How much longer can San Diego Mayor Bob Filner hang on?
Thirteen women – or is it 14? – have accused him of inappropriate conduct ranging from a variety of unwanted gropings, leering comments, and a lawsuit charging sexual harassment.
Prominent fellow Democrats are telling him to resign, most recently US Senator Barbara Boxer (D) of California.
“Dear Bob,” Sen. Boxer begins in an open letter, “You must resign because you have betrayed the trust of the women you have victimized, the San Diegans you represent, and the people you have worked with throughout your decades in public life.” (That public life also included several terms in Congress.)
Both the Democratic Party of San Diego and Democratic National Committee Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D) of Florida have called on Filner to resign.
A recall effort has been organized, raising money for signature gathering. For him to stay in office, states the effort’s website, “puts the city at risk from lawsuits, compromises the ability to get city business done, and makes San Diego the brunt of jokes on late night TV.”
The worse news for Filner may have come Saturday in a report in the U-T San Diego newspaper (formerly known as the San Diego Union-Tribune).
“Federal, state, and local investigators have been gathering information and building cases against San Diego Mayor Bob Filner beyond the sexual harassment accusations that have captured national attention,” the newspaper reported:
Key recent developments on the investigative front, according to sources and documents:
• Members of the mayor’s security detail provided information to investigators about Filner taking women to the downtown Westgate hotel, among other things.
• A subpoena has been issued to Lee Burdick, Filner’s chief of staff, to have her testify under oath and provide her notes about issues involving Sunroad Centrum Partners, a developer that paid $100,000 to the city at the behest of the Filner administration before approval its project was granted. The FBI has been inquiring about the transaction.
• As many as 30 City Hall employees, many who work in the mayor’s City Hall suite, have now been interviewed by investigators, mostly with the City Attorney’s Office, but also with the Sheriff’s Department and the FBI.
• Three members of the Sheriff’s Department have been assigned to handle phone calls from a hotline set up for Filner accusers to report possible criminal misconduct and conduct follow up interviews and investigations.
• In addition to agency investigations, City Council Audit Committee Chairman Kevin Faulconer is scheduled to announce Monday he will summon key city officials to testify before his committee September 9 about Filner’s June trip to Paris and the use of city-issued credit cards in connection with that trip.
The newspaper also noted that the locks on Filner’s City Hall offices have been changed.
At his last news conference July 26, Filner apologized “to the women I have offended.”
"The behavior I have engaged in over many years is wrong," Filner said. He also announced that he’d be entering two weeks of “intensive therapy.”
Over the weekend, several news sources reported that Filner had left that therapy program early, although it was unclear which days he began and ended the program.
Filner clearly has no political friends left, nor is he in any position to govern. Some politicians of both political parties have recovered from revelations of sexual misconduct – Anthony Weiner and Eliot Spitzer in New York are the latest to try – but that seems impossible for Filner.
Other California politicians calling on Filner to resign include all nine members of the San Diego City Council, US Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Assembly Speaker John Perez, and Senate Majority Leader Darrell Steinberg.
But if he continues to resist that, the recall effort could be long, costly, and not necessarily successful despite his political and personal disgrace.
The first step is to gather signatures from 15 percent of registered voters, or about 101,000, in just 39 days, reports MSNBC. Filner could write a response to be included on the petition. Then the city clerk would have to verify all the signatures
“It is daunting,” April Boling, a certified public accountant who is helping with the effort, told MSNBC. “To do a city-wide recall and to gather that number of signatures in that short amount of time frame has never been done in the city.”
But, she adds, “Never before has there been an issue that has ignited the general populace like this.”
Whether Mayor Filner will feel the heat from that ignition and go voluntarily is the prime question now.