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Democratic Party officials ask San Diego Mayor Bob Filner to quit

Four women appear on TV together to say Filner sexually harassed them; seven women have now accused the mayor of such misconduct.

July 25, 2013|By Tony Perry
  • Four more San Diego women came forth accusing Mayor Bob Filner of sexual advances. From left are retired Navy Rear Admiral Veronica Froman; Joyce Gattas, dean of the College of Professional Studies and Fine Arts at SDSU; Sharon Bernie-Cloward, president of the San Diego Port Tenants Assn.; and Patti Roscoe, a prominent businesswoman.
Four more San Diego women came forth accusing Mayor Bob Filner of sexual… (KPBS )

SAN DIEGO — The central committee of the San Diego County Democratic Party voted Thursday night to ask Mayor Bob Filner to resign due to the increasing number of allegations that he has sexually harassed women.

The vote, at a meeting closed to the media, came just two hours after four women appeared in a group interview on public television to accuse Filner of sexual misconduct. Seven women have now accused Filner of such misconduct; one of the seven has filed a lawsuit.

"There is no place in the Democratic Party for those who harass, intimidate or do not fully respect women," City Council President Todd Gloria, a Democrat, said after the central committee vote Thursday night.

Filner has refused all demands that he resign. Last week, the party's central committee declined to join those asking for his resignation until more was known about the allegations.

The latest women to accuse Filner of making unwanted sexual advances were a retired Navy admiral, a San Diego State University dean, a leader in the city's tourism industry and the head of a group of business owners who are tenants of the San Diego Port District.

The encounters with the 70-year-old Democrat were at public events, the women said.

Joyce Gattas, dean of the College of Professional Studies and Fine Arts, told KPBS that Filner held her tightly, kissed her and put his hands on her knee. She also said she had seen Filner make "sexual comments to others."

Veronica "Ronne" Froman, a retired Navy rear admiral who became the city's chief operating officer under Filner's mayoral predecessor, Jerry Sanders, said that during a meeting with Filner while he was in Congress, Filner "stopped me and he got very close to me. 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 she rebuffed Filner but was so rattled that she told two men who were at the same meeting to "never leave me alone in a room with Bob Filner again."

Also this week, a school psychologist and a political consultant accused Filner of inappropriate touching. The former said he tried to kiss her; the latter said he patted her buttocks.

On Monday, Filner's former director of communications, Irene McCormack Jackson, filed a lawsuit in San Diego County Superior Court seeking unspecified damages for Filner's treatment of her. The suit alleges that he frequently put her in a headlock, made sexual comments and, on one occasion, said she should work without her panties on.

All seven of his accusers have called for him to resign. Six of nine members of the City Council have done the same, as have several prominent San Diego Democrats.

Filner appeared at two public events Thursday, dodging reporters' questions. At one event, he joked that the Barrio Logan neighborhood had never seen so many reporters. Filner repeated to reporters that he deserves due process, a call that his supporters have also adopted.

Without a voluntary resignation, the only means for ousting a mayor are a recall election or conviction of a felony.

Although the Sheriff's Department has opened a hotline to field allegations against Filner, there is no indication that a criminal investigation is underway. Opponents have announced plans for a recall movement, although no formal declaration has been filed with the city clerk.

In another sign of turmoil in the mayor's office, Filner announced that the chief of staff named just 10 days ago to provide stability has departed. No explanation was offered for the departure of Tony Buckles, who had previously been Filner's chief of staff in the House of Representatives for 13 years.

Buckles has been replaced by Lee Burdick, who had been the deputy chief of staff and, before that, the mayor's director of legal affairs.

"I respect her and intend to rely heavily on her leadership in this new role," Filner said in a statement.

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