SAN DIEGO, August 6, 2013 — Allegations of sexual harassment aginast Mayor Bob Filner of San Diego reached a new level Tuesday as two women came forward to accuse Filner of using his office to extort sexual favors in exchange for helping a female Marine Corps disabled veteran.
At a news conference called by attorney Gloria Allred, nurse Michelle Tyler said she arranged a meeting on June 11 with Filner in an effort to get help for a Marine Corps veteran, Katherine Ragazzino, suffering a traumatic brain injury following her deployment to Iraq.
Tyler said she wanted the Mayor’s help with the Veterans Administration on behalf of Ragazzino. The women and an unidentified vetreans representative attended the meeting.
Tyler said after Filner agreed to help and the meeting ended, Filner asked to talk with Tyler alone. She said Filner began “rubbing my arm and telling me to relax … (it) was extremely inappropriate and unacceptable … I was not there looking for a date.
“I thought the mayor wanted to ask me questions about Katherine’s injuries and level of care,” Tyler said. “Instead, I was stunned to find he suddenly changed the conversation from professional to personal.”
Allred said the mayor made advances on Tyler and asked for her phone number. She said Filner told Tyler that if they weren’t in his office, he would like to kiss her.
Tyler told him to stop and got up to leave, Allred said. As Tyler left the office, the mayor told her, “I’m going to call you.” Allred said it was clear Filner’s help for Ragazzino was contingent on Tyler providing him “personal and sexual favors.”
Tyler said, “His help for Kathryn depended on my willingness” to be with him and it was “absolutely unwanted.”
Tyler started to sob when she said Filner should not have used his position of power for making unwanted advances.
“It is wrong, and that is why I am speaking out today,” Tyler said.
Veteran Katherine Ragazzino was visibly nervous at the news conference. “I don’t appreciate being used as a bargaining chip to be used to fulfill his sexual desires,” the injured Marine said. Ragazzino was left homeless following her injury. “Mayor Filner has increased the stress level for both of us and made things worse,” the veteran said.
No civil lawsuit is being filed. However, attorney Allred said the women were scheduled to speak with San Diego County sheriff’s investigators Tuesday afternoon at the California state attorney general’s office. Allred also said she has asked the San Diego city attorney to launch its own investigation into Tyler’s experience.
“I think it’s time for the city to post a warning sign outside the mayor’s office warning women to proceed at their own risk … that danger may lie ahead if they enter,” Allred said. She held up a sign as an example.
San Diegans expressed a new level of outrage and white-hot anger at the mayor’s reported actions, posting to social media and calling radio talk shows. Both men and women were in tears as they discussed how upset they were about the treatment of a wounded warrior.
A protest is being planned by veterans for Friday in front of City Hall calling for Mayor Filner’s immediate resignation. Filner crossed a line that even his most loyal supporters can no longer ignore. This is far beyond the kind of stuff built for late-night comedians to lampoon.
Mayor Filner is in his second day of attended a behavioral rehab progam at an unknown location, rumored to be in either Arizona or Nevada. Filner said he will be briefed on city business during his absence and will return to office on August 19.
Filner has indicated no intention of resigning despite a parade of women who have come forward to share lurid details of Filner’s behavior. Attorney Allred encouraged women who have yet to come forward to call the San Diego County Sheriff’s hotline set up for reporting incidents.
New York voters can make their Anthony Weiner problem go away on September 10, the date of the Democratic mayoral primary. San Diego voters aren’t so lucky. The only methods to remove a sitting mayor in San Diego if he does not resign willingly are conviction for a felony, or a recall. It’s not wise to make San Diego’s sailors and Marines and their friends angry, and a recall effort is getting underway. There are numerous barriers, however, including the need to gather over 100,000 valid voter signatures in 39 days to place the recall on the ballot.
It is the first time in memory that San Diego voters envy New York voters. They would trade for Anthony Weiner in a heartbeat at this moment.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is a veteran award-winning print and broadcast journalist. She is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California.
Please credit “Gayle Falkenthal for Communities at WashingtonTimes.com” when quoting from or linking to this story.
Copyright © 2013 by Falcon Valley Group
This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ WashingtonTimes.com. Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.