Really? San Diego Mayor Bob Filner might return to work, even as talks continue

CNN
Tuesday, August 20, 2013 - 10:00pm

The city of San Diego has changed the locks to the mayor's office, but that may not be enough to keep out Bob Filner.

Filner has been called a lot of things in recent weeks, amid multiple allegations that paint him as a serial perpetrator of sexual harassment. But even after weeks in counseling and intense pressure to resign, Filner has insisted on still being called one thing: mayor.

In fact, some expect him to return to work at any moment.

But behind the scenes, talks are continuing that could end the public battle between Filner and other officials in his seaside Southern California metropolis.

After a closed-door mediation session Monday  involving Filner, his representatives, city officials, a retired judge and a few others talks resumed Tuesday at 9:30 a.m.

While there was no official word on whether Filner was at the Tuesday session, CNN saw his vehicle arrive.

If there was a settlement of the lawsuit brought by the mayor's former communications chief Irene McCormack Jackson that includes Filner agreeing to resign something he's resisted steadfastly the city council would have to approve it in closed session, a city hall source said Tuesday.

The public would be given at least 24 hours notice from the city attorney's office about such a city council session, even if it's closed, according to the city hall source.

That would be the normal process for such things, though little about the Filner scandal has been normal.

The talks come on the heels of his intensive two-week behavioral therapy, which was apparently aimed at ending Filner's alleged backward ways of treating women in the workplace. The mayor began the voluntary program July 29, but his attorney, James Payne, said he was able to complete it August 10, and he was expected to continue with outpatient treatment.

Sixteen women have come forward, saying that he acted inappropriately ranging from one woman saying he gave her "tush a pat" to another saying he "put me in what I guess now is the famous headlock" and tried "to kiss me on the lips and I'd have to squirm to get away."

It gets even more graphic.

Filner has not responded to multiple CNN requests for comment.

But last month, he acknowledged having "failed to fully respect the women who work for me and with me," and said he was "embarrassed" by his actions.

"It's a good thing that behavior that would have been tolerated in the past is being called out in this generation for what it is: inappropriate and wrong," he said.

But, in his view, not wrong enough to give up his job as representative of San Diego's 1.3 million people.

Filner insisted he will be vindicated by "a full presentation of the facts," and remained resolute that he won't step down.

But he just might be considering resignation anyway.

While a source with direct knowledge of the closed-door talks declined to say what exactly was under discussion, CNN affiliate KGTV, citing anonymous sources, reported that the mediation was "designed to include a review of a potential resignation."

Though the city chief of staff changed the locks on Filner's office during his time away, it was to preserve evidence rather than to keep him out, the city attorney's office has said.

The office also said it could seek, as a "last resort," a restraining order saying Filner creates a hostile environment for women to prevent him from returning to work, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The city attorney's office did not return calls seeking comment.

Rallies for and against

Over the weekend, protesters stood outside City Hall, calling on the mayor to step down.

"There is no excuse for abuse, and there is no excuse for you to stay in power," attorney Gloria Allred, who also attended the mediation session, said to the crowd.

She attended Sunday's rally along with some of the women accusing Filner, including one of her clients, 67-year-old Peggy Shannon.

On Monday, Filner supporters held a "We Will Not Be Silent" rally, also outside City Hall.

Outrage overwhelming

Roughly 81% of city residents want Filner to resign, according to a poll conducted by KGTV. Another CNN affiliate, KFMB, reported local radio hosts hired skywriters to spell out "Surrender Bob" over areas of the city last week.

Armed with clipboards and pens, volunteers hit the streets of San Diego over the weekend to begin collecting signatures for a recall effort. They need more than 101,000 signatures by September 26.

"We're going to be everywhere. We're going to be at sporting events. We're going to be at street fairs, arts shows -- you name it, we will be out there," Dave McCulloch, an organizer, told KFMB on Sunday.

Filner, 70, was elected mayor in 2012 after 20 years in Congress.

His accusers range from a singer at a campaign fundraiser to his former communications director, who called him unfit for office. Shannon was the latest person to accuse Filner.

"Every day that I went to work, I had butterflies in my stomach because I did not know what was going to happen the next time the mayor came by my desk," she told reporters last week.

"I have three sons, four grandsons and two great grandsons. As our mayor, you should be -- but are not -- a role model for any of them," Shannon said.

Filner has rebuffed calls to resign from all nine city council members and from fellow Democrats, including California's two U.S. senators.

His supporters, who include some labor unions and Latinos, claim Filner is being denied due process, and the recall effort is orchestrated by those who oppose his political agenda.
 

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