In San Diego, Mayor Bob Filner’s (D) scandals are only getting worse. The number of credible women accusers is up to eight, and this week, the city council voted unanimously to not pay the mayor’s legal bills and to sue Filner to recover damages the city might have to pay as a result of his alleged misconduct.
It’s against this backdrop that Filner’s lawyer has come up with a new, creative argument.
The attorney for San Diego Mayor Bob Filner said in a letter the city may be liable for damages in a sexual harassment lawsuit because Filner never received mandated training about such behavior.
“The city has a legal obligation to provide sexual harassment training to all management level employees,” wrote attorney Harvey Berger in a letter requesting the city pay Filner’s legal bills in defense of the lawsuit filed by his former communications director. […]
Filner may have not known what constitutes sexual harassment, Berger wrote.
Yes, Filner’s lawyer is saying exactly what you think he’s saying – the mayor may have sexually harassed women, but the city of San Diego bears responsibility because it didn’t tell the mayor he shouldn’t sexually harass women.
In his letter, Harvey Berger, Filner’s lawyer, added that said that Berger has “conducted sexual harassment training scores of times over the years,” and he’s “learned that many – if not most – people do not know what is and what is not illegal sexual harassment under California law.” And as such, the letter argues, “The city may be strictly liable for any sexual harassment by a supervisor, even if it had no reason to know of it.”
So to recap, Filner is accused of, among other things, making unwanted sexual advances, encouraging an employee to come to work without underwear, and putting women in headlocks. This may very well be San Diego’s fault, his lawyer said, because the city never instructed Filner not to do any of these things.
If this were some kind of dark comedy, I’d consider it unrealistic. And yet, here we are.