By Doug Porter
Editors: Note this story was posted at 7:45pm Wednesday, and updated at 6 & 8am Thursday, Aug. 22.
Following three days of negotiations held in San Diego’s Federal Building, City Attorney Jan Goldsmith informed the media Wednesday evening just before 7pm that a proposed settlement has been reached.
Monday morning started with a mediation session including Filner, City Attorney Jan Goldsmith, lawyer Gloria Allred, City Council President Todd Gloria, and Councilman Kevin Faulconer. The gathering was presided over by J. Lawrence Irving, a former federal judge who is highly sought after as a mediator.
On Tuesday, Allred did not attend, but stayed in touch by phone. Despite numerous attempts by reporters to glean information about what was going on, all the parties appeared to abide by Irving’s edict forbidding them from commenting. NBC7 did get somebody to tell them that Goldsmith and Filner were sitting at opposite ends of the table.
On Wednesday negotiations did not start until mid afternoon. Goldsmith, accompanied by Filner’s legal team, City Council President Todd Gloria and Councilman Kevin Faulconer spoke to the press. Other than the fact that Mr. Irving donated his services as a mediator, according the Goldsmith, details are few and far between at this time.
Details of the proposed settlement will be revealed to a special closed session of the City Council on Friday afternoon at 1pm. Following that meeting Goldsmith indicated the results would be announced at a public session. Until that time all parties have agreed not to disclose details.
Unless something radical takes place in the next day or so, I believe this means Bob Filner’s days as Mayor are over. A report in Thursday morning’s Los Angeles Times says Filner cleaned out his office Wednesday afternoon. Celebrity attorney Gloria Allred and the Mayor’s ex-fiance, Brownwyn Ingram, are holding a press conference in Los Angeles Thursday afternoon.
The resignation means that City Council President Todd Gloria will take over many of the day-to-day and ceremonial functions of the Mayor’s office. There will be a primary; followed by a run-off should no candidate nail down more that 50% of the vote.
Names frequently mentioned as being potential candidates for the top job include Democrats Nathan Fletcher, Todd Gloria, Christine Kehoe and Toni Atkins, along with Republicans Kevin Faulconer and Carl DeMaio.
How the Narrative Developed
The current incarnation of the movement to get Filner out of office began back in June, when press aide Irene McCormack along with Allen Jones confronted the mayor about his treatment of people at a meeting. (An earlier version of this story incorrectly named Vince Hall as being at the center of this confrontation.)
Jones and McCormack (who still works for the city in a different position) ended up leaving the mayor’s team.
Three weeks later, former city councilwoman Donna Frye, along with attorneys Marco Gonzalez and Cory Briggs called upon the mayor to resign, citing numerous instances of sexual harassment.
For the former city councilwoman (and past mayoral candidate), the stories about Filner’s harassment were just the icing on the cake. Having endorsed the Mayor and worked in his office for a few months, she reportedly felt used.
My sources say her ideas for creating a more open government stopped at the edge of chief of staff Vince Hall’s desk, and the general atmosphere on the eleventh floor became increasingly toxic. Like any good soldier, she’d kept her mouth shut upon leaving in April, but the stories of Filner’s harassment just made her see red. And Donna Frye is not somebody you want to piss off.
Filner apologized in a general sense for any inappropriate behavior after that first press conference, via DVD distributed to the media, saying “I have reached into my heart and soul and realize I must and will change my behavior.” He failed to take seriously the threats of further actions voiced at the press conference.
The mayor refused to resign. And then celebrity attorney Gloria Allred entered the picture, introducing Irene McCormack as the plaintiff in a lawsuit to be filed charging sexual harassment. The press conference was heard and seen round the world, and the mayor’s bad behavior soon mushroomed into a national scandal.
More witnesses came forward, a steady stream of woe and anguish painting San Diego’s first Democratic mayor in a generation as a masher at best and a sexual predator at worst.
The initial testimonies were handled through KBPS, the NPR outlet in town with much higher credibility than the much discredited UT-San Diego. The fact that Mark Sauer, KPBS senior news editor was at one time staff for Donna Frye, who vetted the initial candidates, was probably just a coincidence.
