SAN DIEGO – July 26, 2013 – The mayor of San Diego, the nation’s sixth largest city, announced Friday he would enter a behavioral rehab facility for two weeks of intensive counseling on August 5 after revelations accusing him of multiple incidents of sexual harrassment. Bob Filner said he will be briefed on city business during his absence and will return to office on August 19.
But Filner has stubbornly refused calls for his resignation from former supporters, local and national Democratic Party officials, voters, and from the women who have come forward (so far) to share lurid details of Filner’s disgusting, despicable behavior.
Anonymous accusations became a full blown crisis when attorney Gloria Allred announced Monday the filing of a civil lawsuit against Filner on behalf of his former communications director Irene McCormack Jackson. (See PDF of McCormack Jackson vs. Filner above left)
Filner apologized to the people of San Diego, and “most of all, I apologize to the women I have offended.”
The apology fell far short for his accusers and for all San Diegans calling upon him to resign. Allred said Filner should not need therapy to understand that women “should not be treated like pieces of meat.”
“Mayor Filner has harmed many women, including my client Irene McCormack Jackson. He should resign immediately,” Allred wrote. ”I view his decision to seek therapy as a ploy to stay in power and to try to gain sympathy.”
San Diego City Council President Todd Gloria said, “Bob Filner’s announcement that he will be taking a leave of absence prolongs the pain he is inflicting on our city at a time when San Diegans are calling for an end to this civic nightmare.”
San Diegans generally ignore the routine bad behavior downtown at City Hall. When it’s sunny and the surf is up – which is nearly every day year round – it’s of little interest.
But when details continue to surface from women about being trapped by the “Filner headlock,” being groped, propositioned, subjected to sexual comments and demands for kisses, even telling a staff member she would do a better job if she came to work without any panties on, citizens are disgusted and embarrassed.
Since Monday, a parade of professional women have come forward with similar stories of unwanted sexual come-ons, intimidating and harassment.
Ronne Froman, who retired from the Navy in 2001 and was chief operating officer of the City of San Diego under Filner’s predecessor Jerry Sanders, told KPBS-TV at a meeting several years ago, Filner blocked the doorway preventing her from leaving the room and came up close to her.
“And he ran his finger up my cheek like this and he whispered to me, ‘Do you have a man in your life?’” Froman said. “I jumped back. I was very, very startled … I was really rattled, I got in the car with the two guys I was working with and I told them never to leave me alone in a room with Bob Filner again.”
Businesswoman Patti Roscoe told KPBS on numerous occasions, Filner “put in me what I guess now is the famous headlock; and I felt fearful, even as well as I knew him, because it was an invasion into my space,” Roscoe said. “And he would come in and try to kiss me on the lips and I’d have to squirm to get away. And just as recently as a few months ago this happened. I turned and he just slobbered down my chin.
“And I was so violated and so offended. It’s just such a terrible invasion.”
This is no bimbo eruption. Filner’s accusers are credible with unassailable reputations and would never be called shrinking violets.
Across the country, people are equally repulsed by revelations that New York mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner continued sexting and pursuing women after he resigned from Congress, posting under the name “Carlos Danger.” Weiner remains in the race, but is now trailing his Democratic primary opponent according to polls.
It’s a mistake though to consider these two incidents to be sex scandals on the same level. There is no doubt the behavior of both men is compulsive, driven by narcissism to an extreme, and their lack of impulse control alone renders them unfit to hold public office representing constituents.
Filner’s transgressions rank as the far more serious. The Filner scandal isn’t a sex scandal. Harassment in the workplace or in a professional setting isn’t about sex. It’s about the abuse of power, which should automatically render an individual unfit to old public office. Filner is a predator, not a pervert.
Filner intimidated, abused, and bullied women for his own gratification. He leveraged his position of political power to treat women as he pleased. He told McCormack Jackson he would do anything he wanted to her, because “I’m the Mayor.”
Whatever unsavory things Weiner did, the women were willing participants. They didn’t have official political business with him and they didn’t work for him. Skeevy to be sure, but not abusive to anyone save his wife Huma Abedin. We can only hope New York voters make the Weiner problem go away on September 10.
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 of a felony, or a recall. Such a recall effort is getting underway, but there are numerous barriers including the need to gather over 100,000 valid voter signatures in 39 days to place the recall on the ballot.
With no immediate end to the Filner fiasco in sight, San Diegans need to hang in there until December 20, the release date for “Anchorman 2.” At least we’ll get some comic relief from the situation by then. Stay classy, San Diego.
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.
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Copyright © 2013 by Falcon Valley Group
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