Former San Diego Mayor Bob Filner Breaks His Silence
Wednesday, January 20, 2016
Aired 1/20/16 on KPBS Midday Edition.
Former San Diego Mayor Bob Filner Breaks His Silence
Lisa Halverstadt, reporter, Voice of San Diego
Filner was resigned in 2013 after less than a year in office when more than a dozen women came forward alleging sexual harassment and other sexual misconduct by the mayor. He pleaded guilty to two counts of misdemeanor battery and one count of felony false imprisonment. He was sentenced to home confinement and is now on probation.
The ex-mayor talked to Voice of San Diego's Lisa Halverstadt about homeless veterans and the Chargers, but he also insisted the harassment allegations against him were largely fantasy.
VOSD: The Return of Bob Filner
The following is a transcript of Halverstadt's interview with KPBS Midday Edition.
How did this interview come about after two years of silence from Bob Filner?
I had been recently reporting a lot on homelessness, in particular veteran homelessness, and that's an issue that's really near and dear to Bob Filner. He was actually once the chair of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs. He sent me an email last week and suggested that would I like another perspective on veteran homelessness, and given his stature on veterans issues in the past I said of course. But obviously I wasn't just going to ask him about veteran homelessness. What followed was a call. We talked for about an hour. We talked about everything from veteran homelessness, to the charges against him, to the Chargers and much more.
What did he have to say about San Diego's homeless situation?
Bob Filner's concerned that he doesn't feel this has been prioritized enough in San Diego, in particular when it comes to veterans. The federal government has set a lot of goals and San Diego, as he would say, too, as well, has really fallen behind other cities in combating this, and he would like to see more leadership on this issue.
You asked him if he was sorry for what happened when he was mayor and he said, "I gave them the ammunition and they pulled the trigger." Did he explain what he meant by that?
He's said in the past that he feels that folks were out to get him from the moment that he stepped into the mayor's office. He talks about the fact that he feels that he brought a new way of operating to City Hall. That people who'd been leading in the city and folks in the Republican Party who had been holding the mayor's office for a long time didn't really support him. So he felt that from the moment he stepped into the mayor's office that there was a target on his back.
What did he say about the many allegations of sex harassment made against him?
Interestingly, Filner claims that he did not sexually harass anyone, despite the fact that I did point out, that obviously there were almost two dozen women that came forward and accused him of sexual harassment. And, in fact, he says that he felt that those were fantasies, that these things were made up. I'll just read this quote directly, he said, "I said there was no sexual harassment and most of the things were made up, are fantasies and again I have proof of this." And he basically claimed that there were police officers with him all the time as part of his police detail, and that they could confirm that the sexual harassment in fact did not happen. Obviously, there are some questions about whether those officers would have been with him at every moment and every private meeting that might have come up.
Just in the last hours there has been sort of a roar of dispute about what the former mayor said about that.
Yes, some of the women who had publicly accused Filner of sexual harassment and other misbehavior have come forward and talked to the Union-Tribune and said that they're just disgusted by some of the comments that he made. But also many of them said that they were not surprised by this response either.
How did the former mayor sound? Was his conversation focused?
I talked to him several times, or many times really, covering the mayor's office and City Hall, and I would say he's actually much calmer now than I had ever heard. And he did obviously remember a lot of details from what had occurred, but there were some things that he disputed. In the past there were concerns, right as he was leaving the mayor's office and just before, about his mental health, and he's really adamant that there weren't any mental health concerns and that was just fiction. But certainly after this interview some people are raising questions about his mental state.
I do remember that Filner's defense lawyer once said that the former mayor's mood stabilizing medications were disrupted when he was mayor. As you say, you addressed the issue of his mental health, did former Mayor Filner say that there were no mental health issues?
Yes, he said that that was just fiction, and made a reference to the fact that City Attorney Jan Goldsmith had hired a psychologist but that that psychologist had never spoken to him.
Did he say that he could have kept the Chargers in San Diego?
What he did say was that he was the only mayor that would have supported a downtown stadium concept. His vision was that essentially it wouldn't just be a football stadium. It would be both a sports arena and probably an events facility as well, and through that he would have freed up both the Mission Valley property and the Sports Arena property, which are city owned, and there could have been revenue opportunities to support the city's side of the stadium cost. I did reach out to Mark Fabiani, who is the stadium point man for the Chargers, and he did agree that Filner was actually the only mayor who ever agreed with this vision that the Chargers had had.
As I understand it, Bob Filner is now living in Los Angeles. Given his concerns about homelessness, is he working in any way with the homeless in L.A.?
Bob told me that he is actually spending time on Skid Row and has volunteered a bit. But he didn't elaborate as to what his specific role has been other than to say that he goes and talks to people on Skid Row and helps how he can.
What's Bob Filner's legal status now?
He has a handful of cases that are going through the process, as I understand. He is on some of those cases being represented by the City Attorney's Office.