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Filner Harassment Scandal Grows As Second Woman Comes Forward

Evening Edition

Aired 7/24/13 on KPBS News.

A second woman goes public with allegations of sexual harassment against Mayor Bob Filner in an exclusive interview with KPBS.

Another woman came forward today to report an unwanted advance by Mayor Bob Filner, telling KPBS News in an exclusive interview that the then-congressman patted her “posterior” while making a crude joke at a crowded fundraiser.

Special Feature Read the Backstory

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.

Laura Fink, the owner of the political consulting firm Fink & Hernandez Consulting LLC, worked for then-Congressman Bob Filner from 2004 to 2006.

Laura Fink, who runs a political consulting firm, told KPBS that she was working as Filner’s deputy campaign manager when the incident occurred at a San Diego fundraising event in 2005.

Fink said she documented the incident in an email to Filner’s personal account; in it she demanded an apology.

A few days later, Filner mumbled to her, "I'm sorry," Fink said. But he added that she didn’t understand what had happened.


Laura Fink's Email to Filner

Laura Fink's Email to Filner

The 2005 email Laura Fink sent to her then boss, Congressman Bob Filner, documenting the incident.


Though several people witnessed the incident, Fink—co-founder of Fink & Hernandez Consulting—said she did not go public about the encounter at the time because she “was trying to build a career in the political field … and Bob Filner has a reputation for swift retribution and for holding grudges.”

Fink, who provided KPBS with a copy of her email to Filner, said she worked for him from 2004 to 2006. She said she plans to report the harassment incident to the sheriff’s hotline established last week to handle such allegations.

Fink is the second woman to come forward in the past two days as the sexual-harassment scandal that has enveloped Filner and all of San Diego city government continues to expand.

On Monday, Filner’s former chief of communications, Irene McCormack Jackson, filed a lawsuit against the mayor and the city with the help of noted women’s rights attorney Gloria Allred.

McCormack Jackson’s allegations include being trapped in the “Filner Headlock,” in which she said he would grab her, try to kiss her, tell her he loved her and wanted to marry her and that they should “consummate their relationship.”

The mayor did not respond to a request from KPBS for comment. But in a written statement issued yesterday in response to the McCormack Jackson lawsuit, Filner said:

“I am saddened by the charges that were leveled against me today. Once due process is allowed to unfold, I am certain there will be a better understanding of this situation.

“I remain committed to the people of San Diego and the work that needs to be done. My dreams and plans for moving this City to new heights are continuing. I humbly ask that through this vicious storm of controversy, people take a moment and temper their rush to judgment.

“I do not believe these claims are valid. That is why due process is so important. I intend to defend myself vigorously and I know that justice will prevail.”

Fink said her troubling encounter with Filner happened when she was staffing him at a fundraising dinner. The Democratic congressman was making amends to the LGBT community, she said, for his “yes” vote years earlier on the highly controversial Defense of Marriage Act.

Her job was to escort Filner from table to table during the dinner. At one point, Fink said, an attendee singled her out for praise saying, "this girl has worked her ass off for you.”

At that, Fink said, Filner told her to turn around.

"As a staffer, I know it sounds silly to say that you just do it, but you just do it," Fink said.

Once she’d turned, Fink said, Filner “took his hands, patted my posterior, laughed, and said: 'No, it’s still there!'"

For a moment, Fink said, she was in shock, “and it certainly gave the people at the table pause.”

She then escorted Filner to the next table. Moments later, Fink said, one guest tried to gently upbraid the congressman, telling him Fink was not his wife and that he shouldn’t treat a woman like that. Filner brushed it off.

Fink said the incident left her “in disbelief that it could have happened.”

She needed a few days to process it. But Fink said, “the more I thought about it, the more upset I became.”

She emailed Filner demanding an apology; copied on the message was the congressman’s chief of staff, Tony Buckles. Buckles returned to that position with the mayor earlier this month after Filner’s former chief of staff resigned amid the harassment scandal.

Buckles soon called, Fink said, to ask what she wanted.

“An apology,” was her response.

But Filner’s half-hearted effort at that apology soon afterward left her sad and disappointed, Fink said; she added that Filner never responded to her email.

