The latest intrigue and guessing games surrounding the toxic City Hall power struggle between Mayor Bob Filner and City Attorney Jan Goldsmith seem to boil down as follows:
What course of action will Goldsmith pursue in response to Filner's use of his police security detail to oust Goldsmith's top assistant from a meeting? And how extensive will the exodus of key personnel from Filner’s “strong mayor” administration eventually be?
The first question relates to an incident involving Executive Assistant City Attorney Andrew Jones, who accused Filner of making a racially insensitive remark at a closed-door legal session some months back.
In a session last week, Filner -- who denies the remark -- accused Jones of "leaking" privileged information, of being "disruptive" -- and had a non-uniformed detective escort Jones out.
“He's a bully,” Jones said in an interview Tuesday. “He's a bully, you know? That's what it's all about. And I suppose bullies don't like people who stand up to them."
"An extreme use of power" and “a cruel act with no basis in law” is how Jones' removal from that meeting struck Goldsmith, who has seen Mayor Bob Filner crash one of his news conferences and attack his office budget.
Goldsmith issued a statement last week hinting ominously about “the steps we will be taking” to address Filner's "use of police force."
And Jones says they won't back down: "We represent the municipal corporation of the city of San Diego. Our job is to protect that entity, and we will do that to the best of our ability -- and that's not going to stop."
The incident was just the latest in a long series of confrontations between the first-term mayor and second-term city attorney.
Filner's allies on City Council hope that, in time, the two will get past all that.
"Rather than add to that incident and add insult to injury to that, I'd rather figure out how are we going to work together moving forward and make sure we have the right information we need to make the best decisions," Coucilman David Alvarez said.
Skeptics wonder to what extent Filner might wind up driving away members of his own staff and executive departments – after the recent departures of a Development Services Director and a Deputy Chief of Staff, among several others.
"There have been, over the last six to seven months, enough bizarre incidents driven by his outbursts that you would think should be that 'Ah-ha!' moment – (when) he steps backs and says 'I've got to do things differently,'” political strategist Jason Roe said.
“But I'm not optimistic that we're going to see a change, and that’s unfortunate -- and I think that makes it more important that the City Council work together to rein in the negative impacts of that behavior," Roe added.
So far, Filner's media handlers have not responded to NBC 7’s requests for comment.
On Tuesday, the mayor's veto of a 5-4 Council vote restoring $508,000 he cut from Goldsmith's budget will face an override attempt.
It'll take six votes to prevail.