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Trio Says Making Public Harassment Allegations Against Filner Was Wrenching

Evening Edition

Aired 9/23/13 on KPBS News.

Former Councilwoman Donna Frye and lawyers Cory Briggs and Marco Gonzalez said they had hoped to keep their letters calling on the mayor to resign private.

They precipitated one of the biggest political scandals in San Diego’s modern history when they accused Bob Filner of sexual misconduct this summer.

Special Feature Filner Files

Since then, San Diegans watched their mayor apologize, heard from scores of women he allegedly harassed, and finally saw Filner resign in a defiant speech just one month ago.

Former Councilwoman Donna Frye and attorneys Cory Briggs and Marco Gonzalez spoke with KPBS Investigative Reporter Amita Sharma recently about what led up to their decision to expose one of their own by making public the harassment allegations against Filner.

Frye said stories emerged about Filner harassing women soon after she went to work for him late last year. Then, one woman confided in Frye. But Frye said she didn’t report the accusation to the city’s equivalent of a human resources department.

“And the reason I didn’t is I did not trust the process and the person that shared the information with me did not want to do anything and did not want me to do anything,” Frye said.

Briggs described how an unpleasant Father’s Day conversation with Filner sealed his view that the mayor’s governance was a problem.

“He essentially confirmed that he has been abusing his power and holding up development projects illegally because he’s trying to further his agenda,” Briggs said.

It was Marco Gonzalez, acting as former city hall communications director Irene McCormack Jackson’s attorney, who bluntly laid out the damning allegations against Filner during a private meeting with him. Gonzalez said he asked Filner to seek therapy and apologize to his staff for the abusive behavior.

“He indicated after the conclusion of that meeting, after really trying to explain away his behavior a number of times, that he would indeed take these steps to rectify his behavior,” Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez sent a follow-up email to Filner outlining the steps the mayor had promised to take to correct the alleged transgressions. But Gonzalez never heard back.

The trio said they had hoped to keep private their letters to Filner asking him to resign. But when they read a tweet that KPBS and inewsource were investigating harassment allegations against the mayor, they decided to go public.

“A driving issue for us is we’re Democrats who now have knowledge our highest leader in the city is violating community standards,” Gonzalez said. “What does it mean if the Republicans find this out? And we knew that they were trying to find out dirt on Bob. “

Frye — a stout Democrat — said the day she called on Filner to resign at a press conference was one of the worst experiences of her life.

“I had such great hope and faith in Bob Filner,” she said.

Soon after the presser, the three were inundated with calls from women sharing their alleged lurid experiences with Filner.

Briggs said he was emotional for “about two minutes” when Filner delivered his farewell speech to the city council. But he said he quickly became angry when Filner turned defiant.

Frye said she understands to a point the bad blood the scandal has generated within the Democratic Party. Some claim the harassment allegations were the product of an orchestrated effort to oust Filner from office because of his willingness to challenge the city’s powerful developers and other businesses.

"I understand their disappointment, their frustration,” Frye said. “I’m not particularly sympathetic to the conspiracy theorists. What we found in Bob Filner was a person who was not fit to lead this city.”

Comments

Avatar for user 'philosopher3000'

philosopher3000 | September 24, 2013 at 1:37 a.m. ― 1 year ago

I know I have to publish this comment in parts so you only censor my opinions, but it would be better in full.

Former Councilwoman Donna Frye and attorneys Cory (I am not a democrat) Briggs and Marco Gonzalez - interviewed on the genesis of scandal.

