How San Diego’s Voters Can Remove Mayor Bob Filner

(Credit: AP)

At least seven women have now come forward accusing San Diego Mayor Bob Filner (D) of sexual harassment — or worse. In at least some cases, Filner allegedly groped his victims while making sexually explicit comments, conduct that likely amounts to misdemeanor sexual battery under California law. Yet, at a press conference Friday afternoon, Filner did not resign his office, instead promising to attend two weeks of therapy.

Filner, however, does not have to be the last word on whether he keeps his job. San Diego’s City Charter provides that “[t]he right to recall municipal officers . . . are hereby reserved to the people of the City.” So San Diego’s voters can remove him from office. Although a city ordinance permits Filner to serve for at least six months before he can be recalled, the mayor took office on December 3, 2012, so he is eligible.

Under the charter “the recall of an elected officer who is elected by all of the electors of the City . . . shall require a petition signed by fifteen per cent of the registered voters of the City at the last general City election.” According to San Diego County’s records, there are 672,054 registered voters in the City of San Diego, so approximately 100,000 signatures would be required to recall Filner.

To begin a recall petition drive, proponents of such a recall must publish a notice of intent in a daily newspaper and submit proper documents to the City Clerk. Signature gathering can begin 21 days after the notice of intent is published, and the required number of signatures must be filed with the Clerk within 60 days of this publication. Thus, the period to gather signatures is only 39 days, although this can be extended by a provision allowing a supplemental petition to be filed “within thirty (30) days after the Clerk issues a notice of insufficiency.”

If enough valid signatures are submitted, a recall election will eventually be held — although it may not occur until months after the recall effort began. Unless he resigns, Filner will continue to serve as mayor “until the [city] Council has adopted its resolution declaring the results of the election which shows that a majority of the qualified voters have voted in favor of the recall.”

As of this writing, over 6,600 people have “liked” a Facebook page calling for Filner to be recalled. Actually recalling Filner, however, will require tens of thousands of signatures to be gathered in a tight timeframe. And the actual recall election will likely be months away.