City attorney's awkward role if sexual harassment claim is filed - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

City attorney's awkward role if sexual harassment claim is filed

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SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - It's no secret Mayor Bob Filner and City Attorney Jan Goldsmith have a fractured relationship. But if formal sexual harassment claims are filed against the mayor, the two will be forced to work together.

So what would Goldsmith's role be in firefighting the charges, and how would taxpayers be affected?

It's a bizarre situation to say the least -- two politicians who clearly don't like each other, but if they don't work together, it could cost the city millions.

Marco Gonzalez says he's confident he'll have no problems winning a lawsuit against the city surrounding Filner's alleged misconduct.

"If the allegation is that this person was acting with in the course and scope of their job, the city's on the hook for that," former assistant city attorney Christopher Morris said.

Morris calls the situation unfolding at City Hall awkward, to say the least.

"This is something I've never seen before," Morris said.

That's saying something, because Morris worked under Michael Aguirre. The feud between Mayor Filner and city attorney Jan Goldsmith is beyond ugly, and now the two have to work together to protect the city from potentially losing millions in lawsuits.

"Any time there's an attorney-client relation, that has to be built on a relationship of trust and confidence, and if that doesn't exist it's next to impossible for an attorney to do the job adequately, to defend both the city and the employee," Morris said.

Mayor Filner has the right to have the city attorney's office defend him, but he has chosen to hire an outside private attorney. For now Filner says he's paying the bill, but he could decide later to have the city cover those expenses, and the bill won't be cheap.

"Hundreds of thousands (of dollars) easily. Hundreds of thousands once it starts getting into litigation, especially if you have multiple claims," Morris said.

"I think it would be a real miscarriage for him to be defended at taxpayer expense," former city manager Jack McGrory said. "These allegations crossed the line beyond sexual harassment. These involve criminal misconduct, assault and battery."

McGrory fears even if taxpayers don't pay Filner's personal legal bills, we'll still be on the hook for expensive lawsuits and settlements.

"Millions… it will cost a lot of money because after the three (accusers) I think there'll be a series of more people coming forward," he said.

In a one-on-one interview Monday, Filner told News 8 that he's confident once all the facts are known, he'll be vindicated.

So far no claims or lawsuits have been filed, and no victims have gone to the police to begin a possible criminal investigation.

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