Tuesday, July 30, 2013

What about Bob?

So, you know how I wanted a few details about the alleged sexual harassment claims against Bob Filner before I rendered any kind of decision?  And do you remember when I wondered whether the allegations were actually sexual harassment, or whether they were simply Filner being his typical, abusive boss self?

Yeah. . .well. . .it was a lot more than I thought.  The most recent allegations, as put forth by Filner's former communications director was that Filner was, in my words, a total and complete skeeze.  Oh, and her allegations were backed up. . .pretty much every single woman Bob Filner came into contact with during the past 30 years.  Not as witnesses, mind you, but as other victims.  Okay, I'm sort of joking here - thus far there are only seven eight known victims, with two other women kinda sorta out, but not really (the 8th woman will be announced in two hours on KPBS).  And oddly enough, Bob's taste in women tends to be. . .accomplished.  Like Rear Admiral in the Navy, Superintendent of San Diego City Schools, highly regarded journalist accomplished.  I'm sure he's sexually propositioned his interns like every other skeeze, but I have to hand it to the Mayor, he has no apparent shame.

In response to the myriad of allegations, the San Diego Democratic Party finally stepped forward and said, "Bob, its time to resign." Now, as someone who used to sit on the San Diego County Democratic Central Committee (which governs the San Diego County Democratic Party), I can tell you this is a big deal.  For almost twenty years, the San Diego County Democratic Party was pretty much useless.  It would act as a cheerleader, give out endorsements, but otherwise did nothing.  Only in recent years has the Party been able to actually take part in elections at any substantive level (through independent expenditures).  Yet throughout that entire time, Bob Filner was the only liberal beacon, the only liberal Democrat most locals could name, much less vote for.  And the old Party faithful know that.  That's why when Bob told everyone he was running for mayor, every other Democrat made way for him.

Of course, times have changed.  Democrats control a majority in the San Diego City Council.  They are in the State legislature and Congress.  The Party does not have the ability to sway elections as it never did before.  And so, its no surprise that the newer members of the Central Committee were the ones leading the charge to ask Filner to resign.

So, will Filner resign? HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  He will go to "therapy" (btw, if there was a show called Douchebag Rehab with Drew Pinsky, I'd totally watch one or two episodes), but there's no way in hell he will resign.  Here's why:

1) Filner Will Fight to the Death:

As a young man, Bob Filner drove down to the South in an effort to register African American voters.  Its one of Filner's most personal, and powerful moments in his entire life.  He will talk about that time with anyone.  So, what happened on that trip? Bob got his ass-kicked and was thrown in jail (this was the South in the 1960's).  But he kept at it, and eventually he and other Freedom Riders helped the Civil Rights movement in their own way.

So, if you are keeping score at home, Bob's seminal life experience involved getting his ass kicked, going to jail and not giving up.  And this has carried over to other parts of his political life - when he was down 10 points to Juan Vargas in their second race against each other with only 1 week before election day, Bob didn't back down, he unleashed hell.  And if you ask anyone who's known Filner throughout the years, they'll tell you of other examples of Bob fighting to the bitter end.  That's who he is.

2) He's Learned to Never Resign:

What to Eliott Spitzer, Anthony Weiner, and Bob Livingston all have in common? All cheated on their wives, resigned, and then were never heard from again.  Well, they were heard from, but Weiner is about to go down in flames in the NYC mayor's race (or, come up short, if you will), and Spitzer is running for NYC Comptroller - a huge drop-off from Governor.  What do David Vitter, Bill Clinton, and Newt Gingrich have in common?  All cheated on their wives and DID NOT RESIGN.  Well, Newt did, but only after getting caught essentially taking a bribe.  But both Clinton and Vitter (who allegedly wore diapers in his escapades with prostitutes) never resigned, and got to stay in office.

Now as a politician who worked in D.C. for almost 30 years, Bob is absolutely certain to know this. The only way to rehabilitate your image is to fight to stay in office and remind everyone why they liked you in the first place.  Of course, unlike Clinton, Vitter, and Newt, Bob's base are the ones pushing for his resignation.  So there's no way he can weather the storm, but that doesn't mean he won't try.

3) He Has Nothing To Lose:

Imagine being Filner - he's 70, in what is probably the last political job he will ever have, and spent the past six months being a pretty good mayor.*  Now, normally, a politician in this situation would hear from his wife, or his kids, and they would tell him, "Bob, please don't embarrass us any more." But Bob isn't married, his kids probably don't talk to him, and his fiance' just dumped him.  All the allegations are pretty much out there, and so Bob has to think there is absolutely nothing left to lose.  Now, if he does resign, it will be because someone will release details of Bob doing something even worse than the current allegations out there.  Even then, I don't think that will happen.

