SAN DIEGO - The city attorney’s office may seek a restraining order to bar Mayor Bob Filner from City Hall because his presence allegedly creates a hostile working environment for women.
“It is a possibility as a last resort,” Michael Giorgino, interim communications director for City Atty. Jan Goldsmith, said Friday.
Goldsmith, in several media interviews, has predicted that Filner’s ouster as mayor will occur, with the only question being when and by what method.
A recall drive is set to begin Sunday. Goldsmith has found a section of the City Charter that he believes could lead to Filner’s removal from office. All nine City Council members have called on the mayor to resign.
Of the 16 women who have accused Filner of sexual harassment, three are city employees: Irene McCormack Jackson, who has filed a lawsuit; a woman identified only as Stacy; and Peggy Shannon, who works part-time for the senior citizens services desk in the lobby of City Hall.
Shannon, 67, appeared at a news conference Thursday with Los Angeles attorney Gloria Allred. The mayor’s repeated sexual advances and comments, Shannon said tearfully, had left her shaken and afraid.
Allred said Friday that she would join Goldsmith if he decides to seek a court order keeping Filner away from City Hall.
Filner should be kept away “unless and until an independent medical examiner appointed by the court declares under oath that the mayor is no longer a threat to females and no longer presents a risk of sex harassment to them,” Allred said.
Of the other accusations levelled against Filner, one came from a nurse who said Filner harassed her when she went to City Hall to seek his assistance in getting help from the Department of Veterans Affairs for a Marine wounded in Iraq.
Beyond the three city employees who have gone public with their accusations, Goldsmith’s office has also interviewed other city employees about Filner. The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, which established a hotline for women to report allegations against Filner, is also interviewing city employees and others about the mayor.
At its closed-door session on Aug. 28, Goldsmith will ask the council if it wants to invoke a little-known provision of the City Charter about the removal of “officers” for misusing public money.
If the council agrees, the city attorney’s office would then proceed to build a case against the 70-year-old Democrat, to be presented to the presiding judge of the San Diego County Superior Court for a decision. How a judge would react to such an unusual maneuver is unclear.
The case would not involve the sexual harassment allegations but alleged misuse of public funds, including a credit card used for expenses.
The San Diego County Taxpayers Assn., citing news reports, asserted Thursday that of the mayor’s $11,095 in credit card expenses, nearly $1,000 were for personal items, including pizzas, juicers and expensive lunches. The council may ask the city auditor to review Filner’s credit card expenses.
There have also been questions from council members about Filner’s trip to Paris in June to attend a rally of Iranian dissidents. He was accompanied by two San Diego police officers as a security detail, with the officers’ airfare and other expenses totalling $21,244.
Though the City Charter does not include a provision for impeachment, Goldsmith has said that Section 108 could, in effect, accomplish the same thing. The section was approved by voters in 1931.
Under the section, Goldsmith said in a memo this week to council members, “every city officer who willfully approves or allows an unauthorized payment from the city treasury is subject to removal from office.”
Use of the Section 108 would leave the council in uncharted legal territory, Goldsmith’s memo indicates. The charter provision is not explicit on how it should be enforced.
If the council authorizes use of the section against Filner, Goldsmith said his office could then file a request with the Superior Court for enforcement stating that Filner has misused public money and should be removed.