Filner Mediation Results In Deal; Council Votes Friday
Thursday, August 22, 2013
Aired 8/22/13 on KPBS Midday Edition.
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
Aired 8/23/13 on KPBS News.
The city attorney's office is reporting that a deal has been reached with San Diego Mayor Bob Filner; it likely includes his resignation. But attorney Gloria Allred says she does not know the details of the proposed agreement.
It appears a deal that likely includes the resignation of embattled Mayor Bob Filner has been reached. A vote on the settlement will take place at 1 p.m. Friday in a closed session of the city council.
But details of the agreement remain confidential ahead of the special council meeting, according to the city attorney's 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.
But raising questions about the deal reached after three days of mediation is attorney Gloria Allred, who represents the mayor’s former communications officer, Irene McCormack Jackson. The Los Angeles attorney said in a press conference today that a settlement of her lawsuit is not part of the proposed agreement and that she and her client are in the dark about its details. Allred was joined by former fiancée, Bronwyn Ingram.
The mayor and his attorneys have been in mediation talks since Monday with City Attorney Jan Goldsmith, members of the city council. Initially, Allred was part of the discussion. Retired Federal Judge J. Lawrence Irving served as mediator.
Allred said it would be reprehensible if the city council signed off on a deal in which public funds were paid to Filner in exchange for his agreement to resign. She noted that must be the case, otherwise the council would not have to meet to approve the deal; the mayor could simply resign on his own.
“The mayor's resignation should not be bought," Allred said.
But if such an exchange is part of the deal, she is demanding an opportunity for public debate before any vote by the council. That will indeed happen, as the council has scheduled public comment before and after tomorrow's closed session, set for 1 p.m. on the 12th floor of City Hall.
Ingram today made a brief statement, reiterating her call for his resignation. Ingram, 48, broke off their engagement last month, saying Filner flirted and texted with other women in her presence.
Following the vote on the deal in closed session, the council plans a public meeting to discuss the settlement and Filner's status as mayor, according to a spokeswoman for Council President Todd Gloria.
There is no word on when, or if, Mayor Filner will make a public statement.
If the mayor resigns, the San Diego city charter specifies there are 90 days to fill the seat with a special election. Those 90 days begin with the date specified in a letter of resignation from the mayor that is submitted to the city clerk.
If no candidate gets a majority of votes in the special election, a run-off vote is held within 49 days of the special election.
In the meantime, Council President Gloria would fill the mayor’s role immediately in terms of running the city, but he would not have the power of the mayoral veto.
After KPBS broke news in July of sexual harassment allegations leveled at Mayor Filner, more than a dozen women stepped forward, accusing him of unwanted sexual advances.
The “Filner headlock” and the “Filner dance” became part of the local lexicon as victim after victim described the mayor putting his hands on them and how they tried to evade his advances.
Filner was initially accused on July 9 by three longtime supporters — former Councilwoman Donna Frye and attorneys Marco Gonzalez and Cory Briggs. They outlined anonymous allegations in calling for the resignation of their fellow Democrat.
In the days to follow, Filner’s former communications chief, McCormack Jackson, went public and filed a lawsuit seeking unspecified damages for sexual harassment. It's unclear whether that suit will be dropped as part of the negotiated deal.
She was followed by more than a dozen women who publicly recounted a now-familiar pattern of Filner engaging in unwanted touching, kissing and whispered sexual innuendo.
In the meantime, Filner's chief of staff, Vince Hall, resigned and was replaced by Tony Buckles, who resigned about two weeks after taking on the top post in the mayor's administration.
Filner’s fiancée, Ingram, who announced their relationship was over just days before the allegations came to light, told KPBS that she'd found him “sexting” on his phone and asking women on dates even while she was at his side during the course of their relationship. She also publicly urged him to resign.
Filner responded first in a videotaped message and then in several TV interviews that he needed help. He called his behavior inexcusable and indefensible and told Univision that he had a "monster" inside him that he needed to deal with.
Filner announced July 26 that he was entering a psychological clinic for intense therapy to deal with his behavioral issues. According to that statement, he was set to enter therapy Aug. 5 and return to City Hall Aug. 19.
However, Filner's attorney confirmed Aug. 9 that the mayor had started and completed therapy a week earlier than he had publicly announced. He apparently did not return to City Hall until yesterday, when he was seen leaving with boxes.
Filner built his decades-long political career on a commitment to championing civil and veteran rights.
Allegations of harassment from victims of rape and sexual assault while in the military helped stir calls for Filner to resign. California’s two Democratic senators, as well as those in the House and California Assembly, also asked that he step down.
Filner was first elected to public office in 1979 when he ran for a seat on the San Diego City Schools board of trustees. He served on the city council and climbed the political ladder, getting elected to Congress in 1992 where he later served as chair of the House Veterans Affairs Committee as the ranking member.
Citing dysfunction in Washington, D.C., he turned his sights back to San Diego in 2012, where he won election as the first Democratic mayor in nearly 30 years.
Mayor Filner started making waves his first month in office, when he ordered the city to stop referring medical marijuana code violation cases to the city attorney for prosecution. As a result, some controversial marijuana dispensaries stayed open despite orders to shut down.
Filner also publicly feuded with Council President Gloria, a fellow Democrat, and City Attorney Goldsmith, a Republican.
One argument centered on a hotel fee negotiation between the city and officials of the tourism marketing district. The three-month debate crisscrossed city meetings and court hearings.
His successful undertakings as mayor included a move to remove 60 parking spots from the center of Balboa Park to make the space more pedestrian-friendly. Filner also hired a firm to battle the stench of bird poop that plagued La Jolla and affected business, said owners of ocean-front shops and restaurants.
One of his ongoing initiatives was strengthening San Diego’s relationship with its southern neighbor. He opened an office in Tijuana and made national news with a proposal to co-host a cross-border 2024 Summer Olympics.
The Department of Justice is investigating $100,000 donation made to the city of San Diego by developers, Sunroad Centrum Partners. The money was returned, when Mayor Filner learned a top-level administrator secured the donation in exchange to withdraw a veto tying up a mixed-use project Sunroad has been working on since 1997.
May marked a significant month for the mayor as he negotiated new leases for city offices downtown, saving the city $15.8 million and brokered a five-year agreement with city employees that was estimated to save the city $25 million alone in its first year.
But after initial allegations were leveled at Mayor Filner, his aggressive crusade to shake up city politics in a progressive fashion hit a wall.
The political pressure to resign mounted steadily until it reached a breaking point. A key element of that pressure was a recall campaign launched officially last weekend; it has reportedly gathers more than 11,000 signatures so far in an effort rendered moot should the mayor resign.
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