Petitioners rally to oust San Diego Mayor Bob Filner

Organizers began collecting signatures Sunday to recall disgraced San Diego Mayor Bob Filner, accused by 16 women of inappropriate conduct. The city attorney is looking at other ways to bar Filner from City Hall as well.

Mike Blake/REUTERS
Opponents of Mayor Bob Filner hold placards during a "Not Welcome Back'' rally in downtown San Diego August 12. On Sunday, organizers began collecting signatures for a recall petition.

If disgraced Mayor Bob Filner has any political friends left in San Diego, they were nowhere in sight Sunday.

Instead, organizers kicked off a recall petition drive, opponents rallied at the finish line of a half-marathon, and “Freedom from Filner” marchers hit the streets of the Southern California city.

So far, 16 women (including three city employees) have accused the beleaguered Democratic mayor and former congressman of inappropriate conduct.

The latest was Peggy Shannon, a volunteer city worker who assists senior citizens. She said Thursday that Filner repeatedly asked her to rub his hands, requested dates, and made sexually suggestive comments so upsetting she went home and cried. She is a 67-year-old great-grandmother.

Recall organizers need to gather 101,597 signatures (15 percent of San Diego’s registered voters) for a ballot measure that could oust Filner from office. They have 39 days (with a possible extension of 30 days) to do so.

Assuming they’re successful, it would appear to be curtains for Filner, who apologized for his conduct before voluntarily going into what he called two weeks of “intensive therapy,” but has since resisted calls to resign while remaining out of sight.

A U-T San Diego poll out Sunday charts his dismal political position.

Eighty-one percent of those surveyed think he should resign, and 72 percent would sign a recall petition. In a less scientific online poll on the newspaper’s website, 93 percent said they would sign a recall petition if asked.

Just about every important politician in San Diego and California has urged Filner to resign. Most recently that was former San Diego Mayor Pete Wilson, a respected Republican who also served two terms each as US senator and governor.

“He has not brought any credit to himself or his office,” Mr. Wilson told U-T San Diego (the newspaper formerly known as the San Diego Union-Tribune). “I think the people of San Diego deserve a better representative.”

Among others who have told Filner he should resign are California’s two Democratic US senators (Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer), House minority leader Nancy Pelosi (D) of California – who called Filner’s behavior toward women “reprehensible” – all nine members of the San Diego City Council, and both the Democratic Party of San Diego and Democratic National Committee Chairman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a US representative from Florida.

Meanwhile, there may be other avenues for forcing Filner to step down.

Federal, state, and local investigators have been gathering information and building cases against Filner for financial issues.

“Filner has been under scrutiny for a number of questionable financial moves including an unannounced June trip to France, civic donations from developers related to certain projects and, most recently, his use of a city-issued credit card,” U-T San Diego reports. “Records … related to the credit card charges racked up by Filner and his assistant show he failed to submit proper documentation to allow the city to pay off the card and that put the city’s credit rating at risk.”

In a memo last week, City Attorney Jan Goldsmith said the City Council could ask a judge to remove the mayor from office under the city charter if he “willfully approves or allows unauthorized payments from the city treasury.”

The Los Angeles Times reports that the city attorney's office could also seek a restraining order to bar Filner from City Hall because his presence allegedly creates a hostile working environment for women.

Irene McCormack Jackson, the mayor's former press secretary and one of the three city employees among his accusers, has filed a lawsuit charging sexual harassment.

On Friday, a San Diego radio station hired skywriters to spell out "Surrender Bob" over three areas of the city.

So far, he remains politically barricaded.

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