Another Filner case settled...sort of

Plaintiffs' lawyer wins settlement and drops hammer on city attorney's office

Bob Filner
  • Bob Filner

Carla DiMare represented former Marine Katherine Ragazzino and her nurse Michelle Tyler in a sexual harassment lawsuit she filed against former San Diego mayor Bob Filner.

A week after winning a settlement in the case for the wounded Marine and her nurse, DiMare says the city could have saved three-quarters of a million dollars to settle it more than two years ago for the same amount of money.

Ragazzino and Tyler met with Filner in June of 2013 in hopes of Filner helping to procure disability benefits for injuries Ragazzino suffered during multiple tours in the Middle East. Filner, instead, allegedly said he would help in exchange for sexual favors from Ragazzino's nurse. The women filed a lawsuit in January 2014.

Last week, San Diego city councilmembers agreed to settle the lawsuit by paying Ragazzino and Tyler $99,000.

On November 5, DiMare announced that the two women also settled in their case against Filner. In the announcement, DiMare shared some harsh criticism for the city attorney and his office.

The attorney claimed that attorneys for the city rejected a similar settlement offer years ago. Instead of accepting the offer, attorneys for the city opted to harass and denigrate the Marine and her nurse, said DiMare, claiming that city attorney Jan Goldsmith was aware that Filner had problems and needed therapy.

"For the past two years the city attorney’s office has threatened and harassed these female victims, a wounded warrior and her nurse, and tried to discredit them," reads a November 5 statement from DiMare.

"During that time the city attorney wasted at least $750,000 of taxpayer money. This case could have settled two years ago for same amount the city council recently approved. However, the city attorney rejected pre-filing mediation, even though he had essentially admitted liability. Money wasted by the city attorney’s office could have been spent improving roads and bridges, modernizing firefighting equipment, helping veterans or financially poor seniors, or any number of worthy community projects. The city can do better.

"The women’s claims against the city included that city employees knew Filner was out of control and did nothing to warn the female victims; and the city failed to timely give sex harassment training to at least 30 city employees in violation of the law."

Executive assistant city attorney Paul Cooper says otherwise. Cooper believes DiMare is tasting "sour grapes" because she and her clients did not get what they wanted.

"Our deputy who handled this case, George Schaefer, is a very experienced lawyer who did an outstanding job and acted professionally in defending the city. No one was threatened."

Added Cooper, "The claimed $750,000 cost is untrue. The city attorney's office did what we always do: we defended the city. The city did not use outside counsel and, thus, did not incur any attorney fees."

In addition, Cooper says that his office is barred from disclosing the previous settlement offer but it was far more than the $99,000 that her clients received.

"Federal court rules preclude us from disclosing demands made in mediation, but we'd be more than happy to do so if this lawyer files a stipulation allowing such disclosure and the judge allows it. This $99,000 settlement made financial sense to the city because of anticipated costs of medical experts should the case have gone to trial. Under this settlement, there is no additional payment to cover the fees of the attorney. Apparently, that does not sit well with the attorney.

"This case arose from a dark period in San Diego's history. By settling this case, the city on behalf of all residents has bought some peace and moved one step closer to getting this behind us."

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City attorney Goldsmith has a history of wasting taxpayer money. Hopefully he won't hold another public office after this one. ... Attorney Cooper, quoted above, sounds like he's willing to say anything to protect his boss, even if it's not true. He claims Goldsmith didn't hire outside counsel, so he didn't spend taxpayer money. Really? Were all the city employees who worked on the case working for free? Then Cooper claims they "defended the city." But the city was liable (which is why it settled), so the city attorney shouldn't have spent years fighting it and wasting taxpayer money. The incompetence and untruthfullness coming out of this city attorney's office is embarrassing. And what does the city council do about it? Nothing.

What do you suggest the Council should do about an elected City Attorney?

The San Diego city charter article VIII section 128 permits the city council and others to investigate whoever directs or participates in the waste or misuse of taxpayer money. Or, the city auditor can investigate waste. Or, any city employee can be disciplined for misuse of tax payer money, fiscal inefficiency, or similar conduct.

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