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The wrong way to get rid of San Diego Mayor Bob Filner

San Diego Mayor Bob Filner would probably be doing the city a favor if he resigned. More than a dozen women have publicly accused him of sexual harassment, and his behavior since the allegations first surfaced hasn't exactly inspired confidence. After his initial admission of inappropriate behavior didn’t bring him public forgiveness, he switched to denying all wrongdoing. Then he went back to acknowledging he had a problem (though he still denies committing sexual harassment, which would constitute an illegal action). He vowed to go into two-week intensive therapy, which he left a week early.

A recall petition is circulating. Political allies have abandoned him. The brightest news these days for Filner is that he still has a few supporters left. Very few, though: 14% of San Diego voters say he should stay in office, according to a poll published Sunday by 10News/U-T San Diego.

The official investigation is ongoing, and both Filner and the people of San Diego are entitled to a full accounting of what happened. But the public outrage isn’t likely to simmer down. And with the entire City Council set against the mayor, how will important municipal work go forward? Filner might well be at the point where he no longer can be effective at his job. He's supposed to return to it Monday.

Filner, as everyone knows, is ignoring calls for his resignation. Council members think they may have found a solution that has nothing to do with the allegations of harassment: There also are accusations that Filner may have racked up $1,000 in personal expenses on his city credit card without reimbursing the city. And there is vague wording in the city charter that allows for the removal of “officers” who “approve” or “allow” an unauthorized payment of public money.

This is a problematic way to approach the Filner dilemma; the council should reject it when it considers the matter this month. Did Filner “approve” the expenditure, or is he the one who submitted it for approval? And has the city made any attempt to investigate and crack down on other officials who might have misused their public credit cards, or would the council simply be invoking this rule one time to eliminate an unpopular character?

The ploy would create a legal quagmire. More important, removing a public official for the wrong reasons is a troubling way to seek righteousness. Voters have the authority to remove Filner through recall. It’s not a swift or tidy process, but unless Filner either resigns or the investigation finds he broke the law, it’s the right one for ousting a public official whom many no longer see as serving the public.

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Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
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