Why it's so hard to get rid of San Diego Mayor Bob Filner
Filner is under fire for allegedly sexually harassing 15 women, but says he has no plans to resign
Despite having been accused of sexual harassment by more than a dozen women, and in the face of at least one lawsuit stemming from those allegations, San Diego Mayor Bob Filner (D) has refused to resign from office.
On Thursday, a great-grandmother and city employee became the 15th woman to accuse Filner of making unwanted sexual advances. Filner is facing federal, state, and local investigations into the allegations, and his own former communications director, Irene McCormack Jackson, has sued him for allegedly touching her, demanding kisses, and asking her to come to work with no underwear.
Since Filner has vowed to stay in office, outraged voters have launched a recall effort to boot him at the ballot box. That effort, however, will not be an easy undertaking.
Per San Diego law, voters need to collect and submit signatures from 15 percent of the city's registered voters — not just legal residents — to trigger a recall vote. Further, they have to gather those signatures within a 39-day window that begins three weeks after the start of the recall campaign.
That means recall supporters need to gather 101,597 signatures by September 26 — no small task. San Diego has attempted six mayoral recalls in the past, according to KPBS; all failed to muster enough signatures to clear that first hurdle.
Funding the signature-gathering process is another monumental task. Organizers estimate that it will cost $200,000 to $600,000 depending on how many signature-gatherers are unpaid volunteers.
The massive undertaking will need to be highly organized if it is to succeed. Yet earlier this week, a co-chair of the campaign resigned, citing a "complete breakdown in communication" between herself and another lead organizer.
Even if the recall organizers do gather all the necessary signatures, a recall election would not be held for another few months.
The city clerk would first need to verify signatures, a process that by law can take up to 30 days. If the petition is verified, the clerk must then schedule a recall no sooner than 60 days, and no later than 90 days, from that date.
Given the timeframe, at best a recall could be held some time in December. With legal challenges or unforeseen hang-ups, the election could get bumped to February or March, according to the local ABC affiliate, giving Filner time to lay low and hope the outrage fizzles. (Filner has not been seen in public since July 26 when he announced he would seek treatment for his behavior.)
Filner, through his attorneys, has dismissed the recall effort as a pointless distraction, and reaffirmed his intention to stick around in office.
"Now is not the time to go backwards," he said in a statement. "We need to continue to move forward!"