Photo: Filner and Frye earlier this year joined in presenting open government award to Terry Francke at Californians Aware, an organization Frye now heads after leaving the Filner administration.
By Nadin Abbott
Miriam Raftery also contributed to this story
July 11, 2013 (San Diego) – At a press conference today, three former supporters of Mayor Bob Filner called for his resignation, claiming to have credible evidence of sexual harassment involving multiple women. They declined to provide any details on the alleged acts of harassment, nor have any of the women been publicly identified. However, Mayor Filner has acknowledged failing to respect women in his workplace and admitted to needing help.
Donna Frye, formerly Filner’s Director of Open Government as well as a past Council member and former mayoral candidate, joined with attorneys Cory Briggs and Marco Gonzalez in asking the Mayor to step down. Hear audio of today's press conference from KNSJ 89.1 FM news: https://soundcloud.com/mikehancock/frye
Briggs said that there is a time when core values of “honesty, respect and adherence to the rule of law” take precedence over political and personal alliances. He added, “Mayor Filner needs to do the right thing and step down.”
Frye told media that on July 9, she delivered a personal letter to the Mayor, where she “respectfully asked him to step down” for the well being of the city. She added that once the letter was made public by a third party, she received even more calls from women with “credible first hand evidence.”
In a voice choked with emotion, Frye said this was “one of the hardest decisions I have made.” But there are “community standards that need to be upheld.” She added that she realized that this could become a side show and a media show, and is willing to put her reputation on the line.
This afternoon, Mayor Filner issued a statement apologizing for his actions and admitted that he needs help. "If my behavior doesn't change, I cannot succeed in leading our city," the Mayor said. "You have every right to be disappointed in me. I only ask that you give me an opportunity to provie I am capable of change, so that the vision I have for our city's future can be realized." View video at ECM news partner 10 News' site: http://www.10news.com/news/san-diego-mayor-bob-filner-releases-statement...
Can such a mea-culpa strategy work to restore Filner's political careeer? The American people have traditionally been more forgiving of political leaders who admit wrongs, apologize and seek counseling than of those who adamently refuse to admit to failings. The Mayor has weathered other controversies in the past, including pleading no contest to a misdemeanor charge of trespass after a baggage handler claimed he pushed her back in 2007.
Sexual harassment can include a broad range of conduct, ranging from verbal banter to groping. It is unclear precisely what conduct the Mayor is accused of, since neither his accusers nor those calling for his resignation have revealed any specifics.
If the Mayor resigns in the near future, it would trigger a special election to fill the spot. Asked if she would run for Mayor should Filner resign, Frye adamantly denied any plans to seek the office.
If Mayor Filner remains in office, the vague accusations of sexual harassment coming from supporters joins a growing list of controversies. The most serious of those is an allegation that he accepted $100,000 from developer Sunroad in exchange for changing a vote to push through a project, after winning additional concessions from the developer for the city. Filner later returned the donation. Other media outlets have reported that the FBI is investigating the Sunroad controversy.
Frye asked the media not to “go hunt these women down.” She added that the reason women are reluctant to come forward when sexually harassed is because of how they are treated.
Gonzalez echoed Frye in saying that “we did not come to this decision lightly.” He also said that it “was not our place to relate what those women went through.” In time the alleged victims may choose to tell their stories in a court of law, he suggested, though no legal actions have been filed.
When he was asked how many women, he just said, “numerous.” Though he did say that for the moment he does not know of any criminal allegations. He denied any ulterior motives and added that the future is now up to the Mayor.
News that Filner’s fiancé, Bronwyn Ingram, has broken off the relationship has further fueled speculation. Ingram had headed up efforts at the Mayor’s office to help the homeless.
Filner’s office has recently seen two other high-profile resignations, including Irene McCormack, his director of communications, and Allen Jones, deputy chief of staff who resigned after criticizing the mayor’s treatment of staff.
San Diegans react to allegations
Political insiders across San Diego shared their reactions to the allegations - though these statements were made prior to the Mayor's admissions of inappropriate behavior.
“I take allegations of sexual harassment very seriously, as does the Democratic Party,” San Diego Democratic Party Chair Francine Busby said in a statement issued yesterday, after Frye’s letter was leaked to the media. “The information currently available about these claims is not specific, and key questions remain to be answered both by Mayor Filner and those leveling charges.”
Some rose to the Mayor’s defense, while others leveled criticism.
Jonathan Goetz, who worked on Filner’s campaign and has known the former Congressman for nearly a decade, recalled that Filner was “the only local member of Congress to come out against Randy `Duke’ Cunningham, who at the time was accepting millions of dollars in bribes from defense contractors.
Asked how Filner treated women in his campaign, Goetz replied, “Typically when I saw Bob he was with Bronwyn, and he always doted on her. She was the center of his universe. I never saw him disrespect anyone. He aws always respectful to everyone, even the occasional heckler.”
Goetz concluded, “Filner should absolutely not resign. The Bob Filner I know is a man of principle. He risked his personal safety when he worked on voter registration in the south. He has always looked out for schools, veterans, infrastructure and public safety.” He added that the Mayor has fought to strengthen the middle class and bring good-paying jobs to the area, including the bio/green/tech cluster. “He has shaken things up at City Hall, and he’s angered a lto of people used to having a puppet in the mayor’s seat,” Goetz said. “His vision for San Diego is still the right visio…and Bob is still the person voters elected to see it through.”
Republican Councilman Kevin Faulconer, however, called the allegations “very serious” and said Filner owes the public an explanation. ““It saddens me that the city of San Diego is crumbling under Mayor Filner’s scandals, including the most recent sexual misconduct allegations,” Faulconer added.
Richard Rider, Chairman of San Diego Tax Fighters, posted speculation on the city’s future at the SD Rostra blog frequented by conservatives and Libertarians. “As I predicted, liberals will start distancing themselves from the loose cannon that is Comrade Filner,” Rider wrote. “Assuming that a special election will be held (either from resignation, conviction, or recall), the Dems want to be in a position to back a more winnable Democrat candidate — maybe Todd Gloria or Nathan Fletcher (assuming he stays a Democrat that long).”