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City Council Won’t Pay Filner’s Legal Fees

Aired 7/31/13 on KPBS News.

Who is going to pay for the sexual harassment lawsuit against the city of San Diego and Mayor Bob Filner?

The turn out was small at Tuesday night's city council meeting — just a handful of people were present in the council chambers — but the issues were big. The nine-member council not only voted against covering the legal fees for Mayor Bob Filner's sexual harassment lawsuit filed last week by Irene McCormack Jackson, but it also voted to sue the mayor.

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.

Council President Todd Gloria told reporters after the meeting that "the mayor has no right to expect a blank check from San Diegans to defend his outrageous behavior."

Gloria said the counter lawsuit against the mayor is meant to protect taxpayers.

Gloria said if the city "has to pay out any damages to plaintiffs related to the mayor’s bad actions, we will require the mayor to pay us back, and we will seek our own attorney's fees and other costs be paid by Mr. Filner."

However, that view wasn't shared by all members of the public who spoke at the meeting. Richard Thompson said he believes plaintiff McCormack Jackson is in it for the money.

"The woman suing the mayor is already being paid by the city," Thompson said to the council. "She was paid $125,000 before she refused the mayor's advances — if he did."

Thompson said it is routine for companies to cover the cost of a lawsuit against an employee, and he said this should be no different.

To hammer his point home he paraphrased what he says are the oft repeated words of yet another victim who has come forward.

"As retired rear admiral Ronne Froman, Mrs. Lydon Blue, often says, 'Put your big girl panties on," he said. "In other words, suck it up and don't whine."

However, others spoke in support of the women who have accused Filner of unwanted sexual advances; Part of Irene McCormack Jackson's complaint against the mayor is that the mayor told her she would do a better job if she wasn't wearing panties. It was hearing stories like that that prompted Julie Adams to speak at the meeting. Adams said she was outraged when she heard the mayor had asked for the city to foot his legal bills, but not surprised.

"Nothing that that man does would surprise me." Adams said, pointing to a personal interaction she had with the mayor. "I’ve ran into him one time on an elevator, and you know he’s creepy, he’s just creepy and I couldn’t get off the elevator quick enough."

"Nothing that that man does would surprise me," she said. "I've ran into him one time on an elevator, and you know, he's creepy — he's just creepy and I couldn't get off the elevator quick enough."

Elevator rides with the mayor were mentioned more than once in public comment. Ezihim Rim, a regular at city council meetings, said if he was traveling up to the 12th floor city council chambers and acted with a woman the way Filner is being accused of, he would be treated very differently.

"If I decided to say, 'Hey baby you look good in that blouse,' then on the way out I hit her on the butt, by the time I get on the 12th floor, I would be arrested," Rim said. But, he added "Bob Filner gets away with this."

The councils votes, both to refuse to cover the mayor’s legal fees and to sue the mayor to pay the city's legal fees, were unanimous.

So what does it mean when the city council and the mayor are facing off in legal battle? Gloria says it could mean gridlock.

"The city is run by two branches; by a mayor and a council. We have a council that's doing it's work, we have a mayor that is not able to do his work. We cannot get back to the business of the city until both branches of the government are functioning effectively," he said.

When asked what the solution to all this was, Gloria was straightforward.

"My personal position?" he said. "I believe that the mayor should resign."

Resigning, it seems, is the one thing the mayor is not willing to do. He has admitted he needs help and said he has intimidated women, but he said he will seek two weeks of intensive in-patient therapy to deal with the problem.

As to the problem of just who will pay for the legal fees? The city council has sent a clear message — it shouldn't be taxpayers.

Now the ball is in the mayor's court.

Comments

Avatar for user 'Madmax2020'

Madmax2020 | July 31, 2013 at 9:26 a.m. ― 1 year, 1 month ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

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Avatar for user 'alb'

alb | July 31, 2013 at 9:43 a.m. ― 1 year, 1 month ago

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Avatar for user 'theRose'

theRose | July 31, 2013 at 9:49 a.m. ― 1 year, 1 month ago

Is the city still paying for his spa vacation . . . I mean behavior rehab?

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Avatar for user 'DonWood'

DonWood | July 31, 2013 at 2:32 p.m. ― 1 year, 1 month ago

The mayor's attorney has asserted that the city did not provide the Mayor with sexual harassment training. Why doesn't the local media find out whether this assertion is factual or not? It's an easy yes or no answer, but no reporters have bothered to check with city staff to find out if it's true or not. A little basic journalism would be nice about now.

