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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

San Diego Mayor Dismisses Calls to Step Down Amid Sexual Harassment Allegations

Onetime supporters release new details about allegations of sexual harassment against San Diego’s mayor, Bob Filner.

Mayor Bob Filner of San Diego, who posted a YouTube video last week apologizing for his treatment of women in his office, dismissed calls for his resignation as new details of sexual harassment allegations against him were revealed.

Donna Frye, a former city councilwoman and member of his administration, was among a group of former supporters who called for his resignation on Monday and shared stories about his conduct with three specific women.

According to Ms. Frye and two lawyers, Mr. Filner, 70, is accused of grabbing the buttocks of women and shoving his hands down their chests to touch their breasts. One woman told Ms. Frye that he had attempted to kiss her and force his tongue down her throat as they stood on a public sidewalk.

Marco Gonzalez, a lawyer, said at least three women told them Mr. Filner had made inappropriate remarks. During one exchange with a female staff member in an City Hall elevator, Mr. Filner said that female employees would do better “if they worked without their panties on,” according to Mr. Gonzalez.

“He does not deserve to be the mayor of this city any longer,” Mr. Gonzalez said.

The calls for Mr. Filner to step down began last week after initial allegations were made public and he issued his apology on video. Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, who is the sister of Mr. Gonzalez, called for him to resign last Friday after supporting his mayoral candidacy.

Other Democrats seeking his resignation include the Assembly majority leader, Toni Atkins; City Council president, Todd Gloria; and Councilman David Alvarez.

On Monday, Representative Scott Peters, a Democrat, called Mr. Filner at City Hall, to tell him to step down.

Representative Susan Davis, a Democrat from San Diego, and longtime ally of Mr. Filner, also said that he should resign because of his “unacceptable” behavior. In a statement, she said:

Despite his inclusive vision for San Diego, Mayor Filner has lost the confidence of San Diegans to lead. He has taken advantage of the trust the voters placed in him â€" and lost both the promise and capacity to ignite positive change. His behavior, if not illegal, is reprehensible.

The stories that are coming forth, even though they are not formal complaints, resonate with people because they have seen the mayor’s inappropriate behavior. Women do not make up these stories and these charges are not levied without great courage. The mayor’s lack of understanding of the debilitating effects of sexual harassment, intimidation, and bullying is an affront to all.

Although we have never had a smooth relationship, I have respected his passion for our city and his interest to change the way business is done. But all of that is now lost because he did not have enough passion for the city to curb his incomprehensible and unacceptable behavior.

But on Monday night, Mr. Filner told KUSI-TV in San Diego that he was not giving up the office that he has held for less than a year. He denied the allegations and said he would be “vindicated in the end.”

“There have been no formal complaints,” he said, and added that he was entitled to due process. “No charges in a fair way that I can deal with.”

In the interview, he described himself as a “very demonstrative person” who was perhaps unaware of how his actions may be perceived as inappropriate.

“I am a hugger of both men and women,” he said. “As it turns out, those are taken in an offensive manner, I need to have a greater self awareness of what I am doing. And I am taking those steps.”

Video of San Diego’s mayor, Bob Filner, from KUSI-TV.

On Friday, in his video posted on YouTube and the mayor’s official Web site, Mr. Filner apologized for not showing respect to women in his office and said that he was getting help to change his behavior and approach toward women.

YouTube video of San Diego’s mayor, Bob Filner, apologizing for his behavior.

After he posted the video, Bronwyn Ingram, his former fiancée, called for his resignation. She told KPBS radio that she ended their relationship because he had become increasingly abusive to her and had started to send sexually explicit text messages to women in front of her.

Ms. Ingram described what she called a “severe deterioration in Bob’s ability to engage with anyone in a civil manner, myself included.” During a recent trip to Paris, she said Mr. Filner screamed at her in public without provocation, among other “inappropriate and disrespectful acts.”

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