SAN DIEGO — Dueling efforts to recall Mayor Bob Filner came into sharp relief Monday as the leader of the nation’s eighth-largest city ignored mounting calls to resign amid allegations of sexual harassment.
The recall drives began as Filner’s attorney, Harvey Berger, asked that the city cover the mayor’s legal bills in a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by his former communications director, Irene McCormack Jackson. The lawsuit claims the mayor asked her to work without panties, demanded kisses, told her he wanted to see her naked, and dragged her in a headlock while whispering in her ear.
Seven of nine City Council members have urged Filner to resign, ensuring stiff opposition to paying his legal expenses. The City Council was to consider the request Tuesday.
Ann Ravel, chairwoman of the California Fair Political Practices Commission, said an official cannot accept more than $440 a year in donated services. Campaign money can only be used to defend against alleged violations of the state’s campaign finance law.
An official can, however, create a legal defense fund under state law, Ravel said, leaving a possible avenue if the City Council rebuffs Filner.
Seven women have offered detailed accounts of Filner’s unwanted advances, including touching and slobbering kisses. His accusers include a retired Navy rear admiral and a dean at San Diego State University.
Filner, who is 70 and divorced, said Friday that he would enter two weeks of “intensive” therapy Aug. 5, defying calls from his own party leaders to resign and fueling recall talk. The former 10-term congressman is less than eight months into a four-year term as San Diego’s first Democratic mayor in 20 years.
Land-use surveyor Michael Pallamary published a newspaper notice Sunday to begin a recall bid, two days after gay rights activist Stampp Corbin did so. Pallamary accused Corbin of being a stealth supporter of the mayor and threatened to file a complaint with the San Diego County district attorney’s office alleging election law violations.
Pallamary said Corbin would make little effort to collect the more than 100,000 signatures needed to get a recall measure on the ballot, setting it up to fail and preventing another recall drive for six months.
Corbin, who backed Filner in November’s election, didn’t respond to phone or email messages late Monday.
Confusion over whether recall petitions can circulate concurrently isn’t the only procedural flaw uncovered since the mayor came under pressure to resign. The city attorney’s office says a rule that voters must cast a ballot on a recall to be eligible to pick a replacement should be repealed because a federal judge struck down a nearly identical law during the successful 2003 recall of California Gov. Gray Davis.
Tony Krvaric, chairman of the San Diego County Republican Party, said Friday that he didn’t expect big GOP donors or business leaders to make significant donations to a recall.
“The Democrats made this mess and they have to fix it,” he said.