SAN DIEGO (AP) — Mayor Bob Filner’s announcement that he will undergo two weeks of full-time therapy defies leaders of his own political party who demanded he resign over allegations of sexual harassment.
The mayor’s plans failed to appease many who called for San Diego’s first Democratic leader in 20 years to step down less than eight months into his four-year term. Seven women identified themselves as targets of Filner’s unwanted advances that include touching.
“Two weeks of therapy may help Bob Filner with his personal problems, but it does not help to address the needs of San Diego,” said Laura Fink, a political consultant who alleges that Filner patted her buttocks at a 2005 fundraiser when she was deputy campaign manager for the then-congressman. She is one of seven women who have publicly identified themselves as targets of Filner’s advances.
Scott Peters, a first-term Democratic congressman from San Diego, said the mayor would be unable to accomplish anything with controversy swirling around him.
“I understand the mayor feels like he wants help, and I think that’s great,” Peters said. “I just don’t think it’s appropriate for him to do it as mayor. It’s pretty clear to me that he’s not going to be in a position to lead the city.”
Lucas Powell, who works at a coffee house in the upscale Point Loma area and voted for Filner, said he was unimpressed by Filner’s announcement and believes the former 10-term congressman should step down as mayor.
“Two weeks isn’t going change deep-seated opinions and behaviors,” Powell, 30, said during a lull in business Friday night.
Julaine Rich, 45, called the two-week treatment plan “laughable” as she bought groceries nearby but was ambivalent about whether Filner should step down, partly because she was puzzled why it took years for some of the women to go public with detailed allegations.
Filner’s problems began less than three weeks ago when a former councilwoman and onetime Filner supporter called for the mayor to step down, saying she had received credible evidence that he had harassed women.
On Monday, Filner’s former communications director, Irene McCormack Jackson, became the first woman to publicly identify herself as target of Filner. McCormack, who took a $50,000 annual pay cut to join Filner’s inner circle in January, filed a lawsuit claiming that the mayor 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.
The other six women, who described their experiences to KPBS News, include Morgan Rose, a psychologist for the San Diego Unified School District who said the then-congressman repeatedly tried to kiss her during a 2009 meeting to discuss child welfare.
Veronica “Ronne” Froman, a retired rear admiral, 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. Froman, who is known in San Diego as the “Navy Mayor” and has led the American Red Cross local chapter, said the incident occurred a couple years ago at Filner’s congressional office.
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.
Filner, who is 70 and divorced, apologized earlier this month by releasing a video statement in which he acknowledged disrespecting and sometimes intimidating women and said he was seeking professional help, but Friday’s statement went further.
“The behavior I have engaged in over many years is wrong,” he said at a nationally televised news conference. “My failure to respect women and the intimidating conduct I engaged in at times is inexcusable.
Filner said he will receive twice-a-day briefings about city operations while participating full-time in what he described as “intensive therapy” beginning Aug. 5. He said he would return on Aug. 19 and focus on “doing right by the city in terms of being the best mayor I can be, and the best person I must be.”
“Words alone are not enough,” he said. “I am responsible for my conduct and I must take responsibility for my conduct so that such conduct does not ever happen again.”
Filner did not take any questions and his office did not say where he would be treated and whether the city would be asked to pay. City Attorney Jan Goldsmith said Filner, not the city, will pay for treatment..
Filner disclosed his plans hours after Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, urged him to resign and called his alleged behavior “reprehensible and indefensible.” The San Diego County Democratic Party Central Committee voted 34-6 Thursday night to ask Filner to step down, and county party Chairwoman Francine Busby said Filner’s two weeks of therapy didn’t change that position.
Filner was served with a subpoena Friday to appear Aug. 9 to address allegations in the lawsuit filed against him and the city by his former communications director. He was served as he left a regional planning agency meeting.
“We have a bunch of questions,” said Goldsmith, the city attorney. “Our goal is to get to the heart of it as quickly as possible.”