Is there any limit to how extreme the feud between Mayor Bob Filner and Jan Goldsmith could get?
The latest hostilities threaten to affect city lawsuits, personnel issues and real estate dealings.
Goldsmith has just announced he and his office are pulling the plug on "closed sessions" involving Filner, his staff and City Council -- until the mayor promises not to harass or use police force against the city attorney's deputies.
"I signed up to be city attorney -- not a piñata,” Goldsmith said in an interview Tuesday with NBC 7.
“The feud comes one way,” he added, his arms gesturing from outward-to-inward to suggest that Filner is the antagonist in the scenario.
Goldsmith said Filner violated the City Charter and state law by having a member of his police security detail escort Executive Assistant City Attorney Andrew Jones out of a closed-session meeting two weeks ago.
While legal remedies are available, such as seeking a court injunction against Filner, Goldsmith decided he won't staff closed sessions without the mayor guaranteeing civil treatment.
“Sue the mayor?” he asked rhetorically. “Might be fun for you in the media, but the people of San Diego don’t want that to happen – and neither do I.”
Under the state’s Ralph M. Brown Act, closed sessions can only be held for privately discussing legal, personnel, and property transactions.
Absent the city attorney's advice, they wouldn't make much sense.
"If the mayor and chief of police and council president are unable to give basic assurances that the lawyers won't be arrested illegally or abused or harassed while they're in closed session,” Goldsmith said, “then the people of San Diego have a big problem on their hands."
The mayor had a big problem with Andrew Jones, Goldsmith's executive assistant, and right or wrong, it traces back to what Filner claims is the city attorney's habitual meddling in his decisions.
Filner hasn't responded to requests for comment on the city attorney’s decision.
But in a briefing with reporters last Friday, he said, among other things: "What (Goldsmith) and his staff have done is try to intimidate the council into believing that he has defined the proper role, when I'm disputing it."
“What he's complaining about is, he's not involved in the policy-making of this office…he's not entitled to be in on the process of the policy-making, and he will not be," the mayor said.
Goldsmith, who's independently elected, insists he's just following his legal mandate -- not trying to usurp the mayor's.
"I didn't run for mayor last time because I don't want to do policy,” he said. “I did policy in the state legislature, and I don't want to do it anymore. I want to do law."
For his part, during last week’s media session, Filner acknowledged the feud's downside: "This is bad for the city that these disputes are occurring. I do not want them to happen. They're not in my interest. They're not in Jan's interest. They're not in the city's interest. So we do have a way of working them out."
But he offered no ideas, so it's not clear how or when the 'privileged' business of the city will get done if the mayor ignores all this.
Goldsmith said he’d be inclined to meet with Filner in a one-on-one setting, if that could be arranged, and that he’s not looking for an apology.
“I’m happy to get together with him for a few hours with some beer – I’m a wine guy – and try to work this out,” he suggested. “Kind of relieve some of this tension.”