Fink, who also worked as political director for Rep. Susan Davis, D-San Diego, since 2008, said she was impressed with the “courage it took” for McCormack Jackson to come forward this week.

Fink said she never wanted “to be defined by this incident.” But she said she’s motivated now to “make sure this sort of thing doesn’t happen again.” Fink added that she has traded stories with several other women over the years who told her of similar unwanted advances by Filner.

A common thread among them, Fink said, is that “they were all folks beholden to him in some way.”

Fink said her fervent hope now is that Filner resigns as mayor. “He has already admitted,” she said, “that he’s only staying out of self interest.”


Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | July 23, 2013 at 6:07 p.m. ― 3 years ago

Great job KPBS getting this exclusive interview.

If attorney Allred and KPBS can get these courageous women to come public, why can't Gonzalez, Briggs, or Frye?

This was mishandled in the beginning, but now the ball is rolling and we will get the truth.

This woman, putting herself out there with email evidence is to me the credible allegation that I believe.

It's far more solid than the "you don't need evidence just trust our hearsay" crap that Gonzales frye Briggs spewed for a week.

Those 3 should be embarrassed by their incompetence.

I still respect frye for her great work on behalf of our city, I think she made a mistake aligning herself with this INEPT attorneys.

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Avatar for user 'nikkineel'

nikkineel | July 23, 2013 at 6:57 p.m. ― 3 years ago

an EIGHT yr old allegation????!!! U have to be joking! She is gonna call the sheriffs hotline for an EIGHT YEAR OLD allegation?! This is ridiculous

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Avatar for user 'llk'

llk | July 23, 2013 at 7:46 p.m. ― 3 years ago

Yeah, how outrageous! Everyone knows that if you sexually harass someone, it's supposed to fall off your permanent record after exactly five (5) years, and the victim is never allowed to talk about it again!

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Avatar for user 'ThatwouldBTelling'

ThatwouldBTelling | July 23, 2013 at 7:47 p.m. ― 3 years ago

Yep, nikkineel, an eight year old allegation. It supports the allegations, less than 6 months old, from Ms. McCormack Jackson. And any more women who might come forward now, encouraged by the two brave souls who have already done so, could be alleging sexual harassment weeks old, months old or years old. Each of these allegations, regardless of age, lends more credence to the others. In a criminal trial, a statute of limitations might come into play. In a civil case, not so. And as far as his fitness for office and the looming recall vote are concerned, the ages of the allegations are completely irrelevant.

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Avatar for user 'BarryJohn'

BarryJohn | July 23, 2013 at 7:54 p.m. ― 3 years ago

I think this is just the start - my feeling is that Marco, Frye & Briggs were actually trying to get Filner to resign before all the tawdry, inappropriate, discriminatory details came out , either through formal due process proceedings or other public unveilings. Marco et al said Filner would write the next chapter and the next chapter is the gradual release of information and lawsuits - I believe they confronted him personally first, then jumped it up a notch with their press conference to show they were serious - and now the charges unfold - the lawsuit is serious with a very credible claimant - as far the second womans claim being old - I believe it is just presented to show a pattern of behavior plus she was smart enough to document it- that took courage to send that email back then-- I believe the more that come forward the better, old or new charges because a definite pattern of behavior is shown here, in addition to Filners own videotaped self admission to inappropriate behavior - and the more that come forward will help others to come forward - this guy is looking like a classic narcissist - they don't change behavior, they fight to the death with some distorted thinking that they have done nothing wrong- even when their behavior was brazen - and they do hold grudges as mentioned by this second young lady; they just don't want to beat their enemies, they want to crush them- I am a Dem and I want this guy out of there yesterday

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Avatar for user 'al_mac_62'

al_mac_62 | July 23, 2013 at 8:16 p.m. ― 3 years ago

Why did these women stand silent while they watched this disgusting known repeat harasser gain the power he had. Don't Democrats have anyone who could stand for their causes without being a corrupt bullying a-hole? I don't think DeMaio would have this problem. He is a decent man. San Diego, you deserve what you get. Ms. Fink, you'll get your payout, and the rest of us will be stuck with this unrepentant arrogant piece of wonder.

