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Bob Filner is hurting San Diego business and must go, ex-mayor says

The business community of San Diego has mostly kept silent during the furor over whether San Diego Mayor Bob Filner should resign amid allegations that he sexually harassed staff members, constituents and others.

That's changing.

Former Mayor Jerry Sanders, now president and chief executive of the San Diego Chamber of Commerce, is calling for Filner to leave because the controversy is leading to fear and stagnation at City Hall and reluctance among business owners to expand and create jobs.

"I don't care if he resigns or is recalled, he just has to go," said Sanders, a Republican and former police chief who served as mayor from 2005 to 2012 and was termed out.

The Business Leadership Alliance has scheduled an emergency meeting for Thursday afternoon to decide whether to call for the 70-year-old Democrat's resignation. The Business Leadership Alliance includes directors of regional chambers of commerce, officials of economic development groups, and also business owners.

Sanders said that business leaders have been reluctant to get involved because it would look like an effort to remove a mayor that they do not like. But things have reached a breaking point, Sanders said in a round of media interviews.

Sanders said that business is "paralyzed" because of uncertainty. He noted that in at least three high-profile cases, one involving construction of a new Jack 'n the Box restraurant, Filner has used his mayoral authority to withdraw city permission to build.

In other issues, Sanders said, the mayor's lack of attention is hampering important projects, including a housing development in Barrio Logan next to a shipyard.

Day to day, Sanders said, city employees such as police, firefighters, librarians and others will continue to do their jobs. But employees involved with economic development and business expansion issues are reluctant because they are not receiving direction from the mayor's office.

On the issue of the city paying for Filner's legal bills to fight the lawsuit filed by his former director of communications, Sanders said he supports the City Council's vote not to pay those bills.

And he rejected Filner's lawyers assertion that Filner never received the city's mandated sexual harassment training because a city employee outside his office canceled the session.

The training is online and can be done at any hour, said Sanders, who said he took the training within his first six months in office.

Citing one example of Filner's actions hurting the city economically, Sanders said that Filner's dispute with the tourism industry over city subsidies has led to layoffs and a cutback on advertising to lure tourists to San Diego.

"Los Angeles is doing a lot of advertising and they're taking some of San Diego's business," he said.

Filner has spurned demands to resign. While admitting his behavior toward women has been bad, he has insisted that he did not commit sexual harassment.

Filner's lawyer, in requesting that the city pay his legal bills, said that Filner may not have known what constitutes sexual harassment under California law and that the city may be liable for any damages imposed as a result of the lawsuit by Irene McCormack Jackson.


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