Soon it became obvious that a DVD based explanation would no longer suffice. Then came the infamous press conference. Mayor Filner emerged to make an announcement to a room packed with reporters only to have his microphone die just as he was getting to whatever it was important that he was supposed to say.
Five minutes of dead air time later, he returned to inform the press of his intention to take a two week break for counseling. That pronouncement just further inflamed the media frenzy, opening the flood gates for lots of opinions regarding the effectiveness of counseling and rehab programs. The answer as to whether this sort of treatment could help with behavioral problems, of course, was a unanimous “no”.
To add insult to injury, the mayor reportedly returned from this counseling a week early. Word spread like wildfire after a report surfaced about locks being changed at city hall, with CNN and other supposedly reliable outlets trumpeting the story that Filner was now “locked out”.
Someday we’ll learn the truth about what was going on there. I place some stock in the tip passed along to myself and other reporters that a listening device was discovered on the 11th floor of city hall. That would easily explain why people were changing locks in a hurry.
By the time it was over, 17 women had come forward with stories about Filner-as-a-lecher. The last victim told the press about a breast grabbing incident from 25 years ago.
Meanwhile, there were other allegations. A long simmering story about wheeling and dealing with a local land developer (with a reputation for breaking the rules) turned into a potential federal investigation.
The city’s good credit was reportedly on the line over a dispute regarding charges made to the mayoral credit card. (The bill was paid, the portions in dispute were reimbursed by the mayor and the card was cancelled to prevent any future misunderstandings or, as the case might be, abuse.)
With each allegation the frenzy grew. Reporters no longer even pretended to be observers. Stories all carried the assumption of guilt, of the man in the job as an evil-doer, as in “How could you even work for the man?” Everybody knew, right?
A columnist in the daily fishwrap called for Filner’s chief of staff and legal counsel to resign, using the argument that some day they’d want to be able to look their children in the eye and say they did the right thing.
There were not one, not two, but three stories about city officials that started with the (stated or unstated) premise of “How could you?” The city’s Planning Director, the Chief Operating Officer and the Chief of Police all politely turned the question into a discussion of the positive things they wanted to do in public service.
The Recall Movement
From the day Bob Filner was elected Mayor of San Diego, there have been political operatives actively laying the ground for a recall. A website for that purpose was even registered last January. Former Mayor Jerry Sanders’ press aide predicted there would be a recall –and was quoted in the paper the day after the election.
It didn’t take long for a slew of negative stories in the daily newspaper combined with near weekly editorials denouncing the mayor’s actions. These were enhanced later on by a steady stream of leaks coming from the City Attorney’s office.
But none of that was necessary. As it turned out the mayor’s own behavior was all that was required. Let’s make no mistake about it; the man’s actions were—even discounting the media panic—despicable.
Over the past few weeks the recall movement coalesced around GOP activist Michael Pallamary. Although ‘official type’ Republicans were unwilling to commit financial resources to a recall, mostly because San Diego law on the subject is so poorly worded that most observers felt that legal challenges could undo or delay any effort, they have been urging the party faithful to sign on.
Democrats in San Diego were divided on this issue. The party’s leadership initially voted to stay out of the matter, and switched over to a pro-resignation stance as the press conferences rolled on. Some activists were volunteering with the recall effort; others avoided it like the plague.
A pro-recall rally on August 18th proved validity of the concerns many had about working on a recall. Petitions were passed around calling for the repeal of Obamacare, removal of U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and impeachment of President Barack. Obama. For a city with a 40% minority population, the crowd at the recall rally was almost lilly white.
Organized labor stayed quiet on the issue, not venturing beyond an early press release calling for patience and due process. This stance seemingly outraged the core organizers of the recall movement, with the editorial page of the daily fishwrap featuring a daily box score on how much time had passed without labor’s condemnation.
Carl DeMaio, who lost to Bob Filner in last fall’s elections, held a press conference urging the media and the public to condemn any elected officials or public figures who refused to sign and support the recall petition. Local activists recalled, as DeMaio denounced non-recall participants by saying they were complicit in Filner’s crimes, the openly gay Republican’s refusal to condemn those promoting Proposition 8, which banned same sex marriage in California.
