I don't know the details of the deal that the San Diego City Council will mull over at 1 p.m., but I hope it results in Mayor Bob Filner's resignation, and I hope it leaves open the possibility that the city can offer a reasonable settlement to Irene McCormack, Filner's former communications director who sued him and the city, claiming that Filner sexually harassed her.
Resignation is the best deal for San Diego because it relieves the city of a mayor who's been rendered completely ineffective, not to mention seriously lacking in common decency when it comes to interacting with women, and it avoids a highly problematic recall process. There's no guarantee that recall supporters will get enough valid signatures before the tight deadline. If they were to fail, Filner conceivably remains mayor until 2016. And if the recall were to succeed, it could leave us with a new mayor who got, say, 15 percent of the vote—there's no runoff between the top two vote-getters. It's a bad process. A special election is much better: Numerous candidates duke it out in a primary campaign, and the top two face off, allowing a majority of people to select the new mayor. The only way to get to a special election is through Filner's resignation.
The speculation is that in exchange for Filner's resignation, the city will take over his legal defense and foot the bill. What we don't know is whether that would be limited to fighting McCormack's lawsuit, or whether it would include any future lawsuits stemming from complaints coming into the sheriff's Filner-sexual-harassment hotline, or whether it would extend to Filner's other potential problems, such as a $100,000 donation he received from developer Sunroad Enterprises.
And could it be that Filner is conditioning his resignation on the city not offering McCormack a settlement, because it would, in effect, validate her claim that he's a sexual harasser? McCormack's attorney, Gloria Allred, was none too happy yesterday when she held a strange press conference with Filner's ex-fiancée, Bronwyn Ingram, and blasted the idea of the city paying for Filner's defense. McCormack and Allred could end up with nothing as the city tells Allred, "Good luck in court." Sexual harassment could be a tough thing to prove.
That would be a shame. I think McCormack deserves something for being the person responsible for securing Filner's resignation. She left a higher-paying job because she believed in Filner, who ended up betraying her and allegedly violating her in disgusting ways. Now she's in a job with the city that she didn't want. If the city were to offer her something, it would not only compensate her personally (plus allow her to pay Allred for her work); it would also send this message to McCormack and Filner's other accusers: "We believe you.