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Former Mayor Bob Filner acted without malice, city attorney says

September 14, 2013|By Tony Perry
  • Former San Diego Mayor Bob Filner speaks at City Council meeting in August after agreeing to resign.
Former San Diego Mayor Bob Filner speaks at City Council meeting in August… (Gregory Bull / Associated…)

SAN DIEGO - Court documents suggest that the city attorney's office plans a vigorous defense against the sexual harassment lawsuit that drove ex-Mayor Bob Filner from office.

Filner "acted in good faith, without malice, and with a reasonable belief that his conduct was lawful, welcome and/or consensual at all times," according to a response filed by City Atty. Jan Goldsmith's office to the lawsuit filed by attorney Gloria Allred on behalf of Irene McCormack Jackson.

Also, Jackson "failed to utilize and exhaust the city of San Diego's internal grievance and/or complaint procedures and remedies."

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages against Filner and the city.

Filner's conduct "was not sufficiently severe or pervasive" to create a hostile or abusive work environment on the basis of sex," according to the city attorney's response.

While the document, first revealed by reporter Dorian Hargrove in the San Diego Reader, could be seen as a pro forma response to a civil lawsuit, it also suggests that the city attorney does not plan to merely agree to the lawsuit's assertions and offer a settlement.

PHOTOS: Mayor Bob Filner steps down

In the lawsuit, Jackson, who was Filner's director of communications, said Filner subjected her to repeated sexual innuendos and unwanted touching, including the "Filner headlock." Once, he suggested that Jackson come to work without panties, the lawsuit alleges.

Jackson's "conduct has exacerbated her injuries or damages, if any," according to the city attorney's response, without offering specifics.

By filing a lawsuit on July 22, Jackson became the first woman to publicly accuse the 71-year-old Filner of sexual misconduct. In the next month, another 18 women, in media interviews, made similar allegations.

The City Council initially refused to defend Filner against the Jackson lawsuit, forcing him to hire private attorneys. The council then refused to pay Filner's legal bills, pressuring him to resign.

Three days of mediation led to a deal whereby Filner resigned and the city agreed to pay $89,000 to his private lawyers and to offer a "united defense" against the Jackson lawsuit and to pay his share of any compensatory damages.

At the Aug. 23 council meeting where the deal was approved, Goldsmith expressed his respect for Jackson and Council President Todd Gloria said he hopes she stays as a city employee.

Jackson remains as director of communications under Gloria, who became acting mayor when Filner's resignation became effective Aug. 30.


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