Filner Defiant As Details Of Alleged Sexual Harassment Emerge
Tuesday, July 16, 2013
Aired 7/16/13 on KPBS Midday Edition.
Todd Gloria, San Diego City Council President
Aired 7/16/13 on KPBS News.
Mayor Bob Filner refused to resign and said he is innocent until proven guilty, as former supporters calling for his resignation give lurid details about alleged harassment.
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All of the accusations, statements and apologies from the key players in the developing story about allegations of sexual harassment in Mayor Bob Filner's office and calls from former mayoral supporters for his resignation.
Just like last week, former Councilwoman Donna Frye, and attorneys Marco Gonzalez and Cory Briggs — three ex-supporters of Mayor Bob Filner — gathered Monday before a throng of cameras to ask for the mayor’s resignation. Just like last week, they did not say how many women had come to them with claims they were sexually harassed, nor did any of the women themselves come forward to accuse the mayor.
However, they did offer specific details, accusing the mayor of a long-running pattern of sexual harassment and even assault. They said the mayor has a modus operandi, a way of getting women alone and forcibly kissing and touching them. They volunteered the anonymous stories of three women: a constituent, a woman who campaigned for Filner, and an employee who worked in the mayor’s office.
Frye described in elaborate detail the story of one alleged victim. She said Filner grabbed the woman’s breast, putting his hand beneath her bra, and forced his tongue down her throat.
Gonzales related details from the victim who was in Filner’s employ — he said early on in the mayor’s term, she complimented the mayor, telling him he was doing a good job. The mayor responded that he would do a better job if she gave him a kiss. She laughed it off as a joke, Gonzalez said, but he said she soon became aware that the mayor was serious, continuing to harass her and others both physically and verbally.
“There is no circumstance under which it would be appropriate for the mayor to enter into an elevator with my client or any person who he employed and to tell them that they would do a better job on that floor if they worked without their panties on,” but that, Gonzalez said, is precisely what happened.
Gonzalez described certain moves Filner had that earned names among those who know him, like the "Filner dance" and the "Filner headlock." The former was the dance they allege Filner did when he kissed a woman who was pulling away; the headlock, an overly friendly way of pulling women close to him so he could isolate them.
Frye was visibly upset, her emotional appearance at last week's press conference was replaced with anger and frustration. Responding to questions as to why the women were not coming forward, she raised her finger and voice, “Bob Filner is the problem, not these women for not coming forward. Bob knows exactly what he did, the people up in that office know what he’s been doing, the people in the press know what he’s been doing, so don’t look at me," she said.
She called him “tragically unsafe for any woman to be around.”
Frye also worked for Filner before resigning in March to take another job. She said the moment she heard credible claims from a victim, she came forward.
Thronging behind Frye, Gonzalez, and Briggs were Filner supporters who held signs that read “Due Process For Mayor Filner.” Throughout the press conference, they called out to the three accusers to give the names of the women or file formal charges so that Filner could have his day in court.
Chistine Mann came to show her support for the mayor. She said she believed the proper process for dealing with sexual harassment had been circumvented. Mann said she was worried Filner is being railroaded in a push for political power.
“I feel like we’re being bullied by a handful of people in our government who want us to do basically what they tell us to do—to just trust them,” Mann said. “That there are these women who—the acts have been so horrific and egregious—that they cannot go on record and they cannot go through due process.”
To Mann, it doesn’t add up.
Yet, lawyer Gonzalez — who had campaigned for Filner — said the mayor already admitted he had crossed the line in a videotaped interview handed out to the press on Thursday. Gonzalez said the mayor’s statement was a flat out admission he had done something wrong. The mayor faced the camera, in a seemingly candid speech that asked for forgiveness, and said, “I have failed to fully respect the women who work for me, and with me,” adding “at times I have intimidated them.”
Gonzalez said this admission already puts the mayor in violation of California’s sexual harassment laws. “That is due process,” he told protesters.
Gonzalez went on to say that when he and Fyre approached the mayor with these charges, Filner did much the same thing — admitted culpability and promised to change. That change, Gonzalez said, never came, “he didn’t understand what he has done was wrong, and yet he admitted that he did it.”
Gonzalez said the mayor’s conflicting statements paint a picture of a man desperate to hang onto power, “and on one statement in one day, he says 'I apologize for treating women without respect, I apologize for intimidating them.' The very next day he says I’m innocent — what does that tell you?”
Filner has repeated his assertion he did not sexually harass women. He told KUSI that he is a “hugger” of both men and women but not an abuser. He said his actions were taken in an offensive manner but they weren’t meant in one.
"My whole political career has been one of being an outgoing person. And I have to deal with that, certainly, in a more self aware way," he said.
Filner went on to criticize his critics for taking hearsay and gossip for truth, and he criticized the lack of due process provided him.
“There’s been no charges as far as I’m aware. There’s been press conferences, there’s been anonymous sources, but there are no charges," he said.
Filner also penned an op-ed piece published Monday evening in the U-T San Diego in which he elaborated on his plans and again stressed his innocence. He acknowledged being a tough boss writing, "As mayor, I have very high expectations for our City, and when people I’m counting on don’t perform, I get upset. I now recognize that approach has been seen by some as disrespectful."
Filner denied that his brusque demeanor ever crossed the line into sexual harassment saying, "There’s a big difference between being a difficult guy to work for and being guilty of sexual harassment, as has recently been alleged." The mayor said there is no resignation letter in his future.
Gonzalez said his clients will go forward with filing sexual harassment claims through the proper channels. He said he wasn’t sure whether that meant lawsuits would follow or what this scandal will cost taxpayers. He also said nothing about the women coming forward to tell their stories in person.