San Diego mayor Bob Filner (D) is hoping that taxpayers will subsidize his legal fees in a sexual harassment lawsuit, as multiple groups begin to mobilize a plan to recall the embattled mayor from office.
Last week Filner — who has been accused of sexually harassing at least seven women during his time as mayor and as a U.S. congressman — was sued by his former communications director Irene McCormack Jackson for what she describes as a pattern of abusive behavior. Among other allegations, Jackson alleges that Filner asked her to work without underwear, and physically pressured her to kiss him on multiple occasions.
Shortly after the allegations went public, Filner held a press conference in which he announced that he would undergo two weeks of intensive therapy “to begin the process of addressing my behavior.”
“It is simply not acceptable for me to try and explain away my conduct as the product of standards of a different generation,” Filner said, adding that, “most of all I apologize to the women I have offended.”
Despite his contrition, however, Filner declined to resign from office. Instead, he announced that he would spend two weeks in rehab and return to office on August 19th — a move that drew widespread condemnation from political leaders across the country, including the Democratic Party Central Committee of San Diego County and Democratic National Committee chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL).
His latest move seems certain to spark even more outrage. On Monday Filner formally requested that San Diego taxpayers pay his legal fees from the harassment suit, a move that was immediately criticized by City Council President Todd Gloria.
“This is about personal behavior,” Gloria said. “We certainly provide defenses to city employees who have been caught up in legal issues as a result of their day-to-day work but obviously sexual harassment is not tolerated in the city. It’s not necessary for the conduct of your work. I think it would send the wrong message to taxpayers that we’d be willing to pay for the defense.”
The council will decide on Filner’s request on Tuesday evening, after taking public testimony on the subject at around 5:30 pm, PST.
Whether or not the taxpayers pick up the tab for Filner’s legal fees, they may not have to deal with him for long. Two separate recall efforts aimed at removing Filner from office have launched this week; recall supporters must collect signatures from at least 15 percent of San Diego’s registered voters — roughly 100,000 — to put Filner back on the ballot.
UPDATE: The San Diego City Council voted unanimously to sue Mayor Filner on Tuesday, seeking indemnity against all damages the city may have to pay as a result of Jackson’s lawsuit.
“This is part of due process,” City Attorney Jan Goldsmith said, as reported by the San Diego Union-Tribune. “If Bob Filner is engaged in unlawful conduct and the city is held liable, he will have to reimburse us every penny the city pays and its attorney fees.”