MAYOR FILNER ASSERTS INNOCENCE IN SEXUAL HARASSMENT CLAIMS, CALLS FOR INDEPENDENT REVIEW

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By Miriam Raftery

July 12, 2013 (San Diego) – Mayor Bob Filner today announced support for an  independent investigation into any complaints of sexual harassment by women on his staff and added that he believes the investigation will clear him of legal wrongdoing.

“While I stand by my comments and pledge of yesterday to make changes to improve the workplace environment in my office, I am confident that a fair and independent investigation will support my innocence with respect to any charges of sexual harassment,” Mayor Filner said in a statement issued today. 

The announcement comes one day after three of his long-time supporters called for his resignation, alleging to have credible evidence of sexual harassment complaints made by multiple women who worked for the Mayor. None of the women have been identified and details of the alleged harassment have not been disclosed.

However Mayor Filner yesterday admitted to showing a lack of respect for some women  on his staff and further indicated some of his actions may have been “intimidating.” He further stated that he plans to seek “help.”  Today he made clear that in his view, his actions stopped short of anything illegal.

The Mayor’s statement today also laid out a process for the independent investigation.

“Consistent with the email sent to all employees yesterday by the Human Resources Department, the City’s EEO Policy was established to ensure that all City employees, contract workers, and volunteers are aware of their rights and responsibilities, and that the workplace is free from discrimination, harassment, and/or retaliation in any form,” he stated. ““If a claim is made, the City has a 100% response policy.  The City will respond, and take necessary steps to investigate reports of discrimination, harassment, or retaliation made in the workplace and will take appropriate action.”

Filner added that he is “committed to ensuring a full, complete and independent investigation in response to any formal complaint against me.  To ensure the independence of an investigation, all complaints will be referred to the City’s Equal Opportunity Investigative Office (EEIO) which does not report to me.”  Further, he stated, “If there are concerns related to the City conducting the investigation, I will authorize the use of an outside independent investigator.”

County Democratic Chair Francine Busby today announced that the Central Committee will hold a special meeting to address the issue.

The Party has supported Bob Filner's vision for listening to neighborhoods, celebrating diversity, investing in working families, and embracing progress. San Diegans voted for him because of his vision,” Busby wrote. "However, sexual harrasment is unacceptable at any level of government or workplace."

Busby indicated that she opted to convene a special meeting after learning “ a few specifics” regarding the matter.  ""I have heard from many of our constituents about their concerns that this scandal is drawing attention away from the important issues our city faces. Our priority is to ensure that the Office of the Mayor is leading San Diego effectively." 

Council member Marti Emerald voiced support for the Mayor.  “I commend Mayor Filner for the courage to admit he has made mistakes and for his commitment to change his behavior,” said Emerald. “I hope the people of San Diego will support Mayor Filner in his effort to make a change and continue to make a positive difference in our city.”



But three other Councilmembers yesterday added their voices to those calling for the mayor’s resignation: Kevin Faulconer, Scott Sherman and Lori Zapf.

“As a woman, I am deeply troubled by this behavior,” Zapf said, Fox 5 news reported. “As an elected official who represents the citizens of San Diego, I am saddened for what this means for our City. I ask that the Mayor do the honorable thing and step down.”

 

Comments

Accusations Against Bob Filner

The accusations against Mayor Filner are quite serious; both regarding sexual harrassment and $100,000 received and later returned. I voted for Filner and sincerely believe that he has devoted his life to improving blue collar and working class life, including risking his life as a freedom rider back in the 1960s; but none of this excuse such behavior if true. A few years ago he was involved in an altercation at an airport which is being played up today. Unfortunately, it isn't clear exactly what occurred so I would rather focus on the current allegations.

Women have for many years been subject to unacceptible treatment in the workplace, not just sexual harrassment, bad enough; but also lower pay for work as good or better than male colleagues. However, what is sexual harrassment? Obviously inappropriate touching or pressure to engage in sexual acts needs no nuanced legal hairsplitting; but childish, possibly innocent banter can be overreacted to. It should be reported and stopped; but given some people's threshold and values make them overly sensitive, it is important for the media to not overreact. There is also the possibility of a type of contagious hysteria, that is one woman's perceptions affect the perception of others.

As for the $100,000 which might have been a potential bribe, appears as such, the question is whether Filner was aware of this or whether one of his Lieutenants was responsible without his knowledge.

Both accusations are extremely serious; but, unfortunately, our major source is the San Diego U-T, not exactly an unbiased source when they have repeatedly breached long standing journalistic ethics, namely, mixing their editorial page with their news page and literally placing endorcements for Filner's rival, Carl DiMaio, on the front page.

I'm not an expert in law or politics; but what I suggest is Filner be temporarily relieved of his duties as Mayor, replaced by a Deputy Mayor, Todd Gloria, while the FBI launch a rapid and thorough investigation of both accusations. If clear evidence for either or both is found then not only should he step down; but criminal prosecution should follow. If the FBI finds no evidence of criminal activity then he should be allowed to resume his duties as mayor. Nothing less will protect both the women accusers, other women who may not have come forward, if true, Mayor Filner, and the citizens of San Diego. While every single accusation may be true, it would also be a disservice to the citizens and our democracy if any election can be nullified simply by accusations and a biased media.

I voted for Filner and if he is guilty, he should pay the price; but given the level of polical discourse in the U.S., I reserve judgment until an actual investigation is carried out and not by the City Attorney's Office given the animosity existing between Filner and Goldsmith.

Addendum: In Sunday's U-T their front page story, "Did he cross the line?", for the U-T appears to be quite balanced and fair. Filner is portrayed as having a consistent long standing support for causes that benefit women, minorities, and working class people. He is also portrayed as abrasive, not a desirable trait; but certainly not criminal. The story describes his repeatedly asking women, both lobbyists and those working in his office, for dates, not taking "no" for an answer. Other interviewed women neither experienced nor perceived inappropriate behavior by Filner. The question then is whether his requesting dates disrupted the women's ability to work and/or there was an implied threat to their job? If their jobs were threatened, that would be sexual harrassment, no if's, and's, or but's; but whether it "disrupted" someone's work performance can be quite subjective and this needs to be thoroughly investigated. Donna Frye and others may honestly believe what they were told; but I've lived long enough to have seen honest people mislead, not necessarily by dishonest people; but by people with their own problems and the perceptions that follow.

I repeat my suggestion that for the sake of democracy, for fair play, that Bob Filner take a temporary leave of absence with Todd Gloria functioning as "acting mayor" while a rapid thorough investigation is carried out by the FBI, both on the sexual harrassment charges and the alleged $100,000 bribe. Perhaps 60 days would be sufficient?

Though the U-T's Sunday article appeared to meet standards of quality journalism, unfortunately, the U-T's editorial page didn't. In the same Sunday paper was an editorial by Carl DiMaio, though not related to the Filner case, and another by Michael J. Pallamary, dredging up allegations on events from over 20 years ago. Whereas years ago, though conservative, the U-T would have arranged for an "opposing" view, something rare to non-existent nowadays.

What bothers me most is not the possibility that someone I voted for may be removed from office and face criminal prosecution; but how many have already made up their minds based solely on allegations. Though I have also been guilty of prejudging, I try to do my best to keep an open mind. Do we believe in a system of fair impartial justice or prefer a lynch mob mentality?