San Diego Mayor asked to resign over sexual harassment claims

Bob Filner

Mayor Filner at a campaign rally in November 2012 | Photo by Brad Racino

by Mark Sauer, Amita Sharma and Sandhya Dirks | KPBS

At least three staunch supporters of San Diego Mayor Bob Filner are asking him to resign over allegations of sexual harassment, KPBS has learned.

Former Councilwoman Donna Frye, who was a member of Filner’s staff until she resigned in April, and attorneys Marco Gonzalez and Cory Briggs, each hand-delivered letters to Filner requesting his immediate resignation.

In her letter to Filner, Frye says she has “received credible evidence of more than one woman being sexually harassed by you.” She made it clear in an interview that she is not among the alleged harassment victims.

Frye, who campaigned on Filner’s behalf, declined to be quoted outside of her letter.

In it, she says, “Those who have spoken to me recently would not make the allegations lightly or without cause, and I believe them.

“I cannot in good conscience remain silent on this, even if those who have spoken to me choose to do so out of fear of retribution or the possibility of a media circus where they could be twice victimized.”

The attorneys who have appealed to Filner are longtime supporters of Democratic causes and candidates — notably Filner in his campaigns for San Diego mayor and for Congress, where he represented San Diego and Imperial County residents for more than two decades.

Filner’s office did not respond to multiple calls and emails asking for comment.

Briggs, a well-known environmental lawyer who backed Filner last year, released his letter publicly earlier today. In it, he asked for Filner’s resignation, but was circumspect, saying, “I have spent the better part of my career standing up for principles of open, accountable, responsible government. It’s clear to me that your office has violated these principles … .”

Frye said she, Briggs and Gonzalez will hold a press conference tomorrow at 10 a.m. at Briggs Law to answer questions about the sexual harassment accusations.

Gonzalez, also an environmental lawyer who has taken on high-profile, controversial issues, told KPBS that he represents “multiple women” who claim sexual harassment by Filner.

His letter to Filner was direct:

“At our recent meeting I was of the impression that you understood the gravity of the circumstances surrounding your treatment of staff, and in particular, the women who work for you in the Office of the Mayor.

“… While this is an extremely difficult message to convey, as members of a progressive community that prides itself on our support for women, their issues, and especially equality in the workplace, we cannot sit idly by and watch your inexcusable behavior continue.

“What we would not accept for our enemies, we cannot condone of our friends.”

Although Gonzalez said he has “multiple women clients,” no lawsuits have been filed.

Filner, whose engagement to Bronwyn Ingram fell apart this week, could not be reached for comment.

A claims analyst for the Social Security Administration, Ingram was at Filner’s side often during last fall’s campaign and at various civic events. She has not returned calls requesting an interview.

Ingram – whom Filner introduced as “The First Lady of San Diego” – headed a campaign out of the mayor’s office to improve conditions for the city’s homeless. In announcing the termination this week of their engagement, Ingram expressed regret over not being able to continue working on the mayor’s issues.

Frye, who delivered her letter to the mayor’s office yesterday afternoon, said her primary concern is for the victims of this abuse. She is adamant about not disclosing their identities without their permission.

The mayor has not contacted her since the letter was delivered, Frye said.

Frye said she was very reluctant to go public with her resignation request, fearing the women could be victimized twice; and she pleaded for restraint by the press.

Frye, who twice ran unsuccessfully for mayor herself, campaigned for Filner last fall. She took a job in his administration as the director of open government, working with council offices and community groups to “keep the city’s business open and public.”

Frye resigned in April, saying at the time that she wanted to accept the presidency of Californians Aware, a nonprofit advocating for open government across the state.

Briggs, who was traveling today, could not be reached for comment.

 

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About Brad Racino:

Brad Racino
Brad Racino is a senior reporter and assistant director at inewsource. To contact him with tips, suggestions or corrections, please email bradracino [at] inewsource [dot] org.