San Diego Mayor Claims He Sexually Harassed Employees Because He Lacked Sexual Harassment Training


Embattled San Diego Mayor Bob Filner (D), accused of sexual harassing at least eight different women, is claiming he wouldn’t be facing allegations if he had received sexual harassment training. But a former city employee says Filner’s office actually canceled mandatory sexual harassment training for city employees.

Filner’s lawyer wrote a letter asking the city to pay for Filner’s legal services because the city failed to provide sexual harassment training for his client.

“I have learned that many — if not most — people do not know what is and what is not illegal sexual harassment under California law,” the lawyer wrote in the letter. “There is a very, very good reason for mandatory sexual harassment training; if nothing else it makes people think about the subject, and how they interact with their fellow employees.” The letter claimed that city staff “unilaterally cancelled” the training.

However, former Chief Operating Officer Jay Goldstone insisted on Wednesday that city staff didn’t do that. “I am 100 percent certain that they did not cancel it,” he told the Voice of San Diego. Goldstone said that it was actually Filner’s office that made the call.

Employees were supposed to undergo the required training as part of multiple employee and management training sessions when Filner began his term earlier this year. However, Filner’s office decided there wasn’t enough time for them.

Two other City Hall sources say that state law requires sexual harassment training, and the canceled sessions covering various employee and management topics, such as payroll and benefits, would have included the city’s sexual harassment course. Filner did eventually complete the mandatory sexual harassment training, albeit five days after the scandal broke earlier this month.

Filner’s former communications director, Irene McCormack Jackson, filed a lawsuit on July 22 in which she accused Filner of telling her that she should would work better “without your panties on,” demanding kisses, and dragging her in a headlock. Seven other women have come forward in recent weeks, including one claiming that Filner “rammed his tongue down her throat,” which could actually go beyond sexual harassment and be categorized as sexual assault.

On Tuesday, the San Diego City Council unanimously voted to deny Filner funds for his legal fees and also voted to sue him for damages if he holds the city liable. Filner continues to resist calls for his resignation and will begin therapy on August 5.

Marina Fang is an intern for ThinkProgress.