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SD Filner

By JAMES R. RIFFEL

City News Service

SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A private attorney defending San Diego Mayor Bob Filner against allegations of unwanted advances toward women based his demand for public funding on the city's failure to provide new executives with sexual harassment training, according to a letter released today.

In a letter to City Attorney Jan Goldsmith dated Monday, lawyer Harvey Berger said the city failed to provide Filner or other top new executives with sexual harassment training within six months of their employment, which Berger said is required by law.

``In fact, it is my understanding that such training was scheduled, but that the trainer for the city unilaterally canceled, and never rescheduled such training for the mayor (and others),'' Berger wrote. ``Therefore, if there is any liability at all, the city will almost certainly be liable for `failing to prevent harassment' under Government Code Section 12940(k).''

Filner has been accused by eight women of sexual harassment, and one, former mayoral Communications Director Irene McCormack Jackson, has sued him and the city.

On Tuesday, the City Council unanimously rejected Berger's bid to have the city pay for Filner's defense, and also authorized a lawsuit that would seek to force the mayor to reimburse the city for any damages it incurs.

Meanwhile, the two men spearheading separate efforts to recall Filner met privately were expected to make an announcement later this week about their plans, according to various television reports.

Legal questions have arisen about whether multiple recall campaigns can be conducted against the same office-holder. The head of one effort, Michael Pallamary, accused the leader of the other, Stampp Corbin, of starting his campaign to derail a legitimate recall attempt.

Filner has denied that 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.

But the prospect of his rehab has done nothing to silence a rising chorus of calls for his resignation, including from California's senior senator, Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat like Filner.

In another development, Filner said he will pay back an Iranian group for the cost of a trip to Paris last month. He said he will return more than $9,800 to the Organization of Iranian-American Communities because the group wasn't properly listed as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.

``I have become aware that OIAC's representations regarding its nonprofit status were inaccurate," Filner said. ``For this reason, I will reimburse OIAC for all amounts it paid for my travel expenses to participate in its International Conference in Paris, France, above the $440 gift limit.''

While Filner's trip did not come at city expense, his security detail cost around $22,000 in public funds.

Filner's predecessor, Jerry Sanders, told NBC7/39 that the alleged sexual harassment was ``reprehensible'' and that he is aware of other women who have yet to come forward with their experiences with the mayor.

One of the alleged victims who has come forward, Ronne Froman, was Sanders' first chief operating officer when he was mayor.

The allegations, along with problems like the Paris trip and accusations of shakedowns of developers, send a signal of chaos and uncertainty at City Hall, Sanders said.

``We're the ridicule of the United States,'' Sanders said. ``We're mentioned every day in New York -- we're mentioned all over the country.''

Sanders is now CEO of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Also, the mayor's office announced that Filner has cancelled a ``Meet the Mayor'' session for this Saturday. Since he took office, he has invited San Diegans to come talk to him about civic issues on the first Saturday morning of each month.

The statement said Filner hoped to resume the program in September.

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