Stormy Weather For San Diego Mayor
UPDATE 2:24 p.m. PST: Assembly Majority Leader Toni Atkins has called on Filner to "either come forward and declare his innocence or resign immediately."
In a written statement released Friday, she said "I hope Mayor Filner is sincere about and successful in his personal efforts to improve his attitudes and behavior, but again, I do not think he can continue to serve as mayor."
UPDATE 12:20 p.m. PST: In an interview with the U-T San Diego, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez called on Filner to resign as mayor.
UPDATE 9:25 a.m. PST: Marco Gonzalez tweeted this morning: "Frye, Gonzalez, and Briggs stand by original demand, video notwithstanding. Additional information to be provided next week."
The day started with a mob of reporters in a packed parking lot under a threatening sky, but when the storm came, it wasn’t in the form of rain; Donna Frye, a former city council member and longtime supporter of Mayor Bob Filner, looked visibly shaken as she addressed the crowd.
“When I received credible evidence first hand evidence of more than one woman being sexually harassed I could not not act. I believe what they have told me and they need to know that they are not alone," she said. "There are people who support and care about them. I did not make this request lightly, it was one of the hardest decisions I have ever made.“
Hours later, in a prepared statement, Filner addressed her comments.
"When a friend like Donna Frye is compelled to call for my resignation, I’m clearly doing something wrong," he said.
Filner’s response came on a pre-taped DVD released to reporters in a somewhat haphazard way, but there the Mayor was, staring into the camera, asking for forgiveness.
"...I have reached into my heart and soul and realized I can and should change my behavior," he said.
His emotional epiphany was not accompanied by a resignation letter and his apology stopped short of admitting he was guilty of the kind of sexual harassment to which Frye alluded. The mayor said he took ownership for not “fully respecting” and for “intimidating” the women he worked with. He blamed his own behavior, in part, on changing cultural mores.
"It’s a good thing that behavior that would have been tolerated in the past is being called out in this generation for what it is: inappropriate and wrong," he said.
In other words, we don’t live in a “mad men” world anymore, but will this be enough for the former supporters who have asked him to step down?
Marco Gonzalez is a lawyer; he’s representing the unnamed and unspecified number of women in this case. He said the ball is in Filner's court.
"What happens if he doesn’t resign? Well, like I said the Mayor is in charge of the script and the next chapter will largely be defined by his response," he said.
Now that the mayor has laid the groundwork for the next chapter in this unfolding saga, Gonzalez said he is meeting with the women and later Friday he will announce the next steps. He won’t say if things will reach a legal boiling point.
"We also recognize the potential harm that will come to San Diego if this becomes something much bigger and if this becomes lawsuits," he said. "That isn’t to say that my clients or that others won’t file lawsuits at some point, but at this point I think what’s best for the community is for the mayor to hear our pleas and respond appropriately."
According to Gonzalez, that appropriate response is a resignation letter, which still remains unwritten.
Political scientist Carl Luna said at this point, the only court Filner is being tried in is court of public opinion.
"It's not a legal process, this is a political process, a personal process too in which you want to see social justice, but if the public becomes convinced that the mayor — that he has lost their faith and confidence, I don’t see how he can easily restore that," Luna said.
Filner has looked into the eyes of San Diegans and said “I need help.” Whether or not that is enough to lift the storm clouds that are hovering around him is still uncertain. Equally uncertain is exactly what Filner did and what of what he will stand accused.