San Diego Democrats Call For Filner To Resign
The San Diego Democratic Party tonight called on Mayor Bob Filner to resign. The action came on a day when four more prominent San Diego women came forward in an exclusive KPBS interview with allegations of sexual improprieties against the mayor.
Party committee members met last Thursday for more than three hours but failed to reach a consensus on whether to support the 70-year-old Filner, whose resignation is being clamored for by several local office holders and civic leaders, both Democrat and Republican.
In a statement released after last week's meeting, committee chairwoman Francine Busby said that although committee members were divided, there would be grounds for Filner's resignation if the sexual harassment allegations turn out to be true.
Busby said after this week's meeting the mood was notably different. Last week the meeting lasted for hours, with parties on all sides calling out for different outcomes. A source told KPBS that younger democrats were calling for a new leader, while some of the more stalwart old school were standing by the historically progressive mayor.
This Thursday the vote was 34 to 6, in favor of asking the embattled mayor to resign his post. Busby said everyone in the room was quiet but there was a sense of deep betrayal.
"It's so sad" Busby said, "because he has worked his entire life for veterans, for women, for children, for the border community — he's been a friend and he has been there." But she added, "it is heartbreaking that this long progressive career, the man we thought he was, is not the man he seems to be."
Busby also said that what so many took for something light-hearted has turned deadly seriously in the gaze of recent allegations.
"People have been with the mayor when he said something inappropriate and told a joke, but the extent of this extreme behavior is beyond what we would have imagined," she said. "Nobody saw the big picture, that he is a democrat treating women like this."
Busby said for many, the allegations are a disconnect between the mayor's progressive policies and the alleged actions that have surfaced in the past week.
Laura Fink, the first woman to speak to KPBS about allegations that the mayor had been inappropriate, was at the meeting. Busby said that many in the crowd congratulated her on her "courage in coming forward."
Filner was first publicly accused of sexual harassment about two weeks ago when three of his former political allies held a joint news conference to announce they had evidence he had engaged in it and that he should step down immediately. The trio, which included former Councilwoman Donna Frye, initially declined to discuss specific allegations, citing a need for privacy for the women involved.
On Monday, Filner's former communications director became the first woman to publicly describe his allegedly offensive conduct.
Irene McCormack Jackson, 57, said that while she worked in the Mayor's Office, Filner held her in a headlock while demanding kisses. She also alleged the mayor told her she should work without her panties on, that he wanted to see her naked, that he could not wait to consummate their relationship and that he wanted to marry her.
Jackson has filed a lawsuit in San Diego Superior Court against Filner and the city. It seeks unspecified damages. She is being represented by high-profile Los Angeles-based attorney Gloria Allred.
Since then, six more women have come forth detailing sexual harassment incidents involving the mayor at various events and private encounters over recent years.
City Attorney Jan Goldsmith, who himself has feuded with the mayor on several occasions, said his office will defend the city, while Filner will be represented by lawyer Harvey Berger, possibly at the city's expense.
Pending the outcome of the lawsuit, Filner is restricted from meeting alone with women at city facilities.
"At my request, the mayor is not to meet with women alone at city facilities,'' Goldsmith said. "That was agreed to by his lawyer, and it is being enforced by the chief of staff, deputy chief of staff. The chief of police is also aware of that and has made certain commitments.''
After Jackson came forward, Fink, a former campaign staffer said Filner patted her bottom at a 2005 fundraising event, when he was a congressman. Fink said she demanded an apology from Filner in an email and received a mumbled "I'm sorry'' a couple of days later.
Filner's third alleged victim is San Diego Unified School District psychologist Morgan Rose, who said she met with Filner in 2009 at a restaurant across from his congressional office to discuss her initiative dedicated to the well-being of America's children. She said that during their discussion, he told her "your eyes have bewitched me'' and moved next to her.
Rose said Filner tried to kiss her four times and only stopped when he received a phone call. She quoted him as saying he wouldn't budge until she kissed him.
Rose said she has called a hotline set up by the San Diego County Sheriff's Department to take complaints against the mayor. The department has been designated as the lead law enforcement agency for investigating the claims.
Filner initially apologized for mistreating women in his office, admitting that he failed to fully respect the women who work for him and with him and that at times, he intimidated them. Later, he said his actions did not constitute sexual harassment.
In rebuffing calls for his resignation, Filner, who was elected last November, said he's working with professionals to make changes in his behavior and he wants an opportunity to prove he's capable of change.
Following Monday's announcement from Jackson, Filner said in a statement that he was saddened by the charges that were leveled against him.
"Once due process is allowed to unfold, I am certain there will be a better understanding of this situation,'' he said.
He also asked San Diegans to avoid a rush to judgment.
"I do not believe these claims are valid,'' Filner said. "This is why due process is so important. I intend to defend myself vigorously and I know that justice will prevail.''