The chorus of voices clamoring for Mayor Bob Filner's resignation over his alleged sexual harassment of women in the workplace now includes those of the San Diego County Democratic Party.
Filner, a Democrat who left Congress to become San Diego's mayor last fall, has been accused by seven women of unwanted advances and touching, dating back several years. The first woman came forward Monday and others have
followed her lead every day this week.
On Thursday evening, the San Diego County Democratic Central Committee met to discuss the scandal and voted 34-to-6 in favor of a motion for Filner to step down.
``We respect the legal process that is now unfolding and believe that the Mayor and his accusers will have their fair hearing,'' committee Chair Francine Busby said in a statement. ``We are not here to determine guilt or innocence. However, in the best interest of the city, the San Diego County Democratic Party has voted to ask Mayor Filner to step down, seek the personal help that he needs, and allow San Diego to move forward.''
Filner, 70, first came under fire for sexual harassment about two weeks ago, when three of his former political allies, including former Councilwoman Donna Frye, held a joint news conference to say they had become aware of his indiscretions and wanted his immediate resignation. Since then, numerous other political and civic leaders have also called for his resignation, including the majority of the City Council and Filner's former fiancee.
Frye and lawyers Cory Briggs and Marcos Gonzalez refused to name Filner's alleged victims, citing privacy concerns. But on Monday, San Diegans learned that Filner's former communications director was among them.
Irene McCormack Jackson, 57, said that during her six months or so in the mayor's office, Filner held her in what's come to be known as a ``Filner headlock'' while demanding kisses. She also alleged the mayor told her she should work without her panties on, that he wanted to see her naked, that he could not wait to consummate their relationship, and that he wanted to marry
Jackson has filed a lawsuit in San Diego Superior Court against Filner and the city. It seeks unspecified damages. She is being represented by high-profile Los Angeles-based attorney Gloria Allred.
City Attorney Jan Goldsmith, who himself has feuded with the mayor on several occasions, said his office will defend the city, while Filner will be represented by lawyer Harvey Berger, possibly at the city's expense.
Pending the outcome of the lawsuit, Filner is restricted from meeting alone with women at city facilities.
On Tuesday, a former campaign staffer alleged that Filner patted her bottom at a 2005 fundraising event, also when he was a congressman. Laura Fink said she demanded an apology from Filner in an email, and received a mumbled ``I'm sorry'' a couple of days later.
On Wednesday, San Diego Unified School District psychologist Morgan Rose said she met with Filner in 2009 at a restaurant across from his congressional office to discuss her initiative dedicated to the well-being of America's children. She said that during their discussion, he told her ``your eyes have bewitched me'' and moved next to her. Rose said Filner tried to kiss her four times and only stopped when he received a phone call.
On Thursday, four more women, including a retired admiral, stepped forward. The four are retired Rear Adm. Ronne Froman, businesswoman Patti Roscoe, San Diego State University dean Joyce Gattas, and Sharon Bernie-Cloward, the president of the Port of San Diego's Tenants Association.
Froman said she was at Filner's congressional office a couple of years ago for a meeting on a veterans program and when the meeting ended, ``Bob stepped between me and the doorway and he stopped me, 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?''' She said she did and jumped backward.
``I was really rattled,'' Froman said.
Bernie-Cloward said that in 2010, Filner pulled her aside and asked why she didn't accept a lunch invitation five years earlier. Then, last year while Filner was running for mayor, he encountered her again following an event in Mission Valley. "He came up and gave me a hug, and he touched me -- actually groped me - - on my backside, inappropriately,'' Bernie-Cloward said. ``As soon as he came in, he left, and I was left there startled and fearful. In fact, I had somebody walk me to my car that night.''
Roscoe, who said she knows Filner well, said he would try to kiss her and placed her in the so-called ``Filner headlock.'' She said he ``slobbered down her chin.'' ``I was so violated and I was so offended,'' Roscoe said. ``On other occasions, he's gotten close to me and put his hands on inappropriate places on my body. It's just such a terrible invasion.''
Gattas said she was subjected to inappropriate kissing, touching, hugging and sexual comments. Filner initially apologized when harassment allegations were first raised. More recently, however, he has said his actions do not constitute
sexual harassment and that he wants his due process rights.
The sheriff's department has created a hotline for women who believe they are victims at (619) 481-0220.
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