The allegations spilled into the downtown hotel hallway following Tuesday morning’s mayoral debate.

Candidates Bob Filner and Carl DeMaio had just sparred at least three separate times in the 40-minute debate over Filner’s contention that DeMaio’s partner, Johnathan Hale, played a role in the vandalism at Balboa Park over the weekend when a water gun fight went wrong.

DeMaio left immediately after the debate. But his spokesman, K.B. Forbes, remained to fight with Filner. Forbes tried to work his way up to the cameras and touched Filner after one interview in front of television cameras had ended. The congressman angrily told Forbes to get his hands off him.

Filner walked to another set of cameras. He mentioned again that Hale’s website, San Diego Gay & Lesbian News, had played up the water gun fight in the days before it happened. The fight left an estimated $10,000 worth of damage to the park’s iconic lily pond and assorted landscaping early Sunday morning.

“Is it a lie that this event, illegal event, an illegal event which led to illegal activity was promoted on websites that he controls and owns?” Filner said of Hale. “That is the truth and [DeMaio] refused to answer it. I asked him, six, seven, eight times. He says it’s a lie. He says it’s a lie. Is it a lie that those websites … ”

Forbes, who had sidled over to the interview, cut in.

“Mr. Filner, are you running against his spouse or against Carl DeMaio?” Forbes said. “We’re not running against your spouse or your loved one.”

Filner paused.

“You know, I’m going to answer this even though, I’m going to answer that question,” Filner said. “It has been stated … “

Forbes cut in again.

“You’re a bold-faced liar,” he said. “That’s what you are.”

Filner continued.

“It has been stated by Mr. DeMaio and Mr. Hale that Mr. Hale will have a prominent role in a DeMaio administration,” Filner said. “The character and the judgment of Mr. Hale is a legitimate subject for the voters to know about.”

The questions continued for another three minutes. Filner said he wanted Hale to face the press. No, Filner didn’t blame Hale for the vandalism, but police should see if he’s culpable. Filner didn’t know if Hale organized the event, but reiterated it was the police’s job to figure that out. Filner went back-and-forth with a reporter over whether he or DeMaio first brought up the issue during the debate.

Filner’s spokeswoman said there was time for one more question. Filner was asked when DeMaio has said that his partner would be an advisor.

“He has said it,” Filner replied. “I have heard him. He has said it. Hale has said it. Read the press.”

And with that, Filner left. Forbes stayed on to chat with more of the assembled press. He concluded his comments by calling Filner “a lying sack of marbles.”


Filner’s allegations against DeMaio’s partner have taken over the race since Filner aired them in a press release on Monday afternoon. Here’s a breakdown of what Filner has said, what we know and the difference between them.

What Filner Said

Filner’s statement reads: “This is felony vandalism of the Crown Jewel of San Diego. Carl deMaio’s (sic) partner reportedly helped to organize it. I call on Carl to condemn Jonathan (sic) Hale’s criminal actions. I think voters should be concerned about someone like this playing a significant role in the next mayoral administration.”

On Tuesday, Filner also called the water gun fight an “illegal event” and repeated numerous times that DeMaio and Hale both have said publicly that Hale would play a major advisory role in DeMaio’s administration.

What We Know

According to U-T San Diego, “several hundred people” attended the water gun fight. The morning afterward, park officials found a broken drainpipe, smashed plants and debris. The event didn’t have a permit, even though the city requires one for gatherings of that size.

Hale’s website promoted the event. The water gun fight’s main organizer used to work for Hale and has donated to DeMaio’s campaign.

No one has taken responsibility for the damages.

San Diego Police Department spokeswoman Andra Brown said in an interview Tuesday that the investigation into the incident is ongoing. She wouldn’t say if police had spoken with Hale. But she did say that Hale was not a suspect in either organizing the event or the damages.

“At this point, it does not appear that Mr. Hale was involved,” Brown said.

We’ve also been unable to find any statement from DeMaio or Hale saying that Hale would have any role, formal or otherwise, in DeMaio’s administration.

“Never been mentioned, ever,” said Forbes, DeMaio’s spokesman.

The Difference Between What Filner Said and What We Know

Filner said three accurate things during all this. Hale’s website did promote the event. The event turned out to be illegal because there was no permit. And it resulted in illegal vandalism.

But Filner went far beyond the facts to push other crucial points. He said Hale was reportedly involved in organizing the event and called Hale’s actions “criminal.” The police department has said Hale isn’t a suspect in organizing the event. There’s no indication Hale did anything against the law.

Filner also hasn’t proven that Hale is going to have a role in DeMaio’s administration. In response to our questions about the claim, Filner’s campaign provided an unsigned editorial in LGBT Weekly, a publication that has engaged in a lengthy fight with Hale’s website.

“Highlighted is clear indication of what Hale’s involvement would be if Carl is elected mayor,” Filner spokeswoman Lená Lewis said in an email.

The editorial shows a picture of Hale sitting in DeMaio’s City Council office around documents marked “confidential.” The story also notes that DeMaio paid Hale as a consultant for a ballot measure campaign two years ago. And it says: “It is well known within the LGBT community that Hale has said to many people, ‘You will not be welcome in City Hall once we win.’”

But the article falls short of confirming Filner’s assertion. Filner said that both DeMaio and Hale have said Hale would play a key advisory role in an administration. The best the editorial provides is an unattributed and unsubstantiated claim that Hale and DeMaio would abuse the power of the Mayor’s Office.

Correction: This post originally stated that the main organizer of the water gun fight used to write for Hale’s publication. We regret the error.

Liam Dillon is a news reporter for Voice of San Diego. He covers San Diego City Hall, the 2012 mayor’s race and big building projects. What should he write about next?

Please contact him directly at or 619.550.5663.

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Liam Dillon

Liam Dillon was formerly a senior reporter and assistant editor for Voice of San Diego. He led VOSD’s investigations and wrote about how regular people...

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