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Avatar for user 'MalcolmSanDiego'

MalcolmSanDiego | July 23, 2013 at 9:17 p.m. ― 3 years ago

He's been ill-mannered and rough for many years. Hard to believe he's gotten away with it this long. Hopefully, politicians and all other professionals (well, everybody!) will learn from Filner's actions and we will never have to see this degree of incompetency again.

The whole this is an OMG.

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Avatar for user 'Louisianaguy'

Louisianaguy | July 23, 2013 at 9:26 p.m. ― 3 years ago

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Avatar for user 'Louisianaguy'

Louisianaguy | July 23, 2013 at 9:31 p.m. ― 3 years ago

And nothing credible here, maybe an inappropriate locker room gesture that shouldn't have been done if it was even true, but certainly no pattern of sexual harassment and it appears to me that she sent an email, talked to her boss, asked for an apology and got one......and now 10 years later says she was harassed and felt threatened? This is a woman who says in the interview that she is a woman's activist who believes in strong women and is probably a foot taller than Filner and could have decked him, but waited 10 years for a washed up celebrity ambulance chaser attorney to get involve d to say she was harassed? Really?

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Avatar for user 'lkstaack'

lkstaack | July 23, 2013 at 10:13 p.m. ― 3 years ago

I am astounded by the people who seem prepared to support Filner no matter what he has done to others. First they said that they wouldn't believe the accusations without evidence. Now that evidence is coming forward, many seem to be inclined to disregard it or pick it apart for lame reasons. At issue is credibility. Donna Frye has it. Filner and his supporters? Not so much.

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Avatar for user 'Louisianaguy'

Louisianaguy | July 23, 2013 at 10:17 p.m. ― 3 years ago

Can Donna drive?

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Avatar for user 'ThatwouldBTelling'

ThatwouldBTelling | July 23, 2013 at 10:23 p.m. ― 3 years ago

Self-correction: There certainly is a statute of limitations for civil suits. What was I thinking!?

We regret the error.

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Avatar for user 'Louisianaguy'

Louisianaguy | July 23, 2013 at 10:28 p.m. ― 3 years ago

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Avatar for user 'ILoveSanDiego'

ILoveSanDiego | July 23, 2013 at 10:30 p.m. ― 3 years ago

Yeah isn't she not all that credible?

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Avatar for user 'ILoveSanDiego'

ILoveSanDiego | July 23, 2013 at 10:36 p.m. ― 3 years ago

And this 2nd lady capitalizing on something from 10 years ago for her 15 minutes of fame? As a woman, I think that's ridiculous, especially if as she herself states that she thought something inappropriate happened, reported it, and it was taken care of immediately and didn't happen to her again, the eatablishment is after Filner for standing up for and focusing on minorities instead of old boy politics.

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Avatar for user 'ILoveSanDiego'

ILoveSanDiego | July 23, 2013 at 10:43 p.m. ― 3 years ago

And @ Ikstaack, you seem to be a vocal critic of our mayor in several articles?

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Avatar for user 'MrsSmith'

MrsSmith | July 23, 2013 at 10:44 p.m. ― 3 years ago

A couple of points: Of course Filner is entitled to due process, but that costs money. His due process has begun; law suits have been filed. The longer the process takes, the more it costs. Where's that money coming from? Also: it was a great idea to hire Walt Ekard. However, where's that $275,000 coming from? Might as well spend a little more and get Filner a full psychiatric evaluation.

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Avatar for user 'ILoveSanDiego'

ILoveSanDiego | July 23, 2013 at 10:45 p.m. ― 3 years ago

Walt is great and it appears that the mayor has hired a whole new leadership team to put the city and its priorities in the right direction

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Avatar for user 'jb1111'

jb1111 | July 23, 2013 at 11:07 p.m. ― 3 years ago

Too LITTLE, Too LATE, I Love San Diego!!

P.S. Walt has already said that he's retired and not staying long.

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nikkineel | July 24, 2013 at 1:10 a.m. ― 3 years ago

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nikkineel | July 24, 2013 at 1:11 a.m. ― 3 years ago

Plus this girl has serious political motive for coming forward. Surely she will be rewarded by all the vulture politicians circling Filner. Someone should look and see if she received any lucrative contracts as this story came out.

