer:

one that is of equal standing with another : equal; especially: one belonging to the same societal group especially based on age, grade, or status.

I'm close to his age, but that is where it ends. Right now his status is about as low as whale excrement at the bottom of the Marianna Trench which is the deepest known spot in the world's oceans. It will be tough finding many "peers" for a jury.

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Avatar for user 'CaliforniaDefender'

CaliforniaDefender | August 8, 2013 at 6:04 p.m. ― 3 years, 7 months ago

Filner knows he is done. He is stalling to reach the one year mark to get his city pension increased. He no longer has any power so this is just about money. OUR hard earned money going into his pocket.

He is unquestionably the worst mayor in San Diego history.

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Avatar for user 'BarryJohn'

BarryJohn | August 8, 2013 at 8:36 p.m. ― 3 years, 7 months ago

Besides the allegations made people who claim that they were harassed, or on the receiving end of otherwise inappropriate behavior - Let's remember that Mayor Bob himself admits to treating women inappropriately; that he intimidates women, that he is "huggy"; that his actions may reflect a bygone era; that he has some kind of monster inside of him; that his personal behavior issues are so inappropriate and intrusive that he needs to leave the city he helms for two weeks of intensive therapy - for me, he is really saying he is not able to be Mayor by his own comments-- and this self analysis only came forth after brave women came forward. At the same time he is saying he is innocent and various claims are not valid - confusing ??

so per Bob, he's an innocent huggy monster from the Madmen days who intimidates women, requiring major residential psychological treatment, and none of the women who happen to be making claims have any validity to what they are saying ?

this Dem thinks the city is in chaos and that the right thing is for this guy to resign to save the city from all of this mess

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Avatar for user 'MarineRoom'

MarineRoom | August 9, 2013 at 1:27 p.m. ― 3 years, 7 months ago

The city is not in chaos, but those positioning themselves to take over the reins of the city surely love intoning that it is...trying to stampede us into giving them an office they rue they lost, and now see a chance of regaining without the bother of winning an election.

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Avatar for user 'JeanMarc'

JeanMarc | August 9, 2013 at 2:40 p.m. ― 3 years, 7 months ago

What is the big deal??? Some girls are upset that Filner asked them out on a date? Give me a break.

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Avatar for user 'BarryJohn'

BarryJohn | August 9, 2013 at 3:10 p.m. ― 3 years, 7 months ago

@Marine Room; I appreciate your comments and mostly agree on the day to day operations front; I believe most city employees are public servants who want to provide effective services, and that a huge chunk of city services are apolitical, they go on regardless of what is happening in the top dog seat ;

I guess the chaos I refer to is the leadership void and the jockeying for positions, the negative media attention; the overall media attention over riding other issues that deserve attention; the time and energy of City staff going towards related issues like the law suit and other claims; the employees feeling shell shocked and per Eckhard; Federal Investigation; dissension and division of the City Council; loss of overall credibility of the Mayors office

it is hard for any agenda to go forward with a leadership void and loss of credibility; and those phrases may better describe my concern rather than chaos- if there are sharks waiting in the wings ready to hijack that seat, that is no surprise to me vs being a political reality, or just politics in general - but I can only think that Filner is aiding and abetting with the hijacking if that does indeed occur. Meanwhile many people who support a progressive agenda, and fear what you mention are put in the position of having to make the best choice of whats best overall in the big picture; and people like Donna Frye , Lorena Gonzales etc want the Mayor gone - I personally wish they were never placed in that position.PEACE

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Avatar for user 'MarineRoom'

MarineRoom | August 9, 2013 at 8:03 p.m. ― 3 years, 7 months ago

What is the point of having the whole Council and Mayor's office and City Attorney on the same page and in accord, when what that means is they all agree to rob the middle class and the poor blind, kick the homeless to the side of the road with some drug counseling instead of four walls and privacy, and screw up Balboa Park? I myself don't mind some fisticuffs when someone is willing to fight for the rights of others. In this case, first Filner had to get his head straight, then fight for his own civil rights, and then get back to the business of cleaning up this town, the business we elected him to transact and that milquetoasts and crooks have been unable and unwilling to do when they had the chance. I hope for Bob Filner to mind his manners, mend his fences, and get back to work. The truth of the allegations can be determined in court.

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