San Diego's embattled mayor was spotted Monday — not returning to work at City Hall — but heading into an office building followed by an attorney representing a woman who filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against him.
KFMB-TV in San Diego posted a video showing Bob Filner walking into the building on Monday. About 45 minutes later, attorney Gloria Allred was seen entering.
The station reported that her client, Irene McCormack Jackson — the mayor's former communication's director who 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 — also entered building.
Neither Filner nor Allred spoke to media.
Filner's appearence came after the mayor stayed out of public view for much of Monday as he tries to survive a recall effort prompted by a cascade of sexual harassment allegations that led the entire City Council and many leading fellow Democrats to call for him to resign.
Earlier, City Council President Todd Gloria said he didn't know if Filner would make a public appearance on Monday, the day the mayor promised to return to work after receiving two weeks of therapy to address behavioral issues.
Filner is not obligated to show up but owes the people of San Diego an explanation of his whereabouts, Gloria said. The city's daily operations have been running fine withoutFilner, he said, and should the mayor appear it could make female employees uncomfortable.
"Those of us who have called on the mayor to resign know he is not being effective at this time," Gloria said. "The mayor's presence is a distraction."
The mayor has not made his schedule public. His spokeswoman Lena Lewis and lawyer James Payne did not respond to calls.
More than a dozen women, including a university dean and a retired Navy rear admiral, have gone public with sexual harassment accusations against Filner. Some contend he cornered, groped and forcibly kissed them.
The accusations — the most recent of which came from a 67-year-old great-grandmother and volunteer city worker who assists senior citizens — have prompted an avalanche of calls for Filner to resign and a recall effort that started Sunday. Hooters restaurants in San Diego even posted signs saying he's not welcome.
U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer are among a slew of California politicians who have called on the fellow Democrat to step down.
Filner has acknowledged that his behavior was unacceptable but has not termed it sexual harassment.
Meanwhile, the mayor's supporters, organized through a Facebook group called "San Diegans for Mayor Bob Filner," staged a rally to welcome him back to City Hall, according to NBC4.
The network spoke with several people at the rally, including one woman who maintained that Mayor Filner was “far more than sloppy kisses." NBC4:
Singing “We Shall Overcome,” the group of Mayor Filner’s supporters gathered on the Civic Center Plaza at noon holding signs of “Cease Fire” and “Due Process.”
“Let’s get back to business of moving the region forward with Mayor Bob Filner,” said organizer and human activist Enrique Morones.
“I have not been the recipient of sloppy kisses. And I have met Mr. Filner on many occasions,” said Maxine Sherard, PhD, a former candidate for state assembly. “He’s more than the sum total of one experience.”
Filner, a feisty liberal who served 10 terms in Congress before being elected mayor last November — has long had a reputation for berating employees and has been dogged by rumors of inappropriate behavior toward women. But nothing in his past approaches what has surfaced in the last six weeks.
"He is a ferocious campaigner, but this will be most difficult campaign of his life," said Steve Erie, a political science professor at the University of California, San Diego. "The allegations are like Chinese water torture, the way they keep coming out. It's like drip, drip, drip. At this point, I'm waiting for the first woman who has been around Bob to say 'he didn't manhandle me.'"
The 70-year-old has become a punch line for comedians and been regularly mocked on national programs such as "The Daily Show." A cable television affiliate of the local newspaper, U-T San Diego, recently produced its own musical parody that shows a man's body with Filner's face hip-thrusting and chasing women in short skirts and high heels.
The video by U-T TV was criticized for making light of a serious situation.
Before going into therapy, Filner asked voters to be patient while he gets help.
"Before I even think of asking for forgiveness, I must demonstrate that my behavior has changed. And that will only happen over time and only if such incidents never, ever happen again," Filner said.
He vowed when he returned that his "focus will be on making sure that I am doing right by the city in terms of being the best mayor I can be, and the best person I must be."
Filner has agreed not to meet with women alone on city business and has delegated broad authority to a new interim chief operating officer, Walt Ekard, a highly regarded former county administrator.