San Diego city council to decide mayor's fate - WNCT

San Diego city council to decide mayor's fate

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SAN DIEGO, Calif. -

San Diego's city attorney - who negotiated a deal to end the sexual harassment scandal involving Mayor Bob Filner - said Friday ahead of the City Council vote on the agreement that the city's stability hinges on the mayor's resignation.
    
City Attorney Jan Goldsmith, speaking at a breakfast attended by business and civic leaders, said he could not discuss specifics of the agreement that emerged after three days of talks sparked by the growing scandal, which includes a lawsuit filed by a former Filner aide against the mayor and the city.
    
Two people who were briefed on the settlement said the mayor would resign and the city would have to pay legal fees in the lawsuit by filed by his former communications director. One person said the city would pay for any potential damages.
    
The people spoke on condition of anonymity before terms of the agreement was made public.
    
Goldsmith said the city's only option to ending the turmoil was getting the 70-year-old mayor - besieged by allegations of cornering, groping and forcibly kissing women - out of office as quick as possible.
    
"''We look at stability as the mayor resigning and a special election, that's what we're facing," Goldsmith said. "That's stability for San Diego right now. If that happens then we're on our way to stability. ... We cannot have six months to a year more of this issue."
    
The biggest bargaining chip at the negotiating table for the city's first Democratic mayor in two decades was his refusal to resign. Now that a deal aimed at ending one of San Diego's darkest periods of political turmoil has been reached, it's up to the City Council to decide whether to cash in the chip.
    
A person with knowledge of the negotiations said the main sticking points during talks involved granting Filner indemnity and covering his legal fees in the sexual harassment lawsuit. The person was not authorized to comment publicly and spoke only on condition of anonymity.
    
That provision could prove tricky for the council, which was unanimous in wanting Filner to quit but also promised to not use taxpayer dollars to defend the mayor, who is facing accusations from at least 17 women.
    
"Without his resignation being part of it, it's a nonstarter," Republican Councilman Mark Kersey said Thursday.
    
The deal was negotiated between Filner, his lawyers, Goldsmith and two City Council members. Attorney Gloria Allred, representing Filner's former communication's director, Irene McCormack Jackson, in the lawsuit said she and her client were not a party to the proposed resolution and she did not know its details.
    
But she said the City Council should not support it if in exchange for his resignation the city is going to use taxpayer money to pay Filner's legal bills.
    
"The mayor's resignation should not be bought at the expense of his victims," she said. "It would be morally wrong and hypocritical for the city to align itself with the mayor by helping him pay his legal fees."
    
Goldsmith would not comment on what it took to reach the deal, but he said if Filner resigns Friday the city is looking at scheduling an election within 90 days and a run-off 45 days after that. If the recall effort was successful, it would take at least a year. So far, recall organizers say they have collected about 10 percent of that total with five weeks to get the rest.
    
"We needed to figure out a way to not allow this problem to fester," he said.
    
While a recall effort is in full swing, Goldsmith said San Diego's laws, which require more than 102,000 verified signatures within about two months, make that a tough and long road to climb.
    
San Diego is not new to political scandals - Mayor Dick Murphy was forced to resign in 2005 over a financial crisis - but even so Democratic consultant Chris Crotty said this has reached a new level.
    
The City Council is in a no-win situation if Filner is demanding coverage of his legal fees in exchange for resigning, Crotty said.
    
If voters were to decide, Crotty said: "I bet most would choose to hold their nose, say OK, and pay the money to get him out."
    
And it may be a moot point anyway, he said: Under California law the city must defend Filner even if the City Council ends up saying it won't. What's more, after all the dust has settled, the city also could still be facing the lawsuit.
    
Filner, a former 10-term congressman and college professor, has acknowledged disrespecting and intimidating women but has denied any sexual harassment.
    
All nine members of the City Council, along with a laundry list of fellow Democrats, including U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer and U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, have called on Filner to quit. Skywriters hired by opponents etched across the port city's sunny skies before settlement talks began Monday: "Surrender Bob."
    
Filner's attorneys declined to comment on the settlement "due to the confidential nature of mediation and settlement discussions."
    
McCormack was the first woman to go public with allegations against Filner. She claimed the mayor asked her to work without panties, demanded kisses, told her he wanted to see her naked and dragged her in a headlock while whispering in her ear.
    
Goldsmith said he hoped the city's problems would be addressed Friday "and we can begin to heal."  And Filner can get the help he needs, he said.
    
If the council rejects the deal, Goldsmith said he would walk home and have a "stiff drink."
 

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