The Growing Intensity of Filner's Non-Harassment Scandals - Voice of San Diego

Bob Filner UNVEILING THE UNSEEN

The Growing Intensity of Filner's Non-Harassment Scandals

The growing number and intensity of scandals surrounding Mayor Bob Filner is starting to cloud the reason resignation calls began in the first place.

When a trio of former supporters of Bob Filner originally went public with allegations of sexual harassment and a call for the mayor’s resignation, they included a curious non-sequitur.

Cory Briggs, an environmental attorney, focused on the Sunroad debacle, not the sexual harassment charges, while arguing the mayor to resign.

Since then, more than a dozen women have come forward to allege sexual harassment by the mayor, prompting calls for Filner to resign from politicians and activists across the city, state and nation.

But there’s also been increasing outcry over other issues – along the lines of Briggs’ seemingly out-of-place complaint – each being used to varying degrees to justify Filner’s removal from office.

These non-harassment-related scandals involve pay-to-play development deals, an improperly funded trip to Paris, misuse of a city credit card or the near-failure to pay that credit card’s bill. They’re all worthy of serious scrutiny, but without the backdrop of the sexual harassment charges, it’s unlikely they would ever prompt calls for resignation on their own, at least not from anyone beyond the mayor’s biggest opponents.

Nonetheless, each of the different scandals has become part of a “Filner Under Fire” narrative that’s led both NBC 7 and U-T San Diego to create landing pages for all the mayor’s scandal news in one place.

And with Filner’s continued refusal to leave office on his own accord, the collection of other scandals is increasingly being used by other officials to spur a forced exit.

Here’s a roundup of some of the non-sexual harassment issues anti-Filnerites have seized to argue Filner should step down or be booted from office.

Development Deals

Federal investigators are looking into a deal struck by Filner’s administration that forced developer Sunroad Enterprises to donate money to city causes to get approval for its Kearny Mesa project.

Investigators have also asked questions about a different payment made by a different developer as part of a legal settlement that got the mayor to drop his opposition to a College Area housing project.

Any indictment over Filner’s dealings on the development approvals would be made under the federal Hobbs Act, which would hinge on whether he knowingly used the weight of his office to collect money for performing his official duties.

Briggs, who has sued the city over Sunroad, included the deal in his initial call for resignation, saying Filner needed to go due to irresponsible government, encompassing both pay-to-play politics and mistreatment of female staff.

Councilman Scott Sherman was an early opponent of the Sunroad deal. His call for the mayor’s resignation was centered on the sexual harassment allegations, according to a spokeswoman, but is also based on Filner’s actions toward these developers, and allegations that Filner misused taxpayer money.

The Trip to Paris

In mid-June, Filner took a trip to Paris paid for by a group he said was a nonprofit, as required law. It turned out the Organization of Iranian-American Communities isn’t a nonprofit after all, and Filner finally said he’d pay back the $9,399 spent on his trip.

The city also paid for the mayor’s security detail to Paris.

The San Diego County Taxpayers’ Association has called on Filner to reimburse the city for the security detail’s expenses, more than $20,000, and Councilman Kevin Faulconer, chair of the council’s audit committee, has said he’ll continue to look into the trip.

Filner’s explanation began with the claim that it was OK for the city to pay his way because he was trying to attract jobs to the region, a claim he’s since abandoned.

His Personal Credit Card

Filner reportedly used a city credit card for personal uses including a juicer, a trip to Mexico, a convention in Las Vegas he never attended and unspecified charges at the Westgate Hotel downtown, according to U-T San Diego.

Thursday, the paper reported he also failed to provide documentation for those purchases, which meant city officials couldn’t make payment on the credit card. The bill fell 120 days behind schedule and would have hurt the city’s line of credit if it had gone into collections.

City Attorney Jan Goldsmith this week announced city officials can be removed from office based on a section of the city charter, if they “approve or allow” unauthorized payments by the city.

The City Council is set to discuss on Aug. 28 whether to invoke that section of the charter.

Faulconer said the audit committee will also look into the mayor’s use of the credit card. He also told CNN the revelations raise the question of whether city business is being taken care of and if Filner is in touch with reality.

The San Diego County Taxpayers Association admonished the mayor over his credit card usage, but didn’t tie it to a call for resignation. Instead, it asked him to reimburse the personal expenses and promise taxpayers he won’t do it again.

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