City Attorney Jan Goldsmith took pride, and much credit, for ousting Bob Filner from the mayor's office. After Filner's departure, Goldsmith turned to media outlets and social media sites such as Twitter boasting about the "de-facto impeachment" he helped orchestrate.
Now, those comments may come back to bite Goldsmith, as well as the city he is sworn to defend, in the sexual harassment lawsuit from a wounded Marine veteran and her nurse.
In legal documents filed on March 17, attorneys representing veteran Katherine Ragazzino and her nurse Michelle Tyler request that a jury hear the case.
One of the arguments for doing so is Goldsmith's statements to the press claiming that he and the city were aware of Filner's erratic behavior as early as February 2013. Because Goldsmith's name appears on court documents, argues attorneys, any claims that the city had no control over the mayor's actions are baseless.
According to the initial complaint, Tyler and Ragazzino visited then-mayor Filner at City Hall on June 11, 2013 looking for help in getting Ragazzino disability benefits for the number of injuries, including a traumatic brain injury, spinal cord and nerve damage that she sustained during her tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. Tyler claims their meeting took a wrong turn when Filner "tried to extract sexual favors" in exchange for helping the disabled Marine.
The nurse and former Marine sued the city and Filner in January 2014. Now, as the two sides do the Filner legal dance in court, Goldsmith's statements to the press in the days and weeks following Filner's departure are now coming into play.
"We didn't think he had the willingness or financial ability to deal with the legal issues," the City Attorney told
Los Angeles Times reporter Tony Perry in a November 3, 2013 article. Other statements included: "I understood he needed therapy," and "It was like having the litigant from hell in your courtroom for eight months."
But it was his boasting about a quasi-impeachment that could potentially jeopardize the city's legal position.
"We strategized as lawyers: How were we going to remove the mayor? It was a de facto impeachment," Goldsmith told Perry.
Attorneys for Ragazzino and Tyler believe Goldsmith's willingness to share shows that the city shares some responsibility for Filner's actions.
"Plaintiffs request that the Court take judicial notice of public statements made by city attorney Jan Goldsmith which seemingly contradict the city's current positions in this lawsuit," reads the March 17 legal document.
"For example, the city attorney claimed that he did a 'de facto impeachment' of the mayor. Yet, now the city is claiming that the city had 'no control' over the mayor. Which is it? Impeachment is the ultimate form of control. If the city attorney 'impeached' they mayor, then the city had 'control' over the mayor."
"Here the city attorney's statements to the media are capable of immediate and accurate verification because he is listed as one of five attorneys on the city's demurrer and he can be asked about his statements; when he knew that the mayor needed therapy or was abusive, (according to his statements to the media, February 2013) and whether the city had control over the mayor (according to his statements to the media, yes)."
The two sides will appear before Superior Court Judge Joel Wohlfeil on May 9 to discuss a motion to strike filed by the City.