As yet another woman steps forward (the 11th to do so), accusations of sexual harassment against San Diego mayor Bob Filner in hand, many are wondering how, or if, the troubled Democratic politician will survive the scandal and lawsuit before him. Just months into his term as mayor after a two-decade career in Congress, Filner is currently secluded in an undisclosed location, undergoing therapy in response to multiple accusations detailing unwanted touching, kissing, and comments from the mayor. But despite a sexual harassment lawsuit and a recall effort already underway, Filner, who refuses to resign, could stay in office for quite awhile, if he's even forced out of his term before it ends.
The 11th accusation today comes from a nurse who says that Filner asked for sexual favors from her in exchange for his promise to help a homeless, injured Marine in her care. Michelle Tyler's getting legal representation from Gloria Allred, who filed suit against Filner on behalf of the mayor's former communications director Irene McCormack Jackson. And while Tyler says she won't sue the mayor, Allred's increasing involvement in the allegations indicates that there's a substantial push to force the mayor out through the legal implications of the sexual harassment accusations themselves.
But Filner has already hinted at the cards he's holding for his defense. Last week, they mayor's lawyer told the City Council that the city itself was partially liable for Filner's actions, because he never received sexual harassment training, as required by law. Attorney Harvey Berger also wrote that "not all behavior which is offensive is necessarily sexual harassment under California law," and indicated that any accusations against the mayor that don't pertain to his tenure and work as mayor directly wouldn't legally count, either. Meanwhile, newly acquired meeting notes (via the LA Times) from San Diego emergency sessions on Filner indicate that McCormack Jackson wasn't seen as the best fit for her job, which she'd been worried about losing in the lead-up to the scandal — another potential defense for Filner. But the notes also reveal growing discontent among city staffers on the mayor's treatment of his employees in general. In short, it looks like FIlner will fight the suit with everything he can find. So far, the pressure of a high-profile lawyer on the case of a sexual harassment lawsuit against him hasn't prompted a resignation.
The Recall Effort
The effort to call a recall vote against Filner, in many ways, has been messy from the beginning. First off, the municipal code governing the recall rules for the city is based on an older version of California law, which itself was declared partially unconstitutional for a provision that restricted votes on a recalled politician's successor. To make matters worse, there were two simultaneous recall efforts in San Diego following the accusations. Given that each effort has to collect verified voter signatures to prompt a recall vote in the first place, that's raised a bunch of questions about the legality and validity of those signatures. Those dueling campaigns have since joined forces, but they'll need over 100,000 signatures (or 15 percent of the city's voting population) in just under 40 days starting this month to prompt the recall to move forward — if those signatures are certified. If not, the organizers can ask for a 30 day extension, but that would drag out the long process even more. The Washington Post broke down the intricacies of the recall effort in the city on Monday:
If the signatures are verified, a recall election is called for 60 to 90 days after the city council [receives notice of the certified signatures]. That amounts to a recall election being held at the beginning of 2014, at which point it’s not clear whether the desire to get rid of Filner would be as high as it is today.
So, unless Filner changes his mind and decides to resign (which has not been his plan so far) San Diegans could see their current mayor stick around for quite awhile — once he returns from sexual harassment therapy on August 19th, that is.