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Embattled San Diego Mayor Filner to get intensive therapy

San Diego Mayor Bob Filner. (25386)
San Diego Mayor Bob Filner.

SAN DIEGO, Calif. — San Diego Mayor Bob Filner, publicly accused of sexual harassment by seven women, says he will enter “a behavior counseling clinic for two weeks of intensive therapy” starting August 5.

His chief of staff has resigned, his party has called for him to step down — even his fiancee has left his side.

Yet San Diego Mayor Bob Filner is standing firm as more women come forward with allegations of sexual harassment and more colleagues call for his resignation. He has called a news conference at 3 p.m. to “make a statement,” his office announced Friday, offering no further details.

Seven women have publicly accused Filner of unwanted groping, kissing and other inappropriate contact. Many of the accusations allegedly took place during his five terms in Congress, before he was elected mayor last year.

Filner, 70, admitted to “inappropriate” behavior this month, saying he has “failed to fully respect the women who work for me and with me, and that at times I have intimidated them.”

Yet, he has said he will not step down from an office he was elected to barely eight months ago.

“It’s very important that I think we continue with my priorities, that’s what I was elected to do,” Filner said last week. “That’s why I’m not resigning.”

That was before he faced a lawsuit from his former spokeswoman, filed Monday. And it was also before his own Democratic Party in San Diego overwhelmingly voted Thursday in favor of him vacating his office.

Here’s a breakdown of who’s accused the mayor of what, and the impact of those allegations:

The accusers

Irene McCormack Jackson

  • Jackson filed a lawsuit against Filner on Monday, saying she and other women were subjected to his “crude and disgusting” comments and inappropriate touching. She said she resigned as Filner’s communications director in June after deciding that the mayor would not change his behavior.
  • “I had to work and do my job in an atmosphere where women were viewed by Mayor Filner as sexual objects or stupid idiots,” Jackson said. She said he asked her to work without underwear and made repeated sexual advances toward her.
  • “He is not fit to be mayor of our great city. He is not fit to hold any public office. A man who lacks character makes a mockery of his ideas,” she said.
  • Jackson said Filner “refused to listen to someone he had known for 35 years, and who told him explicitly, during a senior staff meeting, that his behavior with women was terrible and possibly illegal.”
  • Filner “laughed it off,” she said. She said Filner challenged her to provide one example of improper behavior; when she brought up his comments about wearing underwear, “he had no comeback,” she said.

Laura Fink

  • After hearing of Jackson’s lawsuit, political consultant Laura Fink came forward with her accusations against Filner on Tuesday, saying the then-congressman patted her “posterior” at a fundraising dinner in 2005 when she working as the deputy manager of Filner’s congressional campaign.
  • Fink said she didn’t go public with the incident at the time because she was trying to build her political career.
  • The alleged sexual harassment occurred at the fundraiser, where Fink guided Filner from table to table.
  • One guest told Filner that Fink “had worked her tokus off,” Fink said.
  • “The congressman told me to turn around and patted me on the bum and said, ‘Nope, it’s still there’ and laughed,” Fink told CNN.
  • Fink wrote to Filner’s chief of staff and demanded that Filner apologize, she said.
  • Filner responded, and “he mumbled an apology” and added something “I just did not understand,” Fink said.
  • On Wednesday, Fink told CNN that Filner should resign.

Morgan Rose

  • Nonprofit leader Morgan Rose told CNN on Wednesday that she recently told authorities about her experience with Filner after hearing similar accusations against the mayor in recent weeks. She called a hotline set up by the San Diego Sheriff’s Department for accusers who are allowed to remain anonymous under California law.
  • Rose said she met Filner in April 2009 when he was a congressman to lobby on behalf of her nonprofit organization that focuses on domestic violence.
  • The two met at a restaurant near Filner’s congressional office in Chula Vista, California, she told CNN.
  • At that meeting, she said, Filner allegedly looked her up and down, stared into her eyes and said, “Your eyes have bewitched me,” Rose said.
  • Filner allegedly then made a remark along the lines of, according to Rose’s paraphrasing, “You’ll have to excuse me for what’s about to happen. It’s your fault,” Rose said.
  • Filner then moved to her side of the booth, sat beside her, pinned her to the wall, and put his arm around her, Rose alleged.
  • Rose avoided the advances, and Filner was suddenly interrupted by his ringing cell phone, Rose said. Filner then left the restaurant, she said.
  • Rose spoke of the incident to her closest friends and didn’t pursue the matter because she feared her nonprofit might somehow suffer, she told CNN.
  • But when Rose heard of similar accusations against Filner in recent weeks, she called the victims hotline.

Sharon Bernie-Cloward

  • Sharon Bernie-Cloward, president of the San Diego Port Tenants Association, relayed her allegations against Filner to KPBS, along with three other accusers. She said when Filner was running for mayor in 2012, he approached her at a political event.
  • “He touched me, actually groped me on my backside inappropriately,” Bernie-Cloward told KPBS. “I was left there startled and fearful. In fact, I actually had someone walk me to my car that night.”

