Three well-known Democrats are calling on Mayor Bob Filner to resign just seven months after he became San Diego’s first progressive mayor in about two decades.
In a Tuesday letter first published by KPBS, former Councilwoman Donna Frye accused Filner of sexually harassing more than one woman and called on a mayor she once supported – and worked for – to resign. Environmental attorneys Cory Briggs and Marco Gonzalez also urged Filner to step down.
The three are planning to hold a press conference Thursday morning and have said they won’t detail their accusations until then.
Here are some of the questions we’ll be trying to answer in coming days.
What kind of behavior are we talking about?
It’s no secret Filner is a difficult boss. He’s said so himself.
“People know – and I have a reputation that’s deserved – that I’m tough to work for because I want excellence, I wanna change things and I wanna do ‘em fast and people know that,” Filner said at a June 28 press conference. “Some can adapt to that, some can’t.”
But the latest allegations reflect more than just a demanding boss.
In her letter, Frye said she had received “credible evidence” the mayor had sexually harassed more than one woman.
She didn’t identify the women or detail their allegations.
Will Filner resign, and if he does, who will take over as mayor?
The City Charter requires the City Council to hold a special election within 90 days of a resignation unless another election is already scheduled within 180 days. A runoff could be required if no candidate wins a majority vote.
In the interim, Council President Todd Gloria would temporarily take over the post, but his powers would be limited.
For example, Gloria couldn’t veto City Council decisions.
What is City Attorney Jan Goldsmith’s obligation to Filner if there’s a lawsuit?
The City Charter dubs the city attorney the city’s chief legal adviser for all city departments and officials, so he’d presumably have to represent Filner and the city.
(In most workplace harassment cases, the accuser sues both the alleged violator and the employer.)
But Gil Cabrera, former chairman of the city’s Ethics Commission, said the city attorney could recuse himself or Filner could opt to hire another attorney.
If there’s a lawsuit (or lawsuits), that seems likely.
Filner and Goldsmith have repeatedly battled since the mayor took office and at one point, Goldsmith issued a memo ordering his staff attorneys, especially women, not to visit the mayor’s office without a witness.
Why is environmental attorney Marco Gonzalez, best known for a series of legal battles over La Jolla fireworks, getting involved?
Gonzalez is a well-known attorney who has long championed environmental causes but he’s also a prominent progressive. He was among high-profile Democrats who endorsed Filner in the mayoral race and his sister Lorena Gonzalez was recently elected to the state Assembly after years leading the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council.
It’s likely Filner’s embattled staffers sought out Gonzalez due to his credibility with Democrats.
These two sentences in Gonzalez’ Wednesday email to Filner were particularly telling:
While this is an extremely difficult message to convey, as members of a progressive community that prides itself on our support for women, their issues and especially equality in the workplace, we cannot sit idly by and watch your inexcusable behavior continue. What we would not accept of our enemies, we cannot condone of our friends.
What exactly is Briggs’ beef with the mayor?
Frye and Gonzalez made their concerns with the mayor’s treatment of women clear in their letters.
But Briggs’ motivation was more vague, and his letter to the mayor didn’t elaborate on any particular transgressions.
He simply said said the mayor had violated principles of “open, accountable, responsible government” and offered no details.
Briggs did, however, sue the city and Sunroad Enterprises over the city’s approval of a nine-foot easement that he says violated city rules and the California Environmental Quality Act.
Filner,70, spent two decades as a congressman and also served stints as a councilman and school board member. Filner’s personality was frequently a liability but never imploded in a way that derailed his career.
But now Filner is mayor of a major city. In that role, he supervises dozens of staffers and complex, politically charged operations. He also receives much more media scrutiny and has been known to put in 18-hour days. Recent staff upheaval, including the resignation of a top aide and his communications director, may have also left Filner exposed.