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City Attorney on Filner: 'It Was a De Facto Impeachment'

Jan Goldsmith wants the world to know that he bluffed and badgered his way to removing former Mayor Bob Filner from office.

Not much is new in this Los Angeles Times piece looking back on City Attorney Jan Goldsmith’s perspective during the scandal surrounding Mayor Bob Filner and his resignation.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s a good story that helps us take a step back at an extraordinary time. But we knew, for instance, that the city attorney was pushing Filner on multiple legal angles. We knew he was finding his own witnesses to Filner’s behavior toward women. We knew he pushed on other legal concerns apart from women to gain leverage.

Scott Lewis on Politics LogoAnd we knew Goldsmith was saying something fascinating that day at Politifest when he said he’d be offering Filner an “out” sometime soon.

What was new about the L.A. Times piece was Goldsmith’s own view of what he had done. In short, the man believes he removed Filner. Here’s how it reads:

In early July, as one woman after another went public with accusations of sexual harassment against Filner, Goldsmith and his staff concluded that Filner was an unrepentant felon and that women at City Hall needed to be protected from him.

But the City Charter contains no provision for removing a mayor except through the difficult, expensive, politically unpredictable process of a recall election.

“We strategized as lawyers: How were we going to remove the mayor?” Goldsmith said in a recent interview. “It was a de facto impeachment.”

I have before praised Goldsmith’s effort to create a settlement with Filner. My view of the history was that many folks, led initially by former City Councilwoman Donna Frye and lawyers Marco Gonzalez and Cory Briggs, ended up putting so much pressure on Filner that he was faced with three simultaneous crises: 1) Women were coming forward at a regular frequency and creating a media firestorm that led virtually every city elected leader to call for his resignation; 2) a recall campaign was moving forward, raising money and collecting signatures and 3) legal threats from Goldsmith, Gloria Allred and criminal prosecutors were being filed, with more looming.

All that left the mayor isolated. Goldsmith adroitly helped negotiate the legal threats, secured Filner’s resignation and the rest fell into place.

And now, Filner’s admissions of guilt on three counts of criminal harassment of women seem to close the case on whether we had something real to worry about as Filner interacted with women.

But I was struck by the language Goldsmith used in his reflection. Impeachment? As the article notes, we have no provision in San Diego for “impeaching” anyone. Filner resigned. What the heck is a “de facto impeachment,” as Goldsmith put it?

To me, de facto means “Call it what you want and maybe it was not official but it was in actuality an impeachment.”

On Twitter, I asked Goldsmith to clarify. Here’s his definition of de facto impeachment:

“A removal from office with city council and mayor agreement, but without a formal process. How’s that?” he wrote.

Got that? The mayor was removed but without a formal process.

Also, it seems kind of weird for Goldsmith to include “City Council and mayor agreement.”

Isn’t that like saying the mayor did not resign but instead joined Goldsmith and the City Council in removing himself from office?

In other lands, removing yourself from office is also known as “resigning.”

Goldsmith even cops to a significant bluff. He says he persuaded the City Council to agree to not defend Filner against sexual harassment lawsuits even though he knew they had no choice but to defend him.

The whole L.A. Times piece reads as though Goldsmith wants credit for being the clever Filner slayer.

When I tweeted that Goldsmith wanted it to be known that Filner had not resigned but was “removed” and that Goldsmith was the one who did it, Goldsmith was not happy.

“Scott, you need to get some self-control. I did not say that. A reporter asked what we did and I responded,” he wrote.

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