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As San Diego mayor heads for therapy, city faces big mess (+video)

Confusion is mounting about correct city procedures as San Diego Mayor Bob Filner is about to undergo counseling after accusations of inappropriate behavior toward women.

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Technically, during therapy, the mayor will keep his full authority – signing legislation, if needed, and overseeing parks, roads, libraries, and city services, according to Mr. Goldsmith.

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But when Gloria was asked what the chain of command is when Filner goes to therapy, he replied, “Well, it’s kind of unclear. Nothing speaks to a mayor that’s incapacitated.... We don’t really have rules that discuss that. So as a practical matter, it’s almost like he’s on vacation and in that case, we’ll limp by for a couple of weeks. But most of us don’t think that two weeks is sufficient to solve the problem.”

Confusion has also arisen over what to do if there are two recall efforts simultaneously. San Diego’s municipal code seems to say that an official can be recalled only if no other petition has been filed within the past six months.

“There are those who think that the second of these [recall efforts] was really an attempt to protect Filner by confusing people and diffusing the ability to get enough signatures,” says Barbara O’Connor, director emeritus of the Institute for the Study of Politics and Media at California State University, Sacramento. To qualify, a campaign must gather 101,597 signatures, which is not easy, Ms. O’Connor and others say.

The city’s current wording in the municipal code about a recall, Councilmember Mark Kersey says, runs afoul of the federal courts, which struck down a near-identical law in 2003. That’s when the state recalled then-Gov. Gray Davis. A federal district court ruled against wording that held that voters must vote on the recall before they can cast their ballot for a successor. It was found to violate the free-speech clause in the First Amendment.

“San Diegans can only vote on a possible successor if they have also voted on whether the person who is currently in the post should be ousted from office,” says Josh Spivak, senior fellow at the Hugh L. Carey Institute for Government Reform at Wagner College in New York and founder of the Recall Elections Blog. “That is unlikely to survive a challenge in court.”

The eighth woman to go public with allegations came forth Tuesday. She is Lisa Curtin, director of government and military education at San Diego City College. She told KPBS that Filner made unwanted advances to her during a meeting in 2011, when he was a Democratic member of Congress.

The situation involving Filner has been exacerbated, O’Connor and others say, by the fact that two New York candidates are running for office despite sex scandals – Anthony Weiner and Eliot Spitzer.

“There is a bit of forgiveness fatigue here,” O’Connor says. “ It’s really a mess.”

“The Mayor has little to rally, dwindling support, and runs the risk of making San Diego the laughingstock of American municipal politics as Stockton [Calif.] and Detroit both face bankruptcy and New York dances with politicians whose time has also passed,” says Mr. McCuan. “It seems that there is a generation of politicians who don't know when to pull out of a political race.... Bob Filner is becoming the Poster Child for insolence and not governance.”


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