Donna Frye:
"I first learned before April" (i.e. March)
"third party, allegations, rumors, at one point first hand" (did not go to HR, because)
"I didn't trust the process," (Donna was the ombudsman working for Filner at that time)
"It was not my story to tell,"
"she was not willing to go public at that time, and has not come forward yet," (WHO)
"There wasn't a lot I could do, until she wanted to say or do something about it."
(THEN WHY DID DONNA FRYE PUBLICLY CALL FOR RESIGNATION WITHOUT ANYONE MAKING ALLEGATIONS WILLING TO STEP FORWARD)

"As time progressed, I got more information (WHAT INFORMATION, WHEN)
Once I had the clear evidence (WHAT EVIDENCE) and someone willing to act on it (WHO!), I acted on it." (SELF CONTRADICTION, first she'd concluded that there was no way forward without a victim wiling to expose herself to the public, then suddenly she flops? Cognitive-dissonance? What if the original anonymous accuser was lying, or crazy, I mean mentally-ill, or they were just setting you up to do their dirty work?)

Cory Briggs - "We didn't make the decision to go public, somebody leaked the letter to the press" (? WHO LEAKED)

"We were meeting (secretly, with a Republican Developer's Lawyer) about Bob Filner (on the Sunroad issue)."
(what is the definition of a conspiracy again?)

"We are democrats who have knowledge about the highest elected official in San Diego, we were thinking strategically about who would come to this knowledge next, the press, the republicans? We had a duty." - Marco Gonzalez (paraphrased for brevity)
(SO YOU DECIDED TO 'OUT' THE MAYOR YOU ELECTED BASED UPON UNSUBSTANTIATED ALLEGATIONS! WHY NOT LET THE "INVESTIGATIVE REPORTERS" DO THEIR JOBS? WHY NOT LET THE REPUBLICANS AND THE CORPORATE MEDIA EARN THEIR VICTORY? WHY BURN DOWN YOUR OWN HOUSE, WHEN THERE IS NO ACTUAL EVIDENCE OF HARM OR WRONG DOING, AND NO ONE WILLING TO STEP FORWARD?)

What did you think of the criticism of your calling for resignation without having anyone come forward?
"I didn't think about the criticism, because we were too busy." - Marco Gonzalez
Donna Frye (did not answer).
Corry Briggs (silent)

More Allegations of "Abuse of Power" (nothing to do with Sexual Harassment, yet still no evidence)

"He had no idea how to treat people..."
(didn't know there were rules for how the Mayor is allowed to treat people, did he fail to show you the respect you think you deserve? or did you have actual evidence that he broke the law?)

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Avatar for user 'philosopher3000'

philosopher3000 | September 24, 2013 at 1:37 a.m. ― 1 year ago

I know I have to publish this comment in parts so you only censor my opinions, but it would be better in full.

Former Councilwoman Donna Frye and attorneys Cory (I am not a democrat) Briggs and Marco Gonzalez - interviewed on the genesis of scandal.

Donna Frye:
"I first learned before April" (i.e. March)
"third party, allegations, rumors, at one point first hand" (did not go to HR, because)
"I didn't trust the process," (Donna was the ombudsman working for Filner at that time)
"It was not my story to tell,"
"she was not willing to go public at that time, and has not come forward yet," (WHO)
"There wasn't a lot I could do, until she wanted to say or do something about it."
(THEN WHY DID DONNA FRYE PUBLICLY CALL FOR RESIGNATION WITHOUT ANYONE MAKING ALLEGATIONS WILLING TO STEP FORWARD)

"As time progressed, I got more information (WHAT INFORMATION, WHEN)
Once I had the clear evidence (WHAT EVIDENCE) and someone willing to act on it (WHO!), I acted on it." (SELF CONTRADICTION, first she'd concluded that there was no way forward without a victim wiling to expose herself to the public, then suddenly she flops? Cognitive-dissonance? What if the original anonymous accuser was lying, or crazy, I mean mentally-ill, or they were just setting you up to do their dirty work?)

Cory Briggs - "We didn't make the decision to go public, somebody leaked the letter to the press" (? WHO LEAKED)

"We were meeting (secretly, with a Republican Developer's Lawyer) about Bob Filner (on the Sunroad issue)."
(what is the definition of a conspiracy again?)

