San Diego Mayor Bob Filner issued a statement late Monday challenging a recall effort aimed at ousting him from office, after more than a dozen women claimed he had made unwanted sexual advances.
Under San Diego’s municipal code, Mr. Filner had until midnight to offer a written response to recall organizers, who then are required to publish his statement in a newspaper. In a release issued through his lawyers, Filner did not address the accusations of sexual misconduct lodged against him by 14 women, including his former communications director, Irene McCormack Jackson. Instead, he said, "Now is not the time to go backwards," and he repeated promises of better city services that he had stressed during his mayoral campaign.
Michael Pallamary, a leader of the recall effort, told the Associated Press, "Mayor Filner obviously believes his policy initiatives excuse his being a sexual predator." He added, "San Diegans want a mayor who doesn't grope and demean women."
The mayor has not been seen in public since July 26, when he said he would undergo two weeks of treatment for what he admitted was inappropriate conduct involving women. He said his therapy would begin Aug. 5 and that he would return to work Aug. 19. But last Friday, the mayor’s attorneys at the law firm Payne & Fears said his intensive therapy would end on Aug. 10 and that he would continue counseling on an outpatient basis.
There has been intense pressure on the former congressman, San Diego’s first Democratic leader in 20 years, to step down. All nine members of the city council have called on him to leave office, eight months into his four-year term. A group of about 75 protesters gathered outside City Hall on Monday, chanting “Bob must go!” as part of a self-described “Bob Filner Not Welcome Back” rally, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported.
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D) of California sent an open letter to Filner on Friday saying, “To avoid hurting your victims and the people of San Diego more than you already have, you should step down immediately.”
Adding to Filner’s woes, the Union-Tribune reported that billing statements from the mayor’s official credit card, obtained under the California Public Records Act, showed several apparent meal expenses at a local hotel where his bodyguards have told investigators he took women.
One theory for why Filner has resisted resigning, reported by the U-T, is that he may be in the process of negotiating an agreement with law-enforcement officials over alleged sexual misconduct and other alleged improper dealings with developers.
Complaints from women continue to come in, according to Talking Points Memo, which said that three members of the Sheriff’s Department have been assigned to deal with phone calls from a telephone hot line where accusers can report possible criminal conduct.
To succeed in triggering a recall election, Filner’s opponents need to gather 101,597 signatures over a 39-day period. Signature collection can begin as early as Sunday.