SAN DIEGO (Reuters) - The city of San Diego sued its own embattled mayor on Tuesday, seeking to recover from him any damages it might face in a lawsuit filed by his former press secretary, one of seven women to publicly accuse him of unwanted sexual advances.
Other political news of note
Fork in the road for Obama
Updated 43 minutes ago 12/11/2013 2:14:09 PM +00:00 First Read: Rocky health care rollout has brought Obama to a low point in his presidency but is it a long-term problem or short-term hurdle to clear?
- Poll: High marks for Pope Francis, but liberals and conservatives split on pontiff
- Lawmakers announce compromise budget deal
- NBC/WSJ poll: Obama ends year on low note
- Biden: One year after Newtown, $100 million to mental health services
- Fork in the road for Obama
The legal action against Mayor Bob Filner, approved by a unanimous vote of the city council earlier in the day, marked the latest blow against the 70-year-old Democrat as he faces mounting pressure to step down.
Despite calls from across the city and from powerful members of his own party to resign, Filner, a former Congressman elected mayor just last year, has said that he would instead stay in office while undergoing two weeks of behavioral therapy.
Seven women have publicly accused Filner of unwanted sexual advances and one of them, former communications director Irene McCormack Jackson, last week filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against him and the city in San Diego Superior Court.
The city filed its lawsuit as a cross-complaint to Jackson's, seeking to recover from Filner any damages it was ordered to pay, along with court costs and attorneys fees.
"If Bob Filner 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, who had clashed with the mayor before the sexual harassment scandal emerged this month, said in a written statement.
Seven of nine members of the City Council, including Council President Todd Gloria who is a Democrat, have called on Filner to resign and two recall campaigns have been launched against him.
A spokeswoman for the mayor could not be reached for comment on Tuesday afternoon.
LEGAL, POLITICAL FIGHT
The lawsuit was filed on the same day that council members were scheduled to consider a request by Filner's private attorney, Harvey Berger, that the city pay the costs of defending the mayor in the sexual harassment lawsuit. Goldsmith has declined to defend the mayor.
University of California, San Diego, political science professor Steven Erie said that it was rare for a city to refuse to pay for the legal defense of an employer in a sexual harassment lawsuit.
"It tells you just how bad mayor-council relationships have become," Erie said.
In the face of opposition from the City Council, Filner could establish a legal defense fund and raise donations to pay for his own attorney, Erie said, though he added: "The question is how much and how many and whether they want their names to be made public.".
On Sunday, U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein became the latest prominent Democrat to call for Filner's resignation during an interview on CNN. She added her voice to prominent Democrats including U.S. Representatives Susan Davis and Scott Peters, who both represent the San Diego area in Congress.
Last week U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Filner should seek private counseling and compared his behavior to the conduct of another ex-congressman engulfed in a sex scandal since he turned to mayoral politics, Democrat Anthony Weiner of New York.
Weiner faces calls to withdraw from the New York City mayor's race after admitting he sent lewd online messages to women since he resigned from Capitol Hill over such behavior two years ago.
(Writing by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Ken Wills)
(c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2013. Check for restrictions at: http://about.reuters.com/fulllegal.asp