"We are democrats who have knowledge about the highest elected official in San Diego, we were thinking strategically about who would come to this knowledge next, the press, the republicans? We had a duty." - Marco Gonzalez (paraphrased for brevity)
(SO YOU DECIDED TO 'OUT' THE MAYOR YOU ELECTED BASED UPON UNSUBSTANTIATED ALLEGATIONS! WHY NOT LET THE "INVESTIGATIVE REPORTERS" DO THEIR JOBS? WHY NOT LET THE REPUBLICANS AND THE CORPORATE MEDIA EARN THEIR VICTORY? WHY BURN DOWN YOUR OWN HOUSE, WHEN THERE IS NO ACTUAL EVIDENCE OF HARM OR WRONG DOING, AND NO ONE WILLING TO STEP FORWARD?)

What did you think of the criticism of your calling for resignation without having anyone come forward?
"I didn't think about the criticism, because we were too busy." - Marco Gonzalez
Donna Frye (did not answer).
Corry Briggs (silent)

More Allegations of "Abuse of Power" (nothing to do with Sexual Harassment, yet still no evidence)

"He had no idea how to treat people..."
(didn't know there were rules for how the Mayor is allowed to treat people, did he fail to show you the respect you think you deserve? or did you have actual evidence that he broke the law?)

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'philosopher3000'

philosopher3000 | September 24, 2013 at 1:39 a.m. ― 1 year ago

(you all knew Bob Filner for years, you worked for him, you knew his personality and tendency to be frank, opinionated, and bold. 'Giving offense' is not disrespectful. Offense is something the audience subjectively perceives. Being rude, pissing powerful people off, and kicking the hornet nest should not be impeachable, it should be the Mayor's job description, but there are social and political consequence, for example, burning bridges can spark a press lynching)

"Anyone who thinks this is a conspiracy needs to come to grips with reality" -
(Right, because we are so alienated from reality, when we hear about secret meetings, planning to take out the mayor, with powerful lawyers, city employees, and others seeking revenge, plotting how to strategically do the deed, without putting there own identity out in public, we are completely out of our minds. The best way to defuse the conspiracy theory is full transparency, Donna, who are you concealing?)

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Avatar for user 'philosopher3000'

philosopher3000 | September 24, 2013 at 1:39 a.m. ― 1 year ago

(I'm still waiting to see one shred of actual evidence that the Mayor did something wrong, we have no video recordings, not even multiple witnesses of the same event, most of the allegations amount to bad dates and flirting with people outside the chain of command, and the worst of the allegations are so outsized and subjective as to strain credibility. The only REAL evidence is Bob's own vague admissions and apologies, which imply his guilt without getting down to any specifics. Filner may have slept with sheep for all we know, same every other lawyer or politician, but with no evidence, then why are we even here?

But in this interview Donna and Cory seem more concerned with Bob Filner's arrogant attitude and activist style of leadership in his dealings with the powerful elite in City Hall, instead of any actual sexual harassment. "abuse of power" is only abuse if it's actionable. If it's legal, it may be unethical, rude, even sinful, but it's not abuse, it's privilege. Unless you can find a way to turn public opinion and drive the elected official from office by making them incapable of governing. KPBS did a great job of castrating Filner with I-News-Source. Never admitting their own conflicts of interest, being funded by the Jacobs and other moneyed interests. There seems to be a lack of clarity here, it feels like this interview was set up to try to clear these three from the accurate criticisms, and restore their standing. A confidence game? This is shady. Look, I know these people, I know they are well meaning. Well ... except Briggs ... but they were used, and let their good intentions be used against them. This was an unnecessary exercise in speculative journalism, with too much at stake. The journalists, once engaged, needed to prove their powers, if they failed to usurp the Mayor, then the power of the press would be proven impudent (sic, impotent), so they had to go all in. Donna is a woman of conscience, and not so different from Filner in many ways. Once she began the journey there was no turning back, her reputation and legacy just as much at stake as Filner's. I get the human motivations behind the decisions, but strategic mistakes were made, and now you're all just doing damage control.)

