Mayor Bob Filner: More Sexual Harassment Allegations (Update)

The Beginning of the End

Begininng of the EndThe list of women to come forward continues to grow for San Diego Mayor Bob Filner. Multiple women have already gone public alleging unwanted advances from Filner. Filner’s former communications director, Irene McCormack Jackson filed started the ball rolling by being the first woman to publicly speak out. McCormack Jackson filed a lawsuit in San Diego County Superior Court seeking unspecified damages for Filner’s treatment of her. The lawsuit alleges that he frequently put her in a headlock, made sexual comments, and, on one occasion, said she should work without her panties on.

At this time a total of seven women have now accused Mayor Bob Filner of sexual misconduct, including four in a group interview Thursday night on public television.

The latest women to accuse Filner are a retired Navy admiral, a San Diego State University dean, a leader in the city’s tourism industry, and head of a group of business owners who are tenants of the San Diego Port District.

Joyce Gattas, dean of the College of Professional Studies and Fine Arts, told KPBS that Filner held her tightly, kissed her and put his hands on her knee. Also this week, a school psychologist said he tried to kiss her and a political consultant accused Filner of patting her buttocks.

Filner disputed the lawsuit’s claims in a statement, and said he was “saddened” by the charges against him. However, he has chosen to “stand his ground” and has resisted calls for his resignation.

All seven of his accusers have called for him to resign. Six of nine members of the City Council have done the same, as have several prominent San Diego Democrats, including Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez and Reps. Scott Peters and Susan Davis.

San Diego city councilwoman Donna Frye has also accused the mayor of harassing women whose names have not been released. One said that the mayor had made unwelcome advances and “jammed his tongue down” her throat. Another woman said that Filner groped her and suggested she stop wearing panties.

The numerous accusations have prompted the City Council President to advise “uncomfortable” city employees to use an “alternative workspace” farther from the mayor’ office “to ensure a safe work environment and maintain productivity.

Although the Sheriff’s Department has opened a hotline to field allegations against Filner, there is no indication that a criminal investigation is underway. The City Charter, however, contains no provision for impeachment. Without a voluntary resignation, the only means for ousting a mayor are a recall election or conviction of a felony.

The National Women’s Veterans Assn. of America on Wednesday withdrew its invitation to have Filner speak at his convention in San Diego next month. The group cited the lawsuit filed against Filner by Jackson

As opposed to resigning Filner has opted to “resign” some of his former staff. He’s replaced several of his former staff members. The staff changes have not changed the views of the majority of City Council members who insist that Filner should resign. “It’s clear that it doesn’t matter how many staff changes Bob Filner makes — it’s Filner who’s the problem and it’s Filner who must go,” said Councilman Kevin Faulconer, the senior Republican on the council.

What’s sad is Filner has failed to realize that his next season in life can be no different than the way he chooses to behave. He can change cities, spouses, hair styles and even staff only to find himself in the same nonsense as before. This vicious cycle of insanity has been witnessed far too often. Once he decides to get off the merry go round, he can start navigating towards a better life.

Laura Fink said she didn’t go public with the incidents she endured at the time they occurred because she was trying to build her political career. But she said she now feels emboldened to tell her story after Filner’s former spokeswoman, Irene McCormack Jackson, sued him for sexual harassment Monday.

This is just the start of a long road downhill for the San Diego Mayor. Perhaps, if he had not let his ego drive his choices, at 70-years-old, he could have resigned and dealt with the consequences of his behavior on a less weighty scale. The plot has thickened and one can only imagine how quickly it will solidify.

By:  Cherese Jackson (Virginia)
Op-Ed

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