Anti-Filner movement looking at new way to oust San Diego mayor

Mayor Bob Filner of San Diego has drawn scathing criticism over sexual harassment allegations, but removing him from office might not be easy.
(Bill Wechter / Getty Images)

SAN DIEGO -- People close to the movement to oust Mayor Bob Filner over sex harassment allegations are looking at a rarely used statute that can remove a politician for malfeasance or intentional misuse of the office.

In Filner’s case, the process would work like this:

State Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris would have to get involved since Dist. Atty. Bonnie Dumanis, who ran against Filner for mayor, has declared that her office has a conflict.

Harris would have to impanel a grand jury. The grand jury could bring a charge against Filner, either criminal or civil for malfeasance or intentional misconduct, which is an open-ended description.


The case would then go to a jury trial and would have to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Filner’s lawyer could argue the charge is not correct. If convicted, ouster is the punishment.

The process is rarely, if ever, used in large counties but is more frequently used in smaller counties, where the politics can be cutthroat.

An attempt was made by a San Diego County civil grand jury to bring such a charge against then-San Diego Mayor Susan Golding in 1999 but was turned down by the district atttorney.

This method is being considered because some anti-Filner activists believe the two most widely discussed methods of removing him -- recall or a criminal conviction -- are unlikely.

The recall process is difficult and expensive, political professionals note. And the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, although fielding a hotline to gather allegations against Filner, has not announced a criminal investigation as a result.


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