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | July 31, 2013 at 3:22 p.m. ― 1 year, 1 month ago

The city attorney is an idiot.

It may be politically advantageous in the short-term to refuse to pay for legal representation here, but the lawsuit filed is against Filner AND the CITY.

Doesn't the city attorney/city council have an obligation to provide defense when the CITY is sued?

What is going to happen is the CITY will have no representation in court because the council and Goldsmith are inept hacks, so Filner's private lawyers will be there to twist everything around and make the city look like the ones who are libel.

I see from many posters on here that the council and Goldsmith's refusal to defend the CITY in the court case is popular, but in the end this will probably cost tax payers MORE as the city is much more likely to lose in court with no representation.

Filner's lawyers represent Filner only, NOT the interest of the CITY, and the CITY is being neglectful by actually suggesting they will provide no legal representation in a lawsuit where the CITY is named as a defendant.

This article is a prime example of how Filner's lawyers are at work trying to pin responsibility on the city, yet idiot Goldsmith and Gloria refuse to provide defense for our city.

Insane.

Irresponsible.

Inept.

Outrageous.

Who is going to start the recall effort against GOLDSMITH!?

Put Filner and Goldsmith's name on the same damn recall petition, I'll sign that one.

Goldsmith must go, he stinks to high heaven, he is an agitator, an incompetent, and an embarrassment to this city.

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Avatar for user 'HarryStreet'

HarryStreet | July 31, 2013 at 4:13 p.m. ― 1 year, 1 month ago

....And why should we?

Filner needs to man-up and take responsibility for his own actions. Pay for his fees? Not on our watch.

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Avatar for user 'HarryStreet'

HarryStreet | July 31, 2013 at 4:16 p.m. ― 1 year, 1 month ago

...I'm not all certain I agree with the lawsuit against the city. It should be against Filner, period. We the taxpayer are not responsible for his actions. We are not now, nor have we ever been in a position of controlling the actions of politicians. Why should they demand money from us? I know they forfeited their jobs because of Filner, but to make us pay for them doesn't seem right either. If anyone should pay it should be Filner.

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | July 31, 2013 at 4:26 p.m. ― 1 year, 1 month ago

Harry, my comments are not implying I think it's right that the city should have to pay for a mess Filner created, my point is that the city is being extremely stupid to not provide defense if they are explicitly named in a lawsuit.

Tax-payers could be on the hook for a lot more if the city does not legally defend itself and then loses and has to shell out a multi-million dollar payout.

Think about this in the corporate world.

An employee is sexually harassed by a manager.

They file suit - against both the manager AND the COMPANY.

The company cannot simply say, hey we aren't responsible for any of this, go after the guy who did it.

That's not how it works.

Now, the company may be able to prove in court that they did everything correctly (background checks, addressed any complaints, provided SH training, etc.), but said company would be run by a bunch of idiots if they didn't lawyer up and defend themselves in court.

Our city attorney and city council are there to protect the city.

Filner is an employee of the city.

For them to not offer up their own defense in the matter is outrageous.

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Avatar for user 'MalcolmSanDiego'

MalcolmSanDiego | July 31, 2013 at 4:53 p.m. ― 1 year, 1 month ago

Peking: when you become a lawyer for the city, I'll listen to you. Until then, talk to the hand. You sound like you're mad. We don't have to foot Filner's bill--no matter what you think.

I'd really like to reason with you, but your post shows me it's pointless. Why don't you pay for his lawyer!

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Avatar for user 'HarryStreet'

HarryStreet | August 1, 2013 at 12:15 p.m. ― 1 year, 1 month ago

Malcolm SanDiego seems to have it right.

But the city most likely will defend itself and then has every right to sue Filner for reimbursement for any fees / settlements handed out to the accusers. As I pointed out before, I'm not all certain I agree the lawsuit should be against the city in the first place. When you sue the city you are suing the taxpayer. None of us would, or ever have, condoned the behavior by Filner or anyone. Why hold us accountable financially? So many frivolous lawsuits against the city it's hard to defend legitimate ones that make millionnaires out of people at our expense.

I'm not saying the victims don't deserve something, but money? And a lot of it? And from us?

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