Atlantic Cities

Bob Filner's Lawyer Says San Diego Is Partially to Blame for Sex Scandal

Bob Filner's Lawyer Says San Diego Is Partially to Blame for Sex Scandal
AP

Earlier this week, San Diego mayor Bob Filner's legal team made a rather bold request on behalf of the sex scandal-plagued politician: the City of San Diego should step up and pay his legal fees in a lawsuit stemming from one of several accusations of sexual harassment. And now we know why. Filner's attorney, Harvey Berger, wrote a letter to the City Council saying that the city never provided Filner with sexual harassment training, as required by law. 

The letter (which an ABC affiliate snagged with a public records request), is a response to the city's request for an explanation in Filner's request for financial backing, explains (emphasis his): 

The City has a legal obligation to provide sexual harassment training to all management level employees, and to provide such training to new manages within six (6) months of hire...the City failed to provide such training to Mayor Filner...if there is any liability at all, the City will almost certainly be liable for "failing to prevent harassment"

Berger continues to explain that the lack of sexual harassment training is an ongoing problem in Filner's life: 

While, to paraphrase Bob Dylan, many might argue that "you don't need a weatherperson to tell you which way the wind blows," and an adult male should not need sexual harassment training, I would point out that in his decades of public service for the people of San Diego as a U.S. Representative, Mayor Filner never received sexual harassment training. This is not an excuse for any inappropriate behavior which may have occurred, but having conducted sexual harassment training scores of times over the years, I have learned that many - if not most - people do not know what is and what is not illegal sexual harassment under California law.

"Had the city provided mandatory sexual harassment training to Mayor Filner," he continues, "Ms. McCormack Jackson may never have brought her lawsuit." And then things get really interesting. Although Filner himself has admitted to inappropriate behavior in vague terms, the letter gives some big hints to their defense tactic for Filner: first, that "not all behavior which is offensive is necessarily sexual harassment under California law," and a related second, that not all of the accusations against the mayor occurred in the eight months since he's been Mayor, or refer directly to an employment relationship (the plaintiff in the lawsuit, however, used to work for him as his communications director). "Virtually all of these statements refer to alleged acts committed years ago, not while Mayor Filner was in his present role, and such claims would be barred by the statute of limitations," he writes. 

The letter was sent to the City Council on Monday. On Tuesday, the Council voted unanimously against funding Filner's defense, and indicated that they would sue the mayor should his legal troubles result in any damages for the city.

Of course, there are two separate issues here: there's the lawsuit, on behalf of one of the accusers. And there's the mounting number of accusations arguing that Filner's behavior is inappropriate for someone serving as an elected city official, whether it's legal or not. The accusations detail the Mayor's alleged unwanted kissing, touching, and comments, which the eight women who've come forward so far say they've both been subjected to and witnessed. 

As for Filner's fitness to continue to serve as mayor — he has refused to resign so far — the official is eligible for recall under San Diego municipal law. But that process has run into a few substantial complications after two separate sets of paperwork to start up recall petitions were filed almost simultaneously, leading to a bitter fight between the two organizers. 

Read the full letter here:

This post originally appeared on The Atlantic Wire.

Abby Ohlheiser writes for The Atlantic Wire. All posts »

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