Breaking Down the Filner Deal - Voice of San Diego

Bob Filner

Breaking Down the Filner Deal

The city got Filner to leave and control over current and future lawsuits. Filner gets a taxpayer-funded legal defense.

Six pages (plus attachments) spell out the terms of the settlement that led to San Diego Mayor Bob Filner’s resignation Friday.

The city gets Filner to go away and caps Filner’s taxpayer-funded outside legal costs at $98,000 for current and future lawsuits against him. Filner gets a publicly funded defense.

What the Deal Gives the City

First the obvious: The city got Filner to leave.

Beyond that, Filner signed away his rights to direct how he’s defended in the sexual harassment suit filed by former Filner spokeswoman Irene McCormack and any future suits, including the one initiated Monday by city parks worker Stacy McKenzie, who alleges Filner groped her.

“This gives the city complete control over all the defense and that’s huge,” said attorney and former Ethics Commission Chairman Gil Cabrera.

The city also can go after Filner for any damages from any judgment against him.

What the Deal Gives Filner

The mayor gets a taxpayer-funded legal defense.

The city will pay up to $98,000 for Filner’s outside lawyers – Cabrera estimated Filner’s already racked up about $30,000 in bills – and the city will represent him in suits filed against him related to his time as mayor. That includes the McCormack and McKenzie claims.

The arrangement will spare Filner’s bank account. But it shouldn’t cost the city substantially more than it would have otherwise because the city would be a party, forced to defend itself in the lawsuits anyway, Cabrera said.

The city is, however, on the hook for any settlement in the McCormack case and others. The city also tied its hands by agreeing not to settle a case unless a deal resolves claims against Filner, too. The provision gives those suing Filner and the city leverage for a greater payout because any settlement would have to take care of the both Filner’s and the city’s responsibility.

Filner also appears to be able to use the money allotted for outside attorneys to help him in criminal investigations into his conduct by state and federal prosecutors.

Filner has hired noted criminal defense attorney Jerry Coughlan to represent him in a federal inquiry into city development deals. The settlement did not resolve any potential criminal charges, and the state attorney general made a point of mentioning its case against Filner was ongoing even after his resignation.

The Bottom Line

The settlement ended Filner’s time as mayor. But it also bound the city and Filner together in current and future lawsuits over Filner’s conduct. The city will have to defend itself, and now Filner, and likely pay for whatever happens as a result.

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