Now you could ask, what about the lawsuits?  Wouldn't the loss of possibly millions of dollars get Bob to resign?  In a word, maybe.  Here's the odd thing about this case - despite the myriad of allegations, only Irene McCormick has, so far, sued for sexual harassment. All the other women met Bob at various events, or allege incidents that took place long enough ago that the statute of limitations has run.

As far as McCormick goes, her claims for harassment aren't necessarily drenched in gold either. When she worked for the City, she did so at a substantial decrease in her usual pay, and so, she can't allege economic damages for quitting due to Filner's skeeziness. She can ask for damages for emotional distress, and maybe punitive damages, but that's about it.  And San Diego juries are notoriously stingy on that kind of damage claim.  Case in point - I once worked on a case where a woman was under threat of rape for 4 months, was under treatment for PTSD (by the D.A.'s victim of crime fund), and got $50,000 in emotional distress damages.  Throw in the fact that the City may end up footing the bill (or not, depending), and you get the idea that Filner isn't exactly frightened of a lawsuit.

So, What Happens Next?

San Diego's City Charter does have a provision for such a circumstance - the people of San Diego can recall an elected official.  But, how the recall actually works is up for interpretation.  Technically, the people who want Filner out have to collect over 100,000 signatures in 30 days, which will spark the recall election.  People then vote on whether to recall Filner and who should replace him.  If not enough signatures are collected, no recall petition can be considered for six months.  Now, we don't know if multiple people can take out recall petitions at the same time.  This is key because some of Filner's supporters (and he still has a few), have taken out a recall petition before everyone else, and plan on sitting on the petition. So, if only one recall petition can be issued at a time, Filner is going to be with us for awhile.

Oh, and here's another lovely tidbit - under the terms of the Charter, everyone who votes against the recall has no say on who replaces Filner.  California's election code had a similar provision which was struck down as unconstitutional during the recall of Gov. Gray Davis.  No one bothered to fix the City Charter because. . .well, this is San Diego and YOLO.

Now, with all this said, some of you may be asking if this is the worst scandal in San Diego history - to which I would say, "Oh heavens, No." Its definitely in the top 5, but is it as far reaching as the Pension Scandal (when the New York Times called us "Enron by the Sea"), or as drawn out as the Rodger Hedgecock scandal?  In a word, no.  But it does continue the interesting times we have here in San Diego.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

This is What I Get For Leaving Town. . .

Good gravy. . .I leave San Diego for five days and all the sudden we have former progressive supporters of Mayor Bob Filner calling for his resignation over allegations of sexual harassment.  What did he do? They won't say.  Who did he do it to? Will not disclose that.  The only thing we know is that some women talked to Donna Frye (former City Council Member, progressive activist, who almost became Mayor via write-in ballot, and who worked for Filner for a couple of months), and that she thought the allegations were solid.  Again, we have no idea what those allegations are, but Frye says that Filner should resign over them.  If I may be so bold as to ask. . .what the fuck?

If this had been anyone other than Donna Frye and Marco Gonzalez (the older brother of Lorena Gonzalez, fmr. head of the San Diego Labor Council and huge Bob Filner supporter) who alleged that sexual harassment occurred, but wouldn't say what was done to whom, I would have been nonplussed, to say the least.  After all, this is a Mayor who has been under fire from the long-time entrenched interests in San Diego.  But Donna isn't anyone, she's a progressive activist who has built up a lot of trust.

Also, its not as if Bob Filner isn't already known for being a total asshole.  In my years in politics and in the nonprofit world, I recall that Filner's office had constant turnover.  Every six months or so, I would see a new Filner rep at a meeting, and he/she would be young and energetic and gone within three months.  I have also heard stories about Filner's intense dislike for small paperclips (cue the former Filner staffers nodding slowly), and his volatile temper.  People hated working for him.  And then there's this:

Even this statement from Filner is vague.  Was this Filner being the abusive asshole boss he's known for being or was this something more?  And for me, the devil is always in the details.  As an attorney who has handled sexual harassment claims in the past, those details are absolutely important.  Even with Filner's admission that he acted badly doesn't tell me much beyond he's a nightmare to work for (and I knew that).

What I do know is that Filner's six months in office have been both incredibly contentious and successful.  He saved the City a bundle in office building rents, paying $1.35/sq. ft. when the going rate is $2.25.  We have a pension deal.  We have a five year labor agreement.  La Jolla Shores apparently doesn't smell like bird crap anymore.  Filner even shook down a developer to give more money to the City (for parks and such).  I don't think any of this (except the bird poop) would have been fixed with anyone but Filner.  And maybe that's because Filner is doing exactly what Filner has always done - been an asshole to everyone but his constituents.  As a constituent, I love his work for me but I'd never work for the guy.

So, what I guess I'm saying is that before I make any judgments, I'm going to need more information.  I don't need to know who, but I think all of San Diego needs to know what actually happened.