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San Diego Mayor Bob Filner urged to step down amid sexual harassment claims

by Michelle Lanz | Take Two®

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Committee chairman Rep. Bob Filner, D-Calif., questions Veterans Affairs Secretary James Peake, not pictured, at the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs hearing regarding veterans' suicides on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, May 6, 2008. Filner was elected mayor of San Diego in 2012. Charles Dharapak

A prominent former supporter has urged San Diego Mayor Bob Filner to step down amid sexual harassment allegations. 

Former San Diego City Councilwoman Donna Frye, along with attorneys Marco Gonzalez and Cory Briggs, sent a letter to Filner, obtained by KPBS, in which they tell Filner that they have become aware of more than one instance of alleged sexual harassment and they urge Filner to resign: 

"I have recently received credible evidence of more than one woman being sexually harassed by you. Despite past rumors, I tried to give you the benefit of the doubt."

RELATEDSan Diego mayor apologizes for sexual harassment (video)

The call for Mayor Filner's resignation comes just days after his fiancee, Bronwyn Ingram, announced in an email to volunteers for her group, Team First Lady, that she was breaking their engagement: 

"I am extremely disappointed and heartbroken, both for what Team First Lady could have accomplished, and for me, personally; however, this is the only action I can take given the devolvement of our personal relationship."

Filner is the first Democratic mayor of San Diego in 20 years, and he took office less than a year ago. Frye had been a staunch supporter of the Mayor, and had served as his director of open government for several months until resigning for a position at Californians Aware, a group that advocates for open government.

"Those who have spoken to me recently would not make the allegations lightly or without cause, and I believe them," Frye wrote in the letter. "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."

KPBS senior editor Mark Sauer says the allegations go beyond just verbal harassment like asking for a date or being "boorish."

"There are allegations of groping, there are allegations of people on his staff whose livelihood, whose jobs depend on the Mayor, as well as people who contract with the City, PR people, marketing people who need to get the Mayor to events who have been alleging that they've been harassed, so it's a very serious charge," said Sauer on Take Two. 

Frye called a press conference Thursday morning, but none of the alleged victims were present. 

"It's a dicey political situation," said Sauer. "The theme of the press conference today was the ball is in Mayor Filner's court, he needs to come forth and say something."

KPBS reported that Frye made clear in an interview that she was not harassed by Filner, a 70-year-old divorcee.

With contributions from the Associated Press 

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