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Mayor says didn't get training, San Diego should pay for sex harassment defense

San Diego mayor Bob Filner speaks at a news conference in San Diego, California in this July 26, 2013 file photo. REUTERS/Fred Greaves/Files
San Diego mayor Bob Filner speaks at a news conference in San Diego, California in this July 26, 2013 file photo. REUTERS/Fred Greaves/Files

SAN DIEGO (Reuters) - San Diego Mayor Bob Filner, under mounting pressure to resign over sexual harassment accusations, deserves to have the city pay for his defense because he never received workplace behavior training, his lawyer has told the city attorney.

Filner's private lawyer Harvey Berger wrote in a letter to City Attorney Jan Goldsmith on Monday that San Diego was legally obligated to provide training to prevent sexual harassment to all management-level employees within six months of their joining the city. Goldsmith's office released the letter on Wednesday.

"The city failed to provide such training to Mayor Filner," Berger wrote. "In fact, it is my understanding that such training was scheduled, but that the trainer for the city unilaterally canceled, and never re-scheduled such training for the mayor (and others.)"

Filner, a former Congressman, was elected mayor of San Diego in November 2012. Berger wrote in his letter that Filner had never received training to prevent sexual harassment when he served the San Diego area as a Congressman between 1993 and 2012.

He added that "if there is any liability at all, the city will almost certainly be liable for 'failing to prevent harassment.'"

On July 22 Filner and the city were sued by Irene McCormack Jackson, who accused Filner of asking her to work without panties, demanding kisses, telling her he wanted to see her naked and holding her in a head lock while whispering in her ear.

Since then, seven other women, including a retired U.S. Navy admiral and a college dean, have publicly accused the 70-year-old Democrat of groping and other inappropriate behavior.

Filner has apologized to them and said he would take a two-week leave of absence starting August 5 to undergo intensive therapy.

On Tuesday, the city council declined Berger's request to fund a legal defense of Filner and went a step further by suing the mayor in San Diego Superior Court, seeking to hold him personally liable for any damages the city may be required to pay in the lawsuit.

Berger and the mayor's spokeswoman did not return calls for comment on Wednesday.

On Sunday, U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein of California called for Filner's resignation during an interview on CNN. U.S. Representatives Susan Davis and Scott Peters, whose districts include parts of San Diego, have also called for Filner to step down.

Last week, U.S. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said Filner should seek private counseling and compared his behavior to that of former congressman Anthony Weiner, a candidate for New York City mayor who is embroiled in a scandal involving lewd photos and racy online conversations with women.

Once a popular congressman, Weiner resigned in 2011 after saying he had accidentally sent a lewd picture over Twitter.

(Reporting by Marty Graham Writing by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Cynthia Johnston, Toni Reinhold)

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