Details of San Diego Mayor Bob Filner’s alleged sexual harassment begin to emerge
By City News Service
Former supporters of San Diego Mayor Bob Filner renewed their call for his resignation Monday, July 15, detailing sexual harassment claims against him, which include jamming his tongue down a woman’s throat, putting his hand inside her bra and telling another she would do better work without panties on.
Former Councilwoman Donna Frye alleged that a pattern of behavior had emerged that included questioning a woman’s relationship status, isolating her, asking for a later meeting, making sexual comments and “physically imposing himself upon her.”
“Bob Filner is tragically unsafe for any woman to approach, and again we call on the mayor to resign and we want the women of this city and the people who love them to know that sexual abuse and this behavior is not normal, not their fault and they are not to blame — Bob Filner is to blame,” Frye said.
Filner did not respond directly to the allegations made by Frye and two attorneys at a news conference. But Monday morning, in announcing staff changes and reiterating that he has no plans to step down, he released a statement saying that as the city’s elected mayor, “I fully expect to be accountable to the citizens of San Diego for all of my actions.”
“As a citizen of this country, I also expect — and am entitled to — due process, and the opportunity to respond in a fair and impartial venue to specific allegations. I do not believe I am guilty of sexual harassment, and I believe a full presentation of the facts will vindicate me,’' Filner said.
Frye said one woman has alleged that during a meeting, Filner sent a staffer away and then inquired whether she was single and asked for a date and if he could kiss her. Without waiting for a response, he allegedly grabbed her and kissed her, according to Frye, who said the woman pulled away and left.
Another woman who met with the mayor in a public location alleges that he called her beautiful, asked to kiss her, then “suddenly, and in clear view of anyone who might pass by, grabbed and kissed her — jamming his tongue down her throat,’' Frye said.
As the woman gave Filner a ride home, he “had his hand on the inside of her bra and was again trying to put his tongue down her throat,’' Frye alleged.
Frye, along with attorneys Marco Gonzalez and Cory Briggs, reiterated their calls for Filner to resign immediately.
According to Gonzalez, an employee of the mayor’s office alleges that Filner “grabbed her ass and touched her chest,” and says she witnessed the mayor try to kiss another employee and make rude comments.
“There is no circumstance that it would be appropriate for the mayor to enter into an elevator with my client or any person who he employs and to tell them that they would do a better job on that floor if they worked without their panties on,’' Gonzalez said.
The attorney described the so-called “Filner Headlock,” in which the mayor allegedly puts his arm around a woman and pulls her away; and the “Filner Dance,” the process of a woman trying to rebuke an attempt to kiss her.
Gonzalez said a sexual harassment claim — a precursor to a lawsuit — would be filed with the city.
He said that Filner’s recent taped apology, in which he acknowledged that he failed to fully respect women and at times intimidated them, but denied sexually harassing anyone, was incriminating.
“For purposes of the claim that will come forward and potentially the lawsuits, the mayor has already admitted violating the sexual harassment policy,” Gonzalez said.
Briggs said the trio was trying to balance the public’s right to know with the right to privacy of the women involved.
Filner, in his statement early July 15, said those calling for his resignation justified their demands with claims that city operations would be compromised. In response, he said he has appointed former county Chief Administrative Officer Walt Ekard as the city’s interim chief operating officer — a move he said was intended to strengthen city management.
Ekard in turn appointed Scott Chadwick, who had been the city’s interim COO, as the assistant chief operating officer, and named Judy VonKalinowski as human resources director, according to Filner. She had been serving in that role on an interim basis.
KPBS reported this morning that Filner’s former fiancee, Bronwyn Ingram, said she recently broke off their engagement because he was verbally abusive toward her and blatantly sent sexually explicit text messages to other women.
Bronwyn Ingram, 48, said she also believed the 70-year-old mayor, who was elected in November, should resign.
Ingram said Filner’s ability to lead has been impaired by numerous recent controversies. However, she said that she had no direct knowledge of the sexual harassment allegations made against Filner.
“While I had heard rumors that he was engaging in sexual relationships with other women, I was never able to determine their validity,’' Ingram said in her statement.
Ingram and Filner dated for more than three years prior to her announcing their split last week.