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Avatar for user 'nikkineel'

nikkineel | July 24, 2013 at 1:15 a.m. ― 3 years ago

and something is beyond fishy and Irene. 25 yEARS at the UT, 9 YEARS at the Port. My question is why was Filner so naive? he shouldve know Irene was put there by the developers to take him out.

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Avatar for user 'nikkineel'

nikkineel | July 24, 2013 at 1:18 a.m. ― 3 years ago

@Mrs Smith if Filner steps down it will cost tax payers BILLIONS. In fact there is 1 BILLION dollars in CCDCs account which Filner can and should transfer to the General Fund for services we desperately need using an exec order.

Otherwise every penny goes to developers and politicians like Todd Gloria and their offshore bank accounts. The money for Filners defense will be WELL worth it.

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Avatar for user 'llk'

llk | July 24, 2013 at 7:35 a.m. ― 3 years ago

"An impulsive butt pat does NOT a victim make not at all."

Yes it does.

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Avatar for user 'Mmikey'

Mmikey | July 24, 2013 at 7:35 a.m. ― 3 years ago

what happened to the DOJ investigation ? are the feds giving him lots of time to erase hard drives and destroy or fabricate files?

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Avatar for user 'ILoveSanDiego'

ILoveSanDiego | July 24, 2013 at 8:02 a.m. ― 3 years ago

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Avatar for user 'steveb'

steveb | July 24, 2013 at 8:31 a.m. ― 3 years ago

I have a few questions:
Do the Republicans that think Filner should resign feel the same about Clarence Thomas?
Why does the SD Sheriff have a hotline? Shouldn't this be a SD Police issue as the crimes, if any, happened in the city limits? How many other hot lines does the sheriff have?

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Avatar for user 'philosopher3000'

philosopher3000 | July 24, 2013 at 8:43 a.m. ― 3 years ago

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ILoveSanDiego | July 24, 2013 at 8:58 a.m. ― 3 years ago

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Avatar for user 'HarryStreet'

HarryStreet | July 24, 2013 at 9:34 a.m. ― 3 years ago

There's something else wrong with our government. Apparently Filner may remain as mayor even if convicted of sexual harassment. He may only be removed from office by a very costly recall.

What were they thinking?

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Avatar for user 'MalcolmSanDiego'

MalcolmSanDiego | July 24, 2013 at 10:02 a.m. ― 3 years ago

I hope people commenting here are also emailing their council member. You can drop a few lines to let them know how you feel about the situation. I'm telling Scott Sherman that I'm ready for a recall if Filner doesn't resign. Just to let them know to keep pushing forward.

And for the logic of the few supporters here...uh, never mind.

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Avatar for user 'bwaderunner'

bwaderunner | July 24, 2013 at 10:14 a.m. ― 3 years ago

So many people taking a high and mighty moral high ground.

If all of you were such saints then why is porn "king" of the internet?
If nobody fools around at work then why are there so many office romances/affairs?

I'm not saying this guy is innocent but what I am saying is that the picture is bigger than what it appears and maybe Doug Manchester is just wanting to build his projects at everyone else's expense (as usual)..

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Avatar for user 'Dorothy'

Dorothy | July 24, 2013 at 10:20 a.m. ― 3 years ago

I am disappointed that KPBS is giving all this free publicity to this Fink woman. The :"incident" she complains of, in the context of receiving a compliment that she had "worked her tush off", is being given far too much prominence. And it happened eight years ago?
I am a confirmed feminist, and do not condone in ANY way sexual advances, especially when perpetrated on employees or women in positions of lesser power, but, "a pat on the tush, (or 2 tushes) get over it, KPBS! Spend time on real news, and, if they can be persuaded to come forward (for they are surely out there) the REAL victims of the mayor and his behavior.

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Avatar for user 'Mmikey'

Mmikey | July 24, 2013 at 10:26 a.m. ― 3 years ago

The story made it to Russia today and Al Jazeera, so now San Diego is the laughing stock of the world.

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Avatar for user 'twells'

twells | July 24, 2013 at 10:47 a.m. ― 3 years ago

It is amazing how far demagogues will go to support their pol as long as the party affiliation is correct! Frye, Gonzalez, & Briggs tried to get the mayor to do the honorable thing. Now he is doing it the hard way. Either way, his judgment in these cases put hits fitness for mayor in serious question. How can you be trusted to make serious decision for the citizenry of San Diego if you cannot even resist your primal urges?

