The way Mayor Bob Filner sees it, City Attorney Jan Goldsmith started the fight.

The city attorney called a last-minute press conference on Wednesday to respond to the mayor’s call for a new tourism marketing deal. (For background on how the hotel fee hike works, check out this video.)

Filner showed up at the gathering to criticize Goldsmith for updating the media ahead of the mayor and City Council.

Here are the four most awkward and outrageous moments from the press conference.

1. Enter Filner

Mayor Bob Filner just crashed City Attorney Jan Goldsmith’s press conference on TMD. #filnereverywhere…

— Lisa Halverstadt (@LisaHalverstadt) February 20, 2013

Reporters started questioning Goldsmith about his legal interpretations, which largely came out against Filner. One reporter asked whether the mayor had been notified of these opinions.

That’s when the mayor piped in.

“The answer is no.”

He took the city attorney’s podium after Goldsmith stepped away.

Filner blasted Goldsmith for failing to notify the Mayor’s Office and the council of his opinions before sharing them with the press.

“You not only have been unprofessional but unethical in this press conference, and I resent it greatly that you’re giving your advice through the press,” Filner said. “This advice is to me. This advice is to the City Council and besides, the advice is wrong and trivial.”

2. ‘Are you an attorney?’

At some point, the mayor noticed a woman shaking her head in the back of the room. She turned out to be Carmen Sandoval, the city attorney’s executive assistant.

Filner: “Who’s the lady at the door? Is that your press person or who?”

Sandoval: “Mr. Goldsmith’s assistant.”

Filner: “Are you an attorney? Are you an attorney? Are you an attorney?”

Goldsmith: “Bob, Bob … “

Filner: “Ma’am, are you an attorney? Are you an attorney? Well, you keep commenting on what I’m saying when I say something’s illegal. We’ve got not only the city attorney’s assistant giving the advice but … “

3. Sharing the bully pulpit

Photo by Lisa Halverstadt
City Attorney Jan Goldsmith steps away from the podium to allow Mayor Bob Filner to speak at an explosive Feb. 20 press conference at the city attorney’s office.

Goldsmith felt the need to respond. It was his press conference, after all, so he returned to the podium.

“I hope in the future we’ll know about these issues and get consulted in advance but if I read them in the newspaper and they’re wrong, I have to comment on them,” he said.

“I have no obligation to inform you of any policy decisions I make,” Filner shot back.

Goldsmith emphasized that he serves the city and is an “independent, elected office holder.”

“Mike Aguirre,” Filner mumbled to himself, referring to the combative former city attorney who was often antagonistic toward the mayor and City Council.

Moments later, Filner took the podium again. He wanted to repeat his points “for the cameras.”

It’s worth noting that both men stepped up to the podium multiple times to share their messages. It was a press conference, after all.

4. The sendoff

After Filner wrapped up, Goldsmith thanked reporters for attending.

“I disagree with whatever he said. We used to have a city attorney who wanted to be mayor, now we have a mayor who wants to be city attorney,” Goldsmith said as reporters began leaving.

A few moments later, Goldsmith dismissed questions about a feud with the mayor.

“I’m one of the people in San Diego who actually likes (Filner),” Goldsmith said.

Lisa Halverstadt is a reporter at Voice of San Diego. Know of something she should check out? You can contact her directly at or 619.325.0528.

Like VOSD on Facebook.

Voice of San Diego is a nonprofit that depends on you, our readers. Please donate to keep the service strong. Click here to find out more about our supporters and how we operate independently.

Lisa is a senior investigative reporter who digs into some of San Diego's biggest challenges including homelessness, city real estate debacles, the region's...

Leave a comment

We expect all commenters to be constructive and civil. We reserve the right to delete comments without explanation. You are welcome to flag comments to us. You are welcome to submit an opinion piece for our editors to review.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.