The Growing Intensity of Filner’s Non-Harassment Scandals

The Growing Intensity of Filner’s Non-Harassment Scandals

Photo by Sam Hodgson

When a trio of former supporters of Bob Filner originally went public with allegations of sexual harassment and a call for the mayor’s resignation, they included a curious non-sequitur.

Cory Briggs, an environmental attorney, focused on the Sunroad debacle, not the sexual harassment charges, while arguing the mayor to resign.

Since then, more than a dozen women have come forward to allege sexual harassment by the mayor, prompting calls for Filner to resign from politicians and activists across the city, state and nation.

But there’s also been increasing outcry over other issues – along the lines of Briggs’ seemingly out-of-place complaint – each being used to varying degrees to justify Filner’s removal from office.

These non-harassment-related scandals involve pay-to-play development deals, an improperly funded trip to Paris, misuse of a city credit card or the near-failure to pay that credit card’s bill. They’re all worthy of serious scrutiny, but without the backdrop of the sexual harassment charges, it’s unlikely they would ever prompt calls for resignation on their own, at least not from anyone beyond the mayor’s biggest opponents.

Nonetheless, each of the different scandals has become part of a “Filner Under Fire” narrative that’s led both NBC 7 and U-T San Diego to create landing pages for all the mayor’s scandal news in one place.

And with Filner’s continued refusal to leave office on his own accord, the collection of other scandals is increasingly being used by other officials to spur a forced exit.

Here’s a roundup of some of the non-sexual harassment issues anti-Filnerites have seized to argue Filner should step down or be booted from office.

Development Deals

Federal investigators are looking into a deal struck by Filner’s administration that forced developer Sunroad Enterprises to donate money to city causes to get approval for its Kearny Mesa project.

Investigators have also asked questions about a different payment made by a different developer as part of a legal settlement that got the mayor to drop his opposition to a College Area housing project.

Any indictment over Filner’s dealings on the development approvals would be made under the federal Hobbs Act, which would hinge on whether he knowingly used the weight of his office to collect money for performing his official duties.

Briggs, who has sued the city over Sunroad, included the deal in his initial call for resignation, saying Filner needed to go due to irresponsible government, encompassing both pay-to-play politics and mistreatment of female staff.

Councilman Scott Sherman was an early opponent of the Sunroad deal. His call for the mayor’s resignation was centered on the sexual harassment allegations, according to a spokeswoman, but is also based on Filner’s actions toward these developers, and allegations that Filner misused taxpayer money.

The Trip to Paris

In mid-June, Filner took a trip to Paris paid for by a group he said was a nonprofit, as required law. It turned out the Organization of Iranian-American Communities isn’t a nonprofit after all, and Filner finally said he’d pay back the $9,399 spent on his trip.

The city also paid for the mayor’s security detail to Paris.

The San Diego County Taxpayers’ Association has called on Filner to reimburse the city for the security detail’s expenses, more than $20,000, and Councilman Kevin Faulconer, chair of the council’s audit committee, has said he’ll continue to look into the trip.

Filner’s explanation began with the claim that it was OK for the city to pay his way because he was trying to attract jobs to the region, a claim he’s since abandoned.

His Personal Credit Card

Filner reportedly used a city credit card for personal uses including a juicer, a trip to Mexico, a convention in Las Vegas he never attended and unspecified charges at the Westgate Hotel downtown, according to U-T San Diego.

Thursday, the paper reported he also failed to provide documentation for those purchases, which meant city officials couldn’t make payment on the credit card. The bill fell 120 days behind schedule and would have hurt the city’s line of credit if it had gone into collections.

City Attorney Jan Goldsmith this week announced city officials can be removed from office based on a section of the city charter, if they “approve or allow” unauthorized payments by the city.

The City Council is set to discuss on Aug. 28 whether to invoke that section of the charter.

Faulconer said the audit committee will also look into the mayor’s use of the credit card. He also told CNN the revelations raise the question of whether city business is being taken care of and if Filner is in touch with reality.

The San Diego County Taxpayers Association admonished the mayor over his credit card usage, but didn’t tie it to a call for resignation. Instead, it asked him to reimburse the personal expenses and promise taxpayers he won’t do it again.

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Andrew Keatts

Andrew Keatts

I'm Andrew Keatts, a reporter for Voice of San Diego. Please contact me if you'd like at andrew.keatts@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.325.0529.

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19 comments
Jim Jones
Jim Jones

Did Filner receive a direct payment from the MEK funded front group that paid for his trip to Paris? It is standard practice for these groups to pay a speaking engagement fee of up to $50,000 for politicians who show up at these events and speak, then return home and support the MEK. If Filner did receive a payment is that money property of San Diego, since Filner went in his capacity as mayor?

