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San Diego won't pay for mayor's defense in sexual harassment case

By Ben Brumfield and Melissa Gray, CNN
updated 10:01 AM EDT, Wed July 31, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The city sues Filner for its legal costs and possible damages
  • The city says it had no role in the mayor's behavior
  • Filner wants the city to pay for his own defense and legal bills
  • Filner's former spokeswoman is suing him for sexual harassment

(CNN) -- The San Diego City Council voted Tuesday to deny Mayor Bob Filner's request for taxpayers to pay his legal fees associated with a sexual harassment lawsuit against him, a spokesman said.

The vote was 9-0, according to Matt Awbrey, spokesman for City Council member Kevin Faulconer.

The city is named as a co-defendant in the lawsuit against Filner. His former spokeswoman filed the suit alleging both were responsible for the mayor's sexual harassment.

San Diego says it shouldn't be part of the lawsuit in the first place because it had no role in the mayor's behavior and because it has a zero-tolerance policy against sexual harassment.

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The city "believes that it neither caused nor contributed to the damages alleged by" Filner's former spokeswoman, Irene Jackson.

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It's a complicated situation.

Jackson and seven other women say they were subjected to "crude and disgusting" comments and inappropriate touching -- including groping and kissing -- by Filner, and she resigned as his spokeswoman in June.

Eight days ago, Jackson filed suit against both Filner and the city, alleging both were responsible.

Filner, 70, then sent a letter to the city, saying it should mount his defense and pay his legal bills.

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The San Diego City Council met earlier Tuesday and unanimously decided to file suit against Filner, saying it is the mayor who should pay the city's legal bills in defending the case. And if Jackson wins her case, the city's lawsuit seeks indemnity from paying any damages.

"Bob Filner can't pay back San Diegans for the damage he's done to our city's reputation, but he can and should repay the city if there are any taxpayer costs as a result of this lawsuit," Faulconer said in a statement.

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Filner says he will enter a behavior counseling clinic next month for two weeks of "intensive therapy," but he has repeatedly said he won't step down.

His decision is unlikely to quell the mounting calls for his resignation.

Many of the accusations allegedly took place during Filner's five terms in Congress, before he was elected mayor last year.

In response, Filner's chief of staff resigned, the Democratic Party of San Diego voted to call for his resignation -- even his fiancee left his side.

A group began an official recall effort, but political observers have expressed doubt that the group can logistically pull off collecting the more than 100,000 signatures needed.

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CNN's Tony Dunnan contributed to this report.

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