No one in government service at this point in time is unaware of sexual harassment and what sexual harassment means … it is ingrained with the MANY required trainings, tailgates, memos, meetings, etc. Defending him only paints you as a zealot.

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | July 24, 2013 at 11:44 a.m. ― 3 years ago

I have been a critic of the incompetent way Frye and the lawyers handled this, I have been a skeptic because lots of people have been out to smear Filner from the start, and I have called for due process.

With all that said, some people seem to be going overboard in their support Of the mayor.

I mean accusing KPBS of being biased because they interviewed someone who has information relevant to the accusations against Filner?

Not to mention she has tangible proof in the form of an email she sent to the then congressman when she was harassed.

Filner is dirty, that much is clear.

To what extent we will find out as due process evolves, but don't blame the media for interviewing someone with relevant information.

I suggest directing your anger to the political cockroach who has started a recall campaign. That partisan idiot doesn't care about women beig harassed, he is in it for his own political fortune.

As disappointed as I am with Filner and as much as I think he needs to step down, I will NEVER sign a recall petition put together by a sniveling parasite.

And for all you DeMaio worshippers, DeMaio would have been no better. Mr DeMaio and his power-hungry claw-my-way-to-fame husband would have been embroiled in their own ridiculous scandals making our city look just as bad as Filner is.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | July 24, 2013 at 11:54 a.m. ― 3 years ago

Louisiana guy, good question, but she's sure weather-beaten!

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | July 24, 2013 at 11:56 a.m. ― 3 years ago

Hey Mikey, Al Jazeera actually televised footage that our wonderful govrnment and media censored. See Clark, THE FIRE THIS TIME (Thundermouth Press, 1992)

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Avatar for user 'moneil2012'

moneil2012 | July 24, 2013 at 12:40 p.m. ― 3 years ago

I think where there is smoke there is fire although the timing is a wee bit suspect. I understand the first woman that came forward was harrassed by him after he was elected but this Fink woman is only coming forward now after 8 yrs? Ok so maybe she was emboldened by the other lady or, reasonably so, maybe she figured no one would listen to her if she mentioned it back when he was a congressman. If she had brought it up during his mayoral campaign no doubt she would have been accused of dirty politics. (Curiously does anyone remember that woman featured in some of the political ads for Carl DeMaio who said she was physically attacked by Filner at the airport? What happened to her and why isnt she coming forward and formally pressing charges now? I wonder how many people took her seriously back then when that bit was released?).

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | July 24, 2013 at 1:24 p.m. ― 3 years ago

Fink woman! LOL Yeah, that's pefect!

And yes, Moneil brings up excellent points!

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Avatar for user 'janda_sd'

janda_sd | July 24, 2013 at 2:02 p.m. ― 3 years ago

Thank you @nikkinell @ILoveSD @Dorothy and some others. I saw this last night and it upset me so I signed up to comment but couldn't get all my thoughts down. I woke up today still bothered that I didn't comment and was so relieved that you all spoke out saying what was on my mind.

I am a confirmed feminist, supporter of PBS, mother of eighteen yr, old daughter who is home from college. I am coming to terms with her growing up and navigating herself alone in the world and being assertive, strong woman.

I used Ms Fink as a teachable moment for my daughter last night and also to be able to get this off of my chest and get some sleep. I told her I believe Ms. Fink did the right assertive, strong woman thing by writing the letter and demanding an apology,since the pat on the tush made her feel uncomfortable. I also told her that I believe she did the strong, feminine thing by NOT reporting it as sexual harassment 8 years ago because she got her apology,continued working with no further problems and MOST of all a wise decision not to report it as sexual harassment, because it was NOT anywhere close to sexual harassment! I explained the context of the 'pat on the tush' and role played what I would do in that context..laugh it off, shake my butt and make a joke back,as it was CLEARLY a joke in that context.

I could not explain or rationalize in any pro-feminine way why she was coming out NOW and why KPBS was supporting this. For Fink's possible motivation, I came up with my usual mantra-follow the money trail which has never failed me in weird situations like this. KPBS?..I'm at a loss as to your motivation to report this. Seriously a bad decision on your part in my eyes!

