SAN DIEGO - San Diego's mayor is "grasping at straws," according to City Councilman Scott Sherman, who told 10News Bob Filner is looking for an excuse to get taxpayers to pay the legal fees in the sexual harassment lawsuit filed against him.
Sherman was referring to the letter written to the city by Filner's attorney, Harvey Berger, which claims that the city is responsible because it did not give Filner the proper sexual harassment training required by California law.
In the letter, Berger claims that Filner was scheduled to take the training course, but "the trainer for the City unilaterally cancelled, and never re-scheduled such training for the Mayor."
Sherman didn't buy it. He and his staff went online and took the course.
"We didn't worry about the city coming in and doing it at a seminar or anything like that," he said.
Sherman added, "I think this is really just an excuse for the mayor, not having complied with the state law as he's supposed to do."
As to Berger's argument that as a congressman Filner never got the training: "The mayor at 70 years old has been in public life. His first vote in Congress was establishing sexual harassment laws. He should understand full well and then comply with what he needed to do, and to say that it was the city's fault for not giving him that training is just an excuse, I think, to try and get his fees taken care of."
Berger's letter, which was written in connection with the lawsuit filed by the mayor's former communications chief, Irene McCormack Jackson, cautions the City Council against taking the statements of seven other women who allege harassment too seriously:
"Indeed it is highly unlikely that any of these witnesses will be allowed to testify to such remote and alleged incidents in this pending lawsuit."
Berger added that "many of the alleged statements and behaviors are not even employment related and therefore not legally sexual harassment."
"Again, grasping at straws," said Sherman. "Harassment is harassment. I don't care if it's someone on the street, someone who works with you, someone that you're acquainted with. Harassment is harassment. They're grasping at straws trying to find some type of defense for the mayor, and with our vote yesterday I think they're realizing that one way or another we're not going to pay for it."
City council members voted unanimously against paying Filner's legal bills.