It’s the city’s fault Mayor Filner didn’t get sexual harassment training, says lawyer

Updated
Photos of San Diego Mayor Bob Filner and San Diego City Attorney Jan Goldsmith hang inside the City Council chambers at San Diego City Hall.
Photos of San Diego Mayor Bob Filner and San Diego City Attorney Jan Goldsmith hang inside the City Council chambers at San Diego City Hall.
Sam Hodgson/Reuters

San Diego Mayor Bob Filner’s attorney is arguing that the city can be liable for damages incurred by a sexual harassment lawsuit against the mayor because he was never required to take sexual harassment training.

“Many—if not most—people do not know what is and what is not illegal sexual harassment under California law,” argued Harvey Berger, Filner’s attorney, in a letter to San Diego City Attorney Jan Goldsmith.

Berger argued that because San Diego is obligated to provide training about such behavior to city officials, “if there is any liability at all, the city will almost certainly be liable for ‘failing to prevent harassment.’”

“The city may be strictly liable for any sexual harassment by a supervisor, even if it had no reason to know of it,WHERE DO QUOTE MARKS CLOSE? Berger wrote in his letter Monday to San Diego City Attorney Jan Goldsmith. “So, of course, the city should have a strong interest in making certain that Mayor Filner has the resources to defend himself.”

On Tuesday, the City Council voted 9-0 not to pick up the tab for Filner’s legal bills. The Council also unanimously voted to sue the mayor to pay for the potential damages the city may have to cover from the lawsuit filed by Filner’s former communications director, Irene McCormack Jackson.

A total of eight women have accused Filner of sexual harassment. McCormack Jackson was the first to come forward. She alleged that Filner once asked her to work without underwear and made unsolicited sexual advances towards her.

Berger also wrote that the city’s refusal to pay for Filner’s legal bills would “be a political, not a rational decision.”

“Had the City provided mandatory sexual harassment training to Mayor Filner, Ms. McCormack Jackson may never have brought her lawsuit,” Berger wrote.

In his letter, Berger said that Filner was scheduled to take the training before the allegations against the mayor became public. Jay Goldston, the city’s former Chief Operating Officer, addresssed the timing of the training and pointed out that Filner’s office, and not the city, canceled training sessions.

Councilman Kevin Faulconer said that the mayor “abused his power to intimidate and engage in inappropriate contact with women.”

“I will not condone Filner’s behavior by authorizing taxpayers to pay for his legal defense,” Faulconer said.

It’s the city’s fault Mayor Filner didn't get sexual harassment training, says lawyer

Updated