I believe KPBS/Fink have damaged the credibility of any possible REAL sexual harassment victims that may come forward and that pisses me off!!

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Avatar for user 'MarineRoom'

MarineRoom | July 24, 2013 at 3:15 p.m. ― 3 years ago

Harry, I believe the general theory is that those in favor of the current strong mayor system were thinking that there would never be a Democrat in the mayor's office. Perhaps they were thinking something else. At the time, I didn't care, so I voted for the status quo. I think there are many cities out there with a variety of mayor/manager/council configurations. Whether one system is better than another at curbing human weakness, I do not know.

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Avatar for user 'marjorieo'

marjorieo | July 24, 2013 at 3:31 p.m. ― 3 years ago

philosopher3000 - Patting someone on the butt is sexual harassment whether it's done repeatedly or not. To be sexual harassment it doesn't have to be repeated, it just has to be unwanted and I'm quite sure Fink (as would most any self-respecting woman) would not welcome being patted on the butt.

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Avatar for user 'David_from_San_Diego'

David_from_San_Diego | July 24, 2013 at 4:31 p.m. ― 3 years ago

Ms. Fink:
But you didn't tell us this when he was running for Mayor, did you? That's because you thought you could benefit if the creep won, because then you would have something on the Mayor, right?
Well, it's YOUR fault that we have a creep for a mayor, because you kept your mouth shut to protect him back when we NEEDED to know this.
As far as I'm concerned, YOU should have to pay for the re-call election, and the election to replace Filner.

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Avatar for user 'curmudgeoninchief'

curmudgeoninchief | July 24, 2013 at 6:03 p.m. ― 3 years ago

It's also interesting to speculate on who benefits from this slow hanging of Bob. I suspect that some of Bonnie Dumanis's old political allies might be behind this to try to lever Uncle Bob out of office and reverse the choice of the people in the last election. After all, she "deserved" to win, didn't she?

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Avatar for user 'robertsgt40'

robertsgt40 | July 25, 2013 at 7:37 a.m. ― 3 years ago

What a joke. Here is Fink, a self described feminist telling about a sexual harassment incident that happened 8yrs ago. So much for her conviction of cajone busting of male harassers. She didn't want to damage here career by coming forward? Just goes to show a politician is a politician is a politician. Now that her career has been established, it's time to come forward? LMAO

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | July 26, 2013 at 9:55 a.m. ― 3 years ago

al_mac_62 | July 23, 2013 at 8:16 p.m. ― 2 days, 13 hours ago
Don't Democrats have anyone who could stand for their causes without being a corrupt bullying a-hole? I don't think DeMaio would have this problem. He is a decent man.


Mr. Al_mac,

I find it extremely interesting that you accuse me of being partisan, yet your posting history is full of broad-brush generalizations like this gem here.

I will remind you that Republicans have their fair share of sex scandals as well.

In fact, there is a Wiki page dedicated to them, grouped by year because there are so many:

And that lengthy list is just the Federal ones mind you; there are tons of local ones as well.

So now that we have established that sex scandals occur in BOTH parties, on to your other hilarious statement about DeMaio.

First off, it's always an easy out in situations like this one to put the opponent on a pedestal.

It's like proving a negative.

He was never elected, and the person who was turned out to be, I will admit, a steaming hot mess and an embarrassment to our city.

But to assume DeMaio would have been any better is pure partisan speculation.

Maybe he would have been better.

Maybe he would have been WORSE.

DeMaio is not an honest man, in fact a website has been around for a number of years chronicling his scandals:

Not to mention he has a very dramatic partner, someone whom I have been told first-hand was getting drunk and making threats to people he didn't like in bars about retributions he would take if his boyfriend became mayor.

We saw photos released of Mr. DeMaio's boyfriend posing, feet on the desk and hands folded behind his back, in DeMaio's office with CONFIDENTIAL CITY FILES right there in view. These legally should not be shared with anyone other than city employees.

This might all sounds petty compared to the mess Filner is in, but my point is that declaring Filner's opponent a saint just because Filner turned out to be a joke is not logical.

DeMaio carried a great deal of pettiness, drama, and baggage with him as well, and there is no reason to think San Diego would have been any better off with him in office.

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