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During our panel at Politifest, Saturday, City Attorney Jan Goldsmith said something I kept meaning to go back to.
He said he would be pushing hard on Mayor Bob Filner as lawsuits went forward. The city, you see, is currently suing its mayor. But then he said something else.
“We will be aggressive. And to the extent it is appropriate under the law and the facts, he’s going to be held totally responsible. He’s got a lot of legal problems and they are mounting. But he will be given a way out,” Goldsmith said.
In the crowd listening was Port Commissioner Bob Nelson. He had helped Filner raise money during his campaign for mayor.
Filner had called Nelson earlier in the week, asking for advice about whether he could survive a recall. Nelson said he could not.
But the day after Politifest, Nelson typed out a letter to Filner, asking him to resign.
“I told him that, as best I could tell, his policy agenda was absolutely stalled with no real hope of resurrection and that I was also concerned about his health,” Nelson told me Wednesday.
The city attorney’s remarks made Nelson think, he said.
“At Politifest, Jan Goldsmith made a comment that, to me, seemed to be as direct an offer of negotiation as I could ever reasonably expect a public official to make. I took those words to be a very public offer to Bob to bring this to a close,” Nelson said.
So what did the city attorney mean? I asked him.
“We are going to litigate hard. I wanted folks to know, however, that we’re not just fighting for the sake of fighting, we’re going to give him an opportunity to end it,” Goldsmith said.
He declined to talk about what a settlement with the mayor might look like, but he said it’s common in civil conflicts involving warring insiders of a corporation to secure the resignation of key people as part of a solution. He said the decision would be made by the City Council and Gloria Allred, the attorney for Irene McCormack, the mayor’s former communication director and, of course, Filner and his lawyer.
I asked whether Goldsmith might consider asking the City Council to pay Filner’s legal fees were he to resign. The cost could become backbreaking. A lawyer told Liam Dillon it all could cost Filner as much as $500,000.
Combined with his recent decision to foot the bill for his travel to France, this has been a scary month for Filner’s finances.
Would helping him avoid financial devastation be enough to cause the mayor to resign?
Maybe if combined with the other shoes falling.
For its part, the public shaming continues unabated. Wednesday, CNN dropped one of the most devastating stories of this whole saga.
At the very least, CNN proved that the mayor, as a congressman and candidate for mayor last year, called a rape victim, told her he loved her and asked her out just after meeting her at a gathering to support rape victims in the military. This is recorded audio.
That’s, again, the minimum indisputable fact pulled out of their brutal piece. Harsher allegations were peppered throughout the rest of the report.
And that brings up a steady feature of this Filner scandal. It’s the indisputable facts and his own explanations and admissions that add a backbone to the scandal that’s only getting stronger.
At the very least, what’s emerging is a perspective of him many of us didn’t know. He was pursuing an incredible number of women.
At Politifest, I asked Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez what she knew about Filner before he was elected. After all, she can take as much credit as anyone for getting him elected. His campaign was a mess but labor and activists, many fueled by fury at other things on the ballot, pushed him over the top.
“We knew that Bob Filner was a single man, who asked a lot of women out on dates. That’s not illegal. Was he creepy? Sure,” she said.
There may be some who are still weighing whether this “creepy” at some point crossed over to illegal, hostile and completely unacceptable.
But here again, remember, the mayor says what he did was “inexcusable.” And a lot of folks aren’t excusing it.
Filner is a professor of history. I would bet he knows full well that no San Diego mayor has ever been recalled.
He does not want to be the first, and that has to be on his mind. He’s asking friends like Nelson about it. When Nelson says he talked to the mayor, the nascent recall effort was nothing.
Now it has been professionalized. Some of the best-known local political consultants and fundraisers are on board. As local pollster John Nienstedt put it, the recall effort just went from goofy to great.
The ingredients for his departure may take a while to coalesce. But the mixing has begun.
Update: I misunderstood Nelson during our interview, as pointed out in the comments below. He said he told Filner he could not survive a recall and I’ve updated that part of the text of this piece.