The former city councilman, who vowed to make San Diego the “Wisconsin of the West” last year, would have been the odds on favorite to win any election following a successful recall campaign, since the candidate with the most votes would triumph in what most certainly would be a multi-candidate race.
With the resignation of Mayor Filner, DeMaio is more likely to stick to his plans to oppose Democrat Scott Peters in the 52nd congressional district.
Defenders of the Mayor
Defenders of the Mayor’s tenure were few and far between. Defending the indefensible took a big leap of faith and a belief that the progressive promises of the Filner administration overshadowed his very human failings.
Just how strange this situation can best be illustrated via UT-San Diego ‘libertarian’ editorial writer Chris Reed’s post at CalWatchdog.com where he compliments a Trotskyist group:
In a tightly written broadside, the website of the Socialist Workers’ Party tears into union leaders who tolerate Filner, the sociopath and misogynist.
There were pro-Filner rallies, led by former civil rights leaders and activists hailing from the city’s disadvantaged neighborhoods. Calling out for “due process” and strongly suggesting that the forces against the mayor were driven by the city’s economic elites, these events were subject to ridicule in the local news media, if not in the way reporters spun the stories, then in the comments associated with them.
A story of the ‘just sayin’ variety in the daily newspaper all but invited readers to bash supporters for daring to sing “We Shall Overcome” in public, ignorant, I suppose, of the historic role of the anthem in offering comfort for those in the Civil Rights movement facing seemingly impossible odds. I’d say that standing up to the “everybody knows” crowd in San Diego was a courageous act, regardless of the mayor’s guilt or lack thereof.
It was open season for the smuggest of the smug. Buzzfeed’s Andrew Kaczynski posted a video mashup of the pro Filner rally, walking very closely to the line of being racist. The daily fishwrap posted their own video parody using Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines to portray, according to the LA Times:
…a hip-thrusting Filner character, made by superimposing the mayor’s head on another man’s body, pursuing three young women in skirts and high heels. The U-T news staffers gyrate and spin while rejecting the faux mayor’s advances. The words “RESIGN” and “CREEPER” flash on the screen.
The criticism of Filner by U-T TV has struck some as ironic, since the start-up television operation has been accused by some other journalists in San Diego of using its female hosts as props.
The crème de la crème of this arrogance came via KGTV 10News, which smeared a press aide to the mayor via pictures taken at a bachelorette party by a GOP operative. Republican political consultant John Dadian, who of course wasn’t identified by his affiliation, was quoted to lend an air of authenticity to the shaming-in-progress-disguised-
Only Scott Lewis at Voice of San Diego actually explored the basis for why anybody would stand up against such a storm of scorn with hisAugust 20th interview of Bishop George McKinney at St. Stephens Cathedral in southeastern San Diego.
What It All Means
Filner’s rise and fall in San Diego has highlighted the racial and social-economic divisions with the city, which lie roughly (but not exclusively) north and south of Interstate 8. Higher than expected voter turnout in minority and economically challenged areas in the southern part of the city played a key role in Filner’s November victory.
The mayor’s resignation is a bitter pill for those folks. Only once in recent history had they seen a candidate that seemed responsive to their needs; who’d openly promised to take on the economic and political forces that’d neglected basic infrastructure needs in neighborhoods throughout the city even as shiny new public financed structures were built downtown.
And now he is gone. There can be no way of telling whether Bob Filner could or would have delivered on his implied and explicit promises. Many politicians have won with lots of promises and then failed to deliver. At least with Filner in office they had hope.
They certainly don’t expect the leaders of the dump Filner persuasion (of either party) to offer up future opportunities, beyond minimum wage jobs and reductions in city services. There’s tons of San Diego history proving that point. Perhaps this is where the rumblings of conspiracy are rooted.
Having endured the scorn and ridicule of the First World rulers of the roost for daring to stand up for what they perceived as their only hope, Filner’s supporters in San Diego can only expect more of the same neglect and oppression that’s made this city “America’s Finest Tourist Plantation”.
This is an excerpt from Doug Porter’s column at San Diego Free Press.