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San Diego City Council refuses to pay Bob Filner legal bills

As San Diego's Mayor Bob Filner fights a sex harassment suit, the council files a suit against him to recover any related costs.

July 30, 2013|By Tony Perry
  • San Diego Mayor Bob Filner won't get his legal bills paid by the city in the sexual harassment lawsuit against him.
San Diego Mayor Bob Filner won't get his legal bills paid by the city… (Bill Wechter / Getty Images )

SAN DIEGO — Saying taxpayers shouldn't have to foot the bill for the mayor's "mess," the San Diego City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night not to pay any of Bob Filner's legal bills as he fights a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by one of his top aides.

The move came just hours after the council voted — also unanimously — to sue Filner to recover any costs imposed on the city by the lawsuit, which names both Filner and the city as defendants.

The city's suit will seek to recover any damages ordered by a court, or agreed to as part of a pretrial settlement, arising from the lawsuit filed by the mayor's former director of communications, Irene McCormack Jackson.

Both votes were taken in closed session.

"Intimidating women is not in Mayor Filner's job description," said Councilman Kevin Faulconer. "His employers, the San Diego taxpayers, should not have to bail him out of the mess he's created."

"This is part of due process," City Atty. Jan Goldsmith said after Tuesday's vote authorizing him to file a lawsuit against Filner. "If Bob Filner 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."

The phrase "due process" has been a mantra for Filner, 70, a Democrat, and his supporters in explaining why he should not resign and emphasizing that the allegations against him have not been proved.

The vote on Filner's legal bills came Tuesday night, shortly after an eighth woman went public with allegations of sexual misconduct on the part of the mayor.

Lisa Curtin, an official at San Diego City College, told KPBS that Filner kissed her and put his tongue on her cheek. She said he insisted on asking her for a date even after she told him she was married.

Filner's attorney, Harvey Berger, on Monday filed a request with the city attorney for reimbursement of fees arising from Jackson's lawsuit.

Before the vote on Berger's request, several residents told the council not to pay Filner's bills.

Anne Rauch, an attorney, said Filner has already admitted a long history of bad behavior toward women.

"He's admitted to creating a hostile work environment," Rauch said. "I do not want to see my tax dollars go in defense of this man. We are not only a national joke, we are an international joke."

Filner has had to hire a private attorney because Goldsmith said it would be a conflict for his office to represent both Filner and the city against the Jackson lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages. Jackson alleges that Filner made sexually inappropriate comments, touched numerous women inappropriately and once said she should work without panties on.

Seven of nine council members have called on Filner to resign, along with the local Democratic Party and a list of Democratic officeholders.

Filner has refused and announced Friday that he would undergo a two-week behavioral therapy treatment starting Aug. 5. Jackson's attorney, Gloria Allred, has subpoenaed him for a deposition Aug. 9.

The issue of paying for private lawyers to defend council members and city officials embroiled in scandals has been debated frequently at City Hall in recent years.

The city has paid several million dollars for lawyers for council members charged with allegedly taking illegal campaign contributions and for officials accused of acting improperly on the city's pension board.

tony.perry@latimes.com

Times staff writer Robin Abcarian contributed to this report.

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