The story out on San Diego Mayor Bob Filner is that he is blaming the city for not paying for his sexual harassment training. Filner’s lawyer, Harvey Berger wrote City Attorney Jan Goldsmith that, “If there is any liability at all, the city will almost certainly be liable for ‘failing to prevent harassment’.” The letter—which reached Attorney Goldsmith’s desk Monday—also requests that the city pay for Filner’s legal fees.
Yes, the people of “America’s Finest City” didn’t care for Mayor Filner to get training…for something that is common sense. For something that is causing his career—and most likely his private life—grief because he couldn’t keep his hands to himself, not make inappropriate comments to women, and not view women as sexual objects for his amusement.
A 70-year old man who was a Freedom Rider and fought for civil rights in the early 1960s needed to be trained not to act inappropriately around women. In seven wisdom-filled decades on Earth, Mayor Filner worked in no setting where this sort of behavior might not have been acceptable? Did he simply ignore the women liberation movement? Was he asleep or missing during it? Of course he wasn’t. There’s really no excuse for someone in his position and with a staff featuring many women to carry on in the way he did. Even if his staff featured all men there’s no excuse.
So the excuse they’re running with here is that Mayor Filner didn’t know any better. Accusations come out, he apologizes, says he’s going to get help—expecting to get it on the city’s dime as well—then turns around says “Hey, I didn’t get sexual harassment training. I don’t think I should be blamed for this. This all seems like it’s the city’s fault to me.”
I’m sure he didn’t say that exactly, but that’s basically what this excuse is. The blaming of San Diego truly smacks of reaching from a guy who is in the hot seat for something he should’ve known better to avoid doing. When has manhandling and sexually harassing women in the workplace—or anywhere for that matter—been appropriate or worked out well for someone in a political position? Sure people have gotten off without legal consequences for years or the duration of their career, but in this day and age women are coming forward on this.
Seriously, there are so many things that are just wrong about this whole thing. This is at a time when the Democratic Party is in battle against Republicans over this assault on women’s rights. Again, Mayor Filner knew better. It’s been one of the big things for the Party this year and for the longest.
The San Diego City Council axed Filner’s request to cover his legal fees 9-0. The reason for this is that the city believes it pretty much had no role in Filner’s behavior and that they have a “zero tolerance” policy against sexual harassment—which Filner would surely know about. In most public service jobs—especially in the position Filner holds and above—whether someone is told verbally, watches a video, signs a contract, or have to get training—sexual harassment and racism are the two things not tolerated.
That’s how lawsuits occur.
Harvey Berger made it known that Filner never got that all important sexual harassment training during his 1993-2012 Congressional career. He also said that Filner was supposed to get training, but never did since the trainer canceled and never got around to rescheduling. Training is required within six months of a mayor’s term.
While the training is important as it is required, the excuse just makes it sound like that in the 19 years Mayor Filner served in Congress he was around no women and didn’t have to bother with knowing how to carry himself or treat them respectfully. We get that he didn’t get training because the trainer canceled on him, but this is really common sense stuff: don’t say this, don’t do that, don’t touch that, don’t call her that, dial back the aggressiveness, this is 2013. Not to simply what he would’ve learned, but avoiding sexual harassment isn’t a difficult thing from the potential aggressor’s end. The harassed aren’t forcing themselves onto the aggressor.
So far eight women have said that Filner ran the gamut of lewd behavior in their presence and towards them dating to his early Congressional career to recently. The entire thing resulted in staff leaving, his fiancée bailing, and the Democratic Party of San Diego wanting him to leave office. Despite all of that, he didn’t step down and merely said that he would be taking a break and getting counseling—two weeks of “intensive counseling.”
In refusing Filner’s request to have his fees covered, San Diego also filed charges against the Mayor and are looking to collect damages if Irene McCormack Jackson wins her suit against him. The city has a good reason to file suit with all the bad press this is bringing to the city and the tainting of the mayoral office’s reputation, so why not?