Lawyer: Filner didn't get sexual harassment training, city may be liable

Posted By Kristen Butler,  |  Aug. 1, 2013 at 8:14 AM
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San Diego Mayor Bob Filner's attorney says the city could be liable for "failing to prevent harassment" because Filner didn't receive any sexual harassment training, as required by law.

Eight women have so far accused Filner of sexual harassment, including rude comments, groping and kissing. His former communications director, Irene McCormack Jackson, filed a lawsuit against the mayor last week. The city is named a co-defendant.

Filner’s attorney, Harvey Berger, wrote in a letter Monday to San Diego City Attorney Jan Goldsmith, "If there is any liability at all, the City will almost certainly be liable."

San Diego is required to provide sexual harassment training to all management-level employees within six months of their employment with the city. Filner claims that a harassment training session was cancelled, and never rescheduled.

The letter also notes that Filner never received sexual harassment training while serving as a member of Congress from 1993 to 2012.

Berger's letter said that although a lack of training doesn't excuse Filner's behavior, "many -- if not most -- people do not know what is and what is not illegal sexual harassment under California law," implying that proper training would have prevented Filner from breaking the law.

But then the letter goes on to say that "not all behavior which is offensive is necessarily sexual harassment under California law," adding that Filner denies all accusations.

On Tuesday, the City Council voted unanimously to file a counter-suit against Filner. "If Bob Filner is engaged in unlawful conduct and the city is held liable, he will have to reimburse us every penny the city pays and its attorney fees," City Attorney Jan Goldsmith said.

The council then voted against defending Filner or paying his legal fees, which he had requested as he denies the accusations against him. Seven of the nine members of City Council have called for Filner's resignation.

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