Jim Jones
Jim Jones subscriber

Did Filner receive a direct payment from the MEK funded front group that paid for his trip to Paris? It is standard practice for these groups to pay a speaking engagement fee of up to $50,000 for politicians who show up at these events and speak, then return home and support the MEK. If Filner did receive a payment is that money property of San Diego, since Filner went in his capacity as mayor?

Don Wood
Don Wood

Goldsmith said he intends to remove the mayor by any means necessary. If he can't find a legal means of doing that, will we be him asking the city council to take out a contract on Filner, or staging a mysterious car crash, heart attack or stoke? Stay tuned and engaged in this totally worn out news narrative folks, and please keep reading our ads!

Don Wood
Don Wood subscriber

Goldsmith said he intends to remove the mayor by any means necessary. If he can't find a legal means of doing that, will we be him asking the city council to take out a contract on Filner, or staging a mysterious car crash, heart attack or stoke? Stay tuned and engaged in this totally worn out news narrative folks, and please keep reading our ads!

MFinnegan
MFinnegan

The behavior toward women is really excessively unacceptable in the Mayor of San Diego. For me that's what this has become about. He is done. How can we move on most constructively? Get ready for picking whose next and work on saving what's been positive. If it was just the other issues I'd be a supporter. I don't think it's unreasonable to have security in the same cabin as the Mayor of the 8th largest city. What's the practice of the top 10 and if it's not uncommon change the policy if it is uncommon work to manage Bob's expectations. If it's not budgeted then the mayor accepts that his will cause a deficit. For personal expenses rework the policy. Honestly if the mayor wants to just say I'm going to run up $XXK of stupid expenses and take it to the voters next term I'm OK with. I wouldn't get creative legally to find a felony as a solution. On the developer stuff I don't think when the city is negotiating that the developers voluntarily throw in much towards green space, parking, traffic mgmt or neighborhood improvement unless required by code or if it's in their financial interest in most cases. There seem to be more than a few instances where projects are given exceptions to agreements once construction is underway. An argument is made using the investment already made that a variance must be granted. If it's reasonable to negotiate a contribution to the general fund or wherever is appropriate I think that's a good idea. If there is no such process and the mayor shoots from the hip with a solution and wants to take that to the voters I'm OK with that too. It's not lets say best practice but that too should go to the voters. I think a process should be put in place where the higher of either the market value of the easement or the value of the betterment derived is required for the easement to be granted.. If that would stop the development staff can review the situation and make a recommendation representing the cities interest. Bottom line I have a hard time seeing some people work with and around Bob Filner without being in a hostile work environment. I can't picture a CEO or any C-level person lasting days let alone weeks or months in this situation. Makes you wonder what goes on in Washington and makes me wish some of the 70 and 80 year-olds would pass over the reigns.

Nicole Larson
Nicole Larson

While I certainly find Filner's behavior towards women and staff indefensible and abhorrent, what concerns me so much is that Filner is being pilloried and investigated for behavior, such as the development deals, that were business-as-usual under prior administrations. I also wonder whether past mayors' and current city council members' use of city credit cards would survive the same level of scrutiny that Filner's use is receiving. Before the city council goes ahead and follows Goldsmith's advice to try to remove Filner based on $1,000 worth of questionable credit card charges, I would advise them to beware. What they're using against Filner could be used against them in future -- or against a future mayor more in step with them politically.

Nicole Larson
Nicole Larson subscriber

While I certainly find Filner's behavior towards women and staff indefensible and abhorrent, what concerns me so much is that Filner is being pilloried and investigated for behavior, such as the development deals, that were business-as-usual under prior administrations. I also wonder whether past mayors' and current city council members' use of city credit cards would survive the same level of scrutiny that Filner's use is receiving. Before the city council goes ahead and follows Goldsmith's advice to try to remove Filner based on $1,000 worth of questionable credit card charges, I would advise them to beware. What they're using against Filner could be used against them in future -- or against a future mayor more in step with them politically.

Joshua Brant
Joshua Brant

Regarding the Paris trip: I don't think it's been confirmed that Filner has paid back the $9,400 yet, also new stories have surfaced about the trip being planned for more people than Filner said. Also, about the Las Vegas convention charge on the credit card, he didn't attend that convention because he was in Paris. Why should City of San Diego pay to have Filner speak at an Iranian protest in Europe? We're still on the hook for at least the expenses of his security detail.

