SAN DIEGO — In Bob Filner ‘s final days as mayor, the city attorney was prepared to do something never before done here: plead with a judge that the mayor posed a threat to women and should be barred from City Hall.
A psychologist retained by City Atty. Jan Goldsmith was set to testify that, in her opinion, Filner fit the characteristics of a sociopath, was “without shame, empathy or compassion,” and believed no rules applied to him.
It was not necessary.
The night before the hearing, after two days of intense negotiations, Filner agreed to resign in exchange for the city paying most of his legal bills in a sexual harassment suit filed by Los Angeles attorney Gloria Allred on behalf of a former mayoral staffer.
For six weeks, Goldsmith had maneuvered to force Filner out of office — by squeezing him financially, bluffing him about state law, embarrassing him by releasing documents showing the anger and dismay of his staff and threatening to force a trial on his alleged misuse of public funds, including for a junket to Paris.
Goldsmith, 62, a former judge and state legislator, said he believes the threat of a restraining order — and the national media storm certain to follow — finally persuaded the normally combative mayor to step down.
Filner’s attorneys declined comment for this story. So did Filner, now awaiting a Dec. 9 sentencing for his guilty plea on charges brought by the state attorney general.
In early July, as one woman after another went public with accusations of sexual harassment against Filner, Goldsmith and his staff concluded that Filner was an unrepentant felon and that women at City Hall needed to be protected from him.
But the City Charter contains no provision for removing a mayor except through the difficult, expensive, politically unpredictable process of a recall election.
“We strategized as lawyers: How were we going to remove the mayor?” Goldsmith said in a recent interview. “It was a de facto impeachment.”
Filner and Goldsmith had a rocky relationship from the beginning.
Filner, 71, was the first Democratic mayor elected in San Diego in two decades. Goldsmith, a Republican serving his second term as city attorney, had endorsed Filner’s GOP opponent.
Filner arrived at City Hall with a long reputation — earned on the school board, City Council and then 10 terms in Congress — as a hardball political player.
At their first meeting, Goldsmith said, Filner announced that he did not plan to take legal advice from the city attorney’s office. He threw a sheaf of legal papers in the air.
“Your blow-up yesterday concerns me,” Goldsmith wrote in a Jan. 3 memo. “Our office is a law office, and we expected to be treated as professionals. Yesterday’s meeting was the first and only meeting in which we (any of my lawyers) will tolerate being yelled at, called names or having things thrown at us…. Now it is zero tolerance.”
But the friction continued unabated. By February, months before any sexual harassment allegations appeared, “I understood he needed therapy,” Goldsmith said.
On Feb. 15, Goldsmith sent another memo to Filner citing his “abusive conduct” during a meeting with lawyers from Goldsmith’s office.
“It did not take you very long to violate the zero tolerance standard,” Goldsmith wrote.
Still, Goldsmith suggested the two meet privately and agree to a peace treaty. “I still think we should get together for coffee,” Goldsmith wrote Filner on Feb. 26.