The Herald Bulletin

August 21, 2013

San Diego mayor back in lawsuit settlement talks


The Associated Press

SAN DIEGO — San Diego's embattled mayor on Tuesday spent a second day in settlement talks over a sexual harassment lawsuit against him, as petitions circulated to recall the former Democratic congressman who has been besieged by allegations from more than a dozen women.

City Council President Todd Gloria and Councilman Kevin Faulconer confirmed that Mayor Bob Filner has been present at the talks involving the lawsuit filed by his former communications director Irene McCormack Jackson.

McCormack, as she is known professionally, was the first to go public with allegations against the 70-year-old mayor, who has resisted an avalanche of calls to step down, including from the entire City Council.

The Democratic National Committee plans to vote on a resolution Friday, urging Filner to resign immediately and say that the Democratic Party condemns anyone who creates a hostile work place or sexually harasses women or men. DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz urged Filner to resign in a statement in July. The resolution, to be taken up at a meeting in Phoenix, was first reported by CNN.

It was unclear whether Filner's potential resignation was being discussed in the lawsuit's settlement talks.

Gloria and Faulconer declined to comment further, saying the mediator, former federal judge J. Lawrence Irving, has asked that no one divulge specifics about the ongoing talks.

"We want a good result," Gloria said before heading into the downtown office building where talks were continuing.

The negotiations began Monday when Filner was spotted heading into the building, followed by McCormack's attorney, Gloria Allred.

It was the first time Filner had been seen publicly since announcing about three weeks ago that he would be undergoing therapy after acknowledging he has disrespected and intimidated women. He has denied committing sexual harassment.

Allred and the council members wouldn't say whether the discussions involved a possible resignation by Filner, the target of a recall petition drive that started Sunday.

Faulconer said before the talks started that the mayor needs to "quit dragging the city of San Diego through this. He needs to resign. He needs to go get the help that he clearly and desperately needs."

Questions also have been raised over his spending and a trip to Paris. At least four agencies are investigating Filner over the various issues: the city attorney's office, state attorney general's office, Sheriff's Department and the U.S. attorney.

Filner has vowed to remain the leader of the nation's eighth-largest city, saying his focus after therapy "will be on making sure that I am doing right by the city in terms of being the best mayor I can be."

Filner's spokeswoman Lena Lewis and lawyer James Payne did not respond to calls.

Steve Erie, a political science professor at the University of California, San Diego, believes Filner's resignation is part of the settlement discussions. However, Filner would benefit from waiting it out, Erie said, since his pension would spike after serving a year, which would be in December. He also may be trying to shed financial responsibility for the lawsuit.

"As long as he doesn't resign, he has leverage," Erie said. "So stay tuned."

Filner's accusers have included a university dean and a retired Navy rear admiral. Some contend he cornered, groped and forcibly kissed them.

Filner served 10 terms in Congress before being elected mayor in November. The feisty liberal has long had a reputation for berating employees and has been dogged by rumors of inappropriate behavior toward women. But nothing in his past approaches what has surfaced in the past six weeks.

Recall organizers must collect 101,597 signatures of registered San Diego voters by Sept. 26. If the petition has fewer than that, the recall campaign will have 30 more days to circulate a supplemental petition to gather additional valid signatures.

If enough signatures are validated by the city clerk, the petition will be presented to the City Council, which must schedule an election within 60 to 90 days.

Gloria would be acting mayor if Filner resigns.