San Diego Mayor Set to Resign after 18 Women Allege Sexual Harassment

Friday, August 23, 2013
Mayor Bob Filner

Exuberance among progressives in San Diego over the election of a Democratic mayor in the Republican stronghold last year was short-lived, as Bob Filner quickly came under fire for allegedly groping women before and during his tenure.

On Thursday, he reportedly cleaned out his office and sources close to him said he would resign.

The 10-term congressman was the first Democrat elected mayor of San Diego since 1986. Filner was on bad terms with the GOP even before his election as mayor and his relationship with Republican City Attorney Jan Goldsmith was described as a “political death spiral” in a lawsuit (pdf) filed by a local political watchdog a few months after he took office in December 2012.

The beginning of the end was marked by the resignation of Filner Communications Director Irene McCormack Jackson on June 21. She did not cite her reasons for leaving, but rumors had already begun. On July 10, fellow Democrat and former councilwoman Donna Frey handed Filner a letter demanding his resignation based on “credible” information that he had sexually harassed more than one woman.

The next day, other calls for Filner’s resignation began after Frey was joined by two lawyers in publicly asserting that they knew people he had harassed. Filner responded with an apology (minus any details) for disrespecting women and a pledge he would seek help. But Filner denied he had sexually harassed anyone.

On July 15, Filner’s fiancée announced she had broken off her engagement to him over his sexual proclivities, although she did not accuse him of harassing anyone. A week later, Gloria Allred filed a sexual harassment lawsuit on behalf of McCormack Jackson and if it wasn’t clear before, it was clear now. This scandal wasn’t going away.

And then came an avalanche of accusations. Only July 23, a former deputy campaign manager, Laura Fink, said Filner had patted her ass at a fundraiser in 2005. The next day, Morgan Rose, a psychologist in the San Diego Unified School District, said Filner had tried to kiss her at a 2009 meeting to discuss child welfare. The next day, four women, including a Navy rear admiral and a San Diego State University dean, told tales of sexual harassment.

The accusations continued even after he took off to attend two weeks of therapy, reaching a total of 18 women as of yesterday. Woman number 16 was Peggy Shannon, a 67-year-old great grandmother who said Filner regularly harassed her while she worked part-time at the senior citizen help desk in city hall. Shannon said she went home in tears from work one day after Filner grabbed and kissed her. 

One woman stepped forward to say she had known Filner for decades and he never put any moves on her. But an 18-1 count was pretty damning.

The drumbeat of calls for his resignation was relentless and ranged from serious to ludicrous. The Hooters restaurant in Rancho Bernardo, famous for its less-than-respectful display of tightly-T-shirted female personnel, said they would refuse to serve him. A local TV outlet, controlled by the U-T San Diego newspaper publisher, produced a music video parody that mocked Filner. And just about every comedian took time out from ridiculing New York mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner to heap scorn upon the San Diego mayor. The Huffington Post regularly called him “Filthy Filner” in headlines.

Demands for his resignation rolled in from both political parties, locally and nationally. A recall campaign had begun. Someone changed the locks on his office.

And so, almost certainly, ends the brief tenure of San Diego’s Democratic mayor. He was in discussions this week, mediated by retired federal Judge J. Lawrence Irving, over the pending lawsuits and terms of his resignation. The agreement they reached will reportedly be discussed by the city council in closed session today.

The Los Angeles Times reported that its sources are saying the city will agree to pick up Filner’s legal costs and cover his share of damages incurred in court. Attorney Allred said she will fight hard to see that doesn’t happen.

Meanwhile, the nation’s eighth largest city will be without a functioning elected mayor for at least a little while longer.

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

Reports: Bob Filner to Resign as San Diego Mayor (by Catalina Camia, USA Today)

Bob Filner to Resign as Part of a Sexual Harassment Lawsuit Deal (by Tony Perry, Los Angeles Times)

Timeline of San Diego Mayor Bob Filner Scandal (Associated Press)

San Diego Mayor Refuses to Resign as Political Brawl Gets Personal (by Ken Broder, AllGov California)

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