The Legal Issues Surrounding Mayor Filner And Sexual Harassment Allegations
Thursday, August 8, 2013
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.
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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