By one attorney's account, the city attorney’s office has spent eight times the amount that the city could have settled a sexual harassment complaint for.
The statement is found in a February 27 court document filed by attorney Carla DiMare on behalf of her clients Michelle Tyler and Katherine Ragazzino. The two met with then-mayor Bob Filner at City Hall in June 2013 in hopes that the former congressman could help the wounded veteran, Ragazzino, get disability benefits for injuries she suffered during her tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. Instead, the two women say they were offered an ultimatum: Filner would help as long as Ragazzino's nurse Tyler promised sexual favors in exchange. The women filed a lawsuit in January 2014.
Since, according to court documents obtained by the Reader, the city attorney's office is accused of stonewalling in hopes of preventing city attorney Jan Goldsmith from being called to the witness stand.
Goldsmith's testimony is wanted because of the public role he played in Filner's resignation.
Long before any sexual harassment allegations surfaced, Goldsmith and Filner sparred publicly over several issues. To curry favor, Goldsmith turned to the media. He communicated with reporters on his private email account. His office produced transcripts from closed-session meetings in order to show Filner's erratic behavior and mistreatment of Goldsmith's assistant city attorney at the time, Andrew Jones.
But it is Goldsmith's loose lips with the press about Filner's alleged sexual misconduct that Tyler and Ragazzino's attorney says should come back to bite the city.
In a November 2013 article in the Los Angeles Times Goldsmith admitted that by February 2013, nearly four months before Ragazzino’s and Tyler’s visit with Filner occurred, Goldsmith said he believed that the mayor was in need of "therapy." In that same article, he took credit for what he called was a "de-facto impeachment."
In the months leading up to Filner's resignation, Goldsmith had retained a psychologist who was willing to testify that Filner exhibited characteristics of being a sociopath and that he was "without shame, empathy or compassion."
Attorney DiMare argues that Goldsmith's interviews, emails with the press, and warnings to his attorneys, show that he was aware that Filner had issues before her client's meeting and could have prevented incidents of harassment. DiMare's attempts to obtain Goldsmith's emails or question him on the witness stand have been thwarted by the city attorney's office.
"To protect Goldsmith, the city attorney’s office has obstructed all discovery concerning Goldsmith, his emails, and his private devices where he conducted city business," reads a court document filed in federal court. "Therefore, in addition to needing Goldsmith’s deposition because plaintiffs were unable to get his knowledge and documents through less intrusive means, the city attorney’s office has an apparent conflict of interest which is an issue of public importance warranting Goldsmith’s deposition.
"The city refused to produce anyone in lieu of Goldsmith, or to stipulate to certain facts, and obstructed all paper discovery," wrote DiMare. "Plaintiffs have exhausted all less intrusive methods to taking Goldsmith’s deposition, as the Court suggested. After spending almost four months seeking discovery, the city has produced no [electronically stored information], excepting 3 emails related to scheduling, city policies and its website. It is implausible that after a five-month national scandal, the city has just three emails."
This from a February 11 court document filed by DiMare: "The City knows from the face of the news articles that Goldsmith has relevant evidence. However, the city attorney's office is likely refusing to produce it because Goldsmith's job duties did not entail his constant 2013 media communications, which may now show the city's liability.
“In 2013, Goldsmith publicly praised the courage of the female whistle blowers. But when the public had tired of this whole mess and the media had moved on, Goldsmith's office decided to spend million [sic] of dollars in city resources to discredit the female victims and withhold discovery concerning Goldsmith and therefore the City's knowledge."
A later filing from the city attorney's office in response to requests for Goldsmith's email communications with the media show the hard line being taken to keep the city attorney from playing a role in the case.
When asked for "all documents concerning or which support city attorney Jan Goldsmith's statements to Tony Perry of the Los Angeles Times that Mayor Filner needed therapy in February 2013," a deputy city attorney objected, saying the request was vague, oppressive, burdensome, and expensive, among other reasons.
Similar objections were raised in response to requests to produce documents showing that Goldsmith had retained a psychologist or copies of her report.
On March 16, federal judge Alonso Curiel agreed with a previous judge's ruling that DiMare's initial request was broad; at the same time, he ordered the city to produce any documents "limited to the City of San Diego’s knowledge through August 2013, concerning Defendant Filner’s actual or alleged sexual harassment, requests for sexual favors, or his written, verbal, or physical conduct of a sexual nature, and any response of the City thereto."
The next hearing is set for June.
See these stories for more background: March 5, 2014, March 25, 2014, May 6, 2014.