San Diego mayor: Filner to enter therapy but won't resign (updated)

Bob Filner

Charles Dharapak

San Diego Mayor Bob Filner's own political party Thursday called for the leader of the nation's eighth-largest city to resign as four more women identified themselves as targets of his sexual advances. (File photo: Bob Filner in Washington D.C. May 6, 2008).

UPDATE 12:10 p.m.: Filner to enter therapy but won't resign

San Diego Mayor Bob Filner announced Friday that he would be entering a behavior counseling clinic to undergo two weeks of therapy but ignored calls for his resignation from friends and foes alike.

Calling it the first step in a continuing program of counseling, Filner said he would enter a clinic full-time starting Aug. 5 but would continue to receive twice-daily briefings on city business.

"I must become a better person, and my hope is that by becoming a better person, I put myself in a position to someday be forgiven," said Filner, addressing the media from a podium at San Diego City Hall.

Filner began his statement by apologizing to his staff, to the citizens of San Diego, and to the women he said he had offended, but the conference came to an abrupt halt when the audio cut out just as he was relating details of his plans for therapy. The mayor disappeared for a few moments as technicians worked to restore the audio, and then he started over, repeating the first part of his statement.

Filner said that he could not explain away his behavior "as the product of the standards of a different generation." He added that in the past week he and his staff had made changes in how the mayor's office was run, but that "words alone are not enough."

"I must take responsibility for my conduct by taking action so that such conduct does not ever happen again," Filner said. "So when I return on Aug. 19, my focus will be on making sure that I am doing right by this city in terms of being the best mayor I can be, and the best person I must be."

- Brian Frank

UPDATE 11:51 a.m.: Filner expected to make statement

San Diego Mayor Bob Filner was expected to make a statement at noon amid new accusations of sexual harassment and pressure from his own party to resign.

PREVIOUSLY: San Diego Mayor Bob Filner's own political party called for the leader of the nation's eighth-largest city to resign as four more women identified themselves as targets of his sexual advances, bringing to seven the number of women who have offered detailed accounts that include unwanted touching.

Filner's latest accusers are a retired Navy rear admiral, a dean at San Diego State University, the head of the San Diego Ports Tenants Association and a businesswoman.

The San Diego County Democratic Party Central Committee voted 34-6 Thursday night to urge the city's first Democratic leader in 20 years to quit. The move came one week after the committee deadlocked 24-24 on the question, but that vote was before any woman had publicly identified herself as a target.

"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," said Francine Busby, the county party chairwoman.
    
Political consultant Laura Fink, who alleges that Filner patted her buttocks at a 2005 fundraiser when she was deputy campaign manager for the then-congressman, welcomed the party's position but expressed doubt that Filner would resign.

"Bob Filner is one of the most stubborn people I have ever met, and your guess is as good as mine, but I see him holding on tightly to the grip of the mayor's office," she said. (Story continues below video window.)


Filner, who is less than eight months into a four-year term, refused to discuss the allegations and urged patience Thursday, before the four women offered their stories to KPBS.
    
"Let's take a deep breath," said Filner, 70, who is divorced.
    
Veronica "Ronne" Froman, the retired rear admiral and chief operating officer under Filner's predecessor, said Filner once blocked a doorway after others left a meeting, ran his finger up her cheek and asked if she had a man in her life.
    
When she told him she did have a man, named Linden Blue, Filner allegedly replied, "Oh, of the Blues Brothers?"
    
"And he says, 'Maybe we can get together some time and have lunch and he can support me for mayor.'"
    
Froman, who is known in San Diego as the "Navy Mayor" and has led the American Red Cross local chapter, said the incident happened "a couple years ago" at Filner's congressional office.
    
Sharon Bernie-Cloward, president of the San Diego Port Tenants Association, said the then-congressman told her at an event in 2010 that she was beautiful and he wanted to date her after his re-election. At another event last year during the mayoral campaign, she said Filner "groped me on my backside inappropriately."
    
"I was left there startled and fearful. In fact, I actually had someone walk me to my car that night," she said.
    
Patti Roscoe, a businesswoman in the tourism and hospitality industry who knew Filner before he was elected to Congress in 1992, said Filner placed her in a "headlock" numerous times and tried to kiss her on the lips.
    
"I'd have to squirm to get away. And just as recently as a few months ago this happened. I turned and he just slobbered down my chin," Roscoe said.
    
Joyce Gattas, dean of San Diego State's College of Professional Studies and Fine Arts, said she had a series of "interactions with Bob where he's held me too tight, a kiss on the cheek which is inappropriate, hands on the knee that last too long."
    
"I've experienced his sexual innuendos with me at various events that again, have left me in that strange feeling of 'this is inappropriate, this is unwanted and this shouldn't be happening,'" Gattas said.
    
Busby said she opened Thursday's Democratic Party meeting, which was closed to news media, by naming Filner's alleged targets.
    
"I think people were quite moved by these particular women," Busby said. "I mean everybody knows Ronne Froman was the Navy mayor of this city and that was quite surprising to all of us to see her name on here. It speaks to the extent of the problem that the mayor has to address."
    
A spokeswoman for Filner, Lena Lewis, didn't respond to email and phone messages seeking comment on the latest allegations after they aired on KPBS.
    
Filner's problems began two weeks ago when a former councilwoman and onetime Filner supporter called for the mayor to step down, saying she had credible evidence that he harassed women. Filner issued a video statement, apologizing for intimidating and "failing to fully respect" women. He called his behavior "inappropriate and wrong," promised to change, and declared, "I need help."
    
On Monday, the mayor's communications director from January to June, Irene McCormack Jackson, filed a lawsuit claiming that he asked her to work without panties, demanded kisses, told her he wanted to see her naked and dragged her in a headlock while whispering in her ear.

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