Joshua Brant
Joshua Brant subscriber

Regarding the Paris trip: I don't think it's been confirmed that Filner has paid back the $9,400 yet, also new stories have surfaced about the trip being planned for more people than Filner said. Also, about the Las Vegas convention charge on the credit card, he didn't attend that convention because he was in Paris. Why should City of San Diego pay to have Filner speak at an Iranian protest in Europe? We're still on the hook for at least the expenses of his security detail.

La Playa Heritage
La Playa Heritage

After the Mayoral Veto, Tom Story of Sunroad set-up the Mayor's office with his plan to donate money to public events outside of Kearny Mesa. Prior Sunroad donated $1 Million to Mayor Sanders for a Fire fighting helicopter. Why? To show they are great corporate citizens and Advertisement for their kind civic donations.

La Playa Heritage
La Playa Heritage

Police Chief Lansdowne required the mayor to take Two Security Detail to Paris. All security decisions including personal Police Officers as bodyguards during public events out of town, are solely at the discretion of Lansdowne. It looks like a set up to force Mayor Filner to be responsible for $21,000 in travel expenses for police escorts abroad. The media should look to see if Lansdowne always required personal Police Officers to travel to public events out of town for Mayor Sanders. And the costs associated with the Police Chief's security decisions. An example would be for the costs of Mayor Sanders' security during the annual Chamber of Commerce trip to Washington D.C.. The Sunroad issue is typical San Diego. The City Council and City Attorney conspired to give away 2 public park easements, with the Agenda stating there were No Financial Consideration to their vote to waive a City Council Policy. This looks like fraud. The media should go to the Westgate restaurants and ask if receipts for past meals could be printed based on credit card receipts. Problem solved. The Indigo Cafe restaurants provided box lunches (1/2 sandwich wrap, salad, chips, cookie, and can soda) for discussions on the Homeless with City Personnel including Police Chief Lansdowne, and homeless advocates. Four people did go to Paris when Ms. Ingram is included. She paid her own way.

La Playa Heritage
La Playa Heritage subscribermember

After the Mayoral Veto, Tom Story of Sunroad set-up the Mayor's office with his plan to donate money to public events outside of Kearny Mesa. Prior Sunroad donated $1 Million to Mayor Sanders for a Fire fighting helicopter. Why? To show they are great corporate citizens and Advertisement for their kind civic donations.

La Playa Heritage
La Playa Heritage subscribermember

Police Chief Lansdowne required the mayor to take Two Security Detail to Paris. All security decisions including personal Police Officers as bodyguards during public events out of town, are solely at the discretion of Lansdowne. It looks like a set up to force Mayor Filner to be responsible for $21,000 in travel expenses for police escorts abroad. The media should look to see if Lansdowne always required personal Police Officers to travel to public events out of town for Mayor Sanders. And the costs associated with the Police Chief's security decisions. An example would be for the costs of Mayor Sanders' security during the annual Chamber of Commerce trip to Washington D.C.. The Sunroad issue is typical San Diego. The City Council and City Attorney conspired to give away 2 public park easements, with the Agenda stating there were No Financial Consideration to their vote to waive a City Council Policy. This looks like fraud. The media should go to the Westgate restaurants and ask if receipts for past meals could be printed based on credit card receipts. Problem solved. The Indigo Cafe restaurants provided box lunches (1/2 sandwich wrap, salad, chips, cookie, and can soda) for discussions on the Homeless with City Personnel including Police Chief Lansdowne, and homeless advocates. Four people did go to Paris when Ms. Ingram is included. She paid her own way.

David Crossley
David Crossley

So to ensure the $100k "donation", Filner encouraged the council to override his veto. I am also aware of the previous "donation" that Sunroad made to Sanders, and that also should have been investigated. Filner was either left out of the loop with regards to previous Sunroad shenanigans (by staffers that Filner hired), or thought he could beat the system like Sanders did, or else Filner is just dumb. Again, Filner is just hanging himself, and by small amounts. At least Sanders went big ($1 million).

David Crossley
David Crossley

So who is in charge? The mayor or the police chief? And why again was there a $100k payment made by Sunroad to the mayor's office?

David Crossley
David Crossley subscriber

So to ensure the $100k "donation", Filner encouraged the council to override his veto. I am also aware of the previous "donation" that Sunroad made to Sanders, and that also should have been investigated. Filner was either left out of the loop with regards to previous Sunroad shenanigans (by staffers that Filner hired), or thought he could beat the system like Sanders did, or else Filner is just dumb. Again, Filner is just hanging himself, and by small amounts. At least Sanders went big ($1 million).

David Crossley
David Crossley subscriber

So who is in charge? The mayor or the police chief? And why again was there a $100k payment made by Sunroad to the mayor's office?