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Sources: Mayor's Office Canceled Harassment-Related Training Sessions

In direct contradiction to Mayor Bob Filner’s attorney, a former top city official said Filner’s office, not city staff, is to blame for missed training.

San Diego Mayor Bob Filner’s office canceled multiple new employee and management training sessions in the first months of his term, a former top city official said late Wednesday. The sessions included direction to complete legally required sexual harassment training, two City Hall sources with knowledge of the situation said.

These statements contradict the version of events offered  by Filner’s attorney Harvey Berger in a letter to City Attorney Jan Goldsmith. In the letter, Berger contends the city is liable for Filner’s legal fees in his sexual harassment lawsuit because of the failed training. Berger claims that city trainers “unilaterally cancelled” the sessions and never rescheduled.

“Had the city provided mandatory sexual harassment training to Mayor Filner, [former spokeswoman Irene] McCormack Jackson may never have brought her lawsuit,” Berger wrote in the July 29 letter.

Former city Chief Operating Officer Jay Goldstone said Filner’s office canceled several training sessions, which would have covered payroll, benefits and other employee and management roles and responsibilities, because the mayor’s office said it didn’t have time for them.

Goldstone disputed Berger’s assertion that city staff canceled the training sessions.

“Absolutely not. I am 100 percent certain that they did not cancel it,” Goldstone said.

Goldstone said the mayor’s office eventually relented and held a training session that covered benefits only, because officials were told they wouldn’t receive their benefits without one.

Goldstone, who left the city in March, said he didn’t know whether the canceled sessions would have included direction to complete the city’s online sexual harassment training course. But two City Hall sources with knowledge of the situation confirmed that notification of that state law requiring sexual harassment training within six months of Filner taking office was part of what would have been covered.

“It’s employee benefits, it’s new employee orientation, it’s sexual harassment training, it’s all of these things,” one source said.

The City Council unanimously rejected Filner’s request to pay his attorney fees and counter-sued him for the city’s liability in two votes Tuesday. Filner completed the sexual harassment training five days after the scandal broke earlier this month.

Berger could not immediately be reached for comment late Wednesday.

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