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Avatar for user 'DeLaRick'

DeLaRick | September 24, 2013 at 6:21 a.m. ― 1 year ago

Too bad Donna Frye's signature political achievement didn't occur until she was out of office.

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Avatar for user 'catalen'

catalen | September 24, 2013 at 9:03 a.m. ― 1 year ago

Thank you Philosopher 3000 for your well expressed comments and reality. C

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | September 24, 2013 at 10:38 a.m. ― 1 year ago

Or do they mean "wenching"???

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | September 24, 2013 at 10:42 a.m. ― 1 year ago

I couldn't agree more with Filosfer 3000.

This was initiated by the greed-mongering developers and the Teebirchers.

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Avatar for user 'dialyn'

dialyn | September 24, 2013 at 10:43 a.m. ― 1 year ago

Too late to go back in time but it would have made all the difference had someone like Ronne Fromann (who certainly had nothing to fear from Filner) come out BEFORE the election. I only voted for Filner because I would never vote for DeMaio, but I would have chosen differently had I known about his activities before I filled out my ballot. He was so protected all these years...that's something the Democrats should be ashamed of. The result is that we are going to have an expensive election (perhaps two) to replace a man who had no business being elected in the first place. So much for all the talk about transparency in government.

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Avatar for user 'WileyWabbit'

WileyWabbit | September 24, 2013 at 11:01 p.m. ― 1 year ago

dialyn wrote: " but I would have chosen differently had I known about his activities before I filled out my ballot" & "to replace a man who had no business being elected in the first place"
...
dialyn; neither of your comments are based on any fact. All so far amounts to not much more than speculation. Where are the accusers? Where's the corroboration? Where are the damages?

And where is this new set of rules that seems to have escaped codification. Rules that tell men precisely when and in what circumstances a woman may be spoken to. The precise words that must be used to avoid future scrutiny and emabarrasment. "Ahh come on" you may say, " now you're making things seem ludicrous." Maybe.

But then, who needs "facts" here in San Diego, a suburb of LaLa-Land. A place where "everything is relative" and the "truth" depends more on what you want it to be, today. Tommorow? Well, that's another day, isn't it? Maybe we'll all "feel" differently about things, tommorrow. But today? Hey, "surfs up!"

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Avatar for user 'CarlosDangler'

CarlosDangler | September 26, 2013 at 6:57 a.m. ― 1 year ago

You Filner apologists need to get a new purpose. Pick a new morally bankrupt politician to defend. It is apparent you've all sold your souls at some point to Filner and feel obliged but dig down deep to a simpler happier time in your childhood and snap back to reality from your disillusioned state and realize he's already been forcibly sent back down the river Styx into asylum where he belongs where he has the option to wallow or reform.

Anthony Weiner can use a friend or two willing to start a misinformation campaign in his defense. Why don't you try something new and different and go post your bathroom wall scrawl in the NY Post blogs?

I'll leave you with this wonderful quote for those among you with a scintilla of thoughtfulness left in your cabezas:

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Albert Einstein

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Avatar for user 'CarlosDangler'

CarlosDangler | September 26, 2013 at 7:51 a.m. ― 1 year ago

And Philosopher3000

I've recommended you do this before. I'll try again.

Go read a philosophy book. Start with 'The Basic Works of Aristotle' or 'The Ethics of Aristotle'.

From there you can move on to 'Aristotle: A Treatise one Government'.

You need a foundation/framework and that's not something one picks up from watching the Jerry Springer show or from reality television.

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Avatar for user 'DeLaRick'

DeLaRick | September 26, 2013 at 12:10 p.m. ― 1 year ago

Even though Aristotle is great, the Filner Fiasco calls other works to mind. (Aristotle is for classrooms. Pedestrian and very played-out at this point.)

Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds along with The Brief and Terrifying Reign of Phil are excellent reads in times like this.

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Avatar for user 'CarlosDangler'

CarlosDangler | September 26, 2013 at 4:49 p.m. ― 1 year ago

Aristotle is for classrooms yes and it it there that his works provide students a moral framework, a compass on how to live a happy life and introduction to Ethics. Aristotle is for Classrooms yes. Ethics if for the real world. For politicians and for Citizens. The glue that holds a democratic society together.

'Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds' good book for economic bubbles. The chapter on 'Follies of Great Cities' is relevant to the Filner Fiasco. Group-think and the madness of crowds is likely the reason why the citizenry failed in their choice for a mayor and precisely how Filner got elected. Folly for sure. I hope voters will have learned their lesson and be armed with the information that character is an important trait for elected officials.

Now Filner, while in exile, perhaps would benefit from reading 'The March of Folly' by Barbara W. Tuchman.

She then identifies four factors, often working in combination that lead to demise....

-Tyranny or oppression
-Excessive ambition
-Incompetence or decadence
-Folly or perversity

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Avatar for user 'DeLaRick'

DeLaRick | September 26, 2013 at 4:59 p.m. ― 1 year ago

Chuck D,

Sometimes, allegories do a better job of expressing political realities than expository works. Whatever improves civility and public discourse should be encouraged. There are a lot of clever authors out there.

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Avatar for user 'CarlosDangler'

CarlosDangler | September 26, 2013 at 5:43 p.m. ― 1 year ago

I Agree

But even allegory usually has a moral framework backing the revelation of some hidden meaning,

It's not as simple of opting whether to read an Aristotle tome from 300 B.C.or a 2005 short story. Albeit Aristotle is dated. The point is Aristotle teachings provide a framework for common sense which seems conspicuous in its absence on this blog by the mob mentality of backers still defending our recent Mayor warts and all. And i'm sure there is an humorous allegorical 'Aristotle for Dummies' version out there that'll make an ethics lesson palatable for those who find it boring.

And your right DelaRick. 'The Brief and Terrifying Reign of Phil ' very applicable. As long as we agree ... 'Phil' = 'Filner'

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Avatar for user 'CarlosDangler'

CarlosDangler | September 26, 2013 at 8:25 p.m. ― 1 year ago

DeLaRick--- I understand you don't want to look at the Filner scandal from Aristotle's perspective. as he is so B.C ancient., perhaps Emmanuel Kant's perspective on morality, (A.D) a much more current moral philosopher.... will shed some light on the Filner Fiasco and provide a framework to gauge why Filner's behaviors were clearly unacceptable:........ Filner's actions defy what's right based on teachings of philosophers throughout the ages......

Listen to this and think 'Filner actions while in office':

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Avatar for user 'DeLaRick'

DeLaRick | September 27, 2013 at 9:39 a.m. ― 1 year ago

Chuck,

You really seem to have it out for Bob Filner. When I read comments posted by so-called "Filner supporters," I don't perceive unbridled support. "Smelling a rat" doesn't mean you're willfully neglecting the facts. Whether you agree with Filner's departure or not, the circumstances around the case were, and still are, peculiar. If you listened closely enough during the height of the scandal, you could actually hear thousands of San Diegans rolling their eyes upon hearing everyone's "concern for the women." Politicians love the taste of crocodile tears.

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Avatar for user 'CarlosDangler'

CarlosDangler | September 27, 2013 at 6:01 p.m. ― 1 year ago

I have no issues with Filner the person. I have issues with his behavior/hubris, his lack of integrity and his dishonesty after getting caught with the headlights on him.

I have a much bigger issue with what i perceive as a misinformation campaign to paint the recent ugly chapter as a witch hunt and conspiracy theory. I don't buy it. Sure those who find themselves ideologically opposed were happy to see what unfolded, but Bob Filner made his bed.

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