Patti Roscoe

  • Patti Roscoe, a prominent businesswoman in San Diego’s tourism and hospitality industry, told KPBS that on numerous occasions, Filner “put in me what I guess now is the famous headlock.”
  • “I felt fearful, even as well as I knew him, because it was an invasion into my space,” Roscoe told the network. “And he would come in and try to kiss me on the lips and 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.
  • “And I was so violated and so offended. It’s just such a terrible invasion.”

Veronica “Ronne” Froman

  • Veronica “Ronne” Froman, a retired Navy rear admiral and San Diego’s former chief operating officer, described to KPBS an encounter that she said had with then-Congressman Filner a few years ago at a meeting at his office after everyone had left.
  • “He stopped me and he got very close to me. And he ran his finger up my cheek like this and he whispered to me, ‘Do you have a man in your life?’ “ Froman said. “I jumped back. I was very, very startled. And I said, ‘Yes, I have a man in my life.’
  • “And he said, ‘who?’ And I said, ‘Linden Blue.’ He says, ‘Oh, of the Blues Brothers?’ And he says, ‘Maybe we can get together sometime and have lunch and he can support me for mayor.’
  • “I was really rattled. I got in the car with the two guys I was working with and I told them never to leave me alone in a room with Bob Filner again.”

Joyce Gattas

  • Joyce Gattas, a dean at San Diego State University, told KPBS that she had several “interactions” with Filner “where he’s held me too tight, a kiss on the cheek which is inappropriate, hands on the knee that last too long.”
  • Gattas, who helped craft the university’s sexual harassment policy, said she has often seen Filner make “sexual comments to others. And I’ve seen the interactions with others when they cringe. I’ve experienced his sexual innuendoes with me at various events that, again, have left me in that strange feeling of: This is inappropriate, this is unwanted and this shouldn’t be happening.”

The fallout

Filner’s chief of staff Vince Hall resigned this month via Twitter, citing his position “as a lifelong activist for women’s rights and equality.”

The mayor’s fiancee, Bronwyn Ingram called off their engagement, citing his behavior in a statement issued last week, and she has now joined calls for his resignation.

On Thursday, Filner’s fellow Democrats abandoned him when the San Diego County Democratic Party voted 34-6 to call on the mayor to resign.

“We are not here to determine guilt or innocence,” the party said in a statement. “However, in the best interest of the city, the San Diego County Democratic Party has voted to ask Mayor Filner to step down, seek the personal help that he needs, and allow San Diego to move forward.”

Jackson’s lawsuit, filed Monday in state court, names Filner and the city as defendants. San Diego City Attorney Jan Goldsmith said his office will defend the city but not Filner, who he said has hired his own lawyer.

The ramifications go beyond political: Filner was supposed to be the keynote speaker at a meeting of women veterans next month on the issue of sexual assault in the military.

He has since been disinvited.

What the mayor has said

As the allegations of sexual harassment began to mount, Filner responded this month by releasing a video statement on YouTube in which he admitted wrongdoing and vowed to change.

“I am embarrassed to admit that I have failed to fully respect the women who work for me and with me, and that at times I have intimidated them,” he said in the July 11 video statement. “It’s a good thing that behavior that would have been tolerated in the past is being called out in this generation for what it is: Inappropriate and wrong.”

Despite his mea culpa, the calls for his resignation began to mount.

Last week, Filner issued another statement rejecting those calls, saying that he believes he will be vindicated by “a full presentation of the facts.” But he also acknowledged, “I need help,” and added, “I’m clearly doing something wrong.”

Then on Monday, Jackson — the first of the women leveling the claims — came forward when she filed suit against him. In response to her lawsuit, Filner issued a statement saying he was “saddened” by the accusations, but “I remain committed to the people of San Diego and the work that needs to be done.”

“Once due process is allowed to unfold, I am certain there will be a better understanding of this situation,” he said, adding, “I humbly ask that through this vicious storm of controversy, people take a moment and temper their rush to judgment.”

When CNN’s Casey Wian approached Filner at a trolley station groundbreaking event on Thursday, he avoided his and other reporters’ questions.

What San Diego residents think

A poll conducted this week by the San Diego Union Tribune and the local ABC affiliate, 10 News, found a growing number of San Diego’s residents want the mayor to resign. Nearly 70% of those polled said Filner should step down, a 10-point increase from two weeks ago, when allegations first started to emerge, the newspaper reported.

A more informal poll of San Diego residents this week outside City Hall mirrored those findings.

But one resident, interviewed by CNN iReporter Chris Morrow, explained why he still supports Filner.

“He’s actually really good for this city’s population, especially the homeless population out here; I know he definitely cares about them … I think it’d be a very, very bad move to see that gentleman resign.”

Another man, who identified himself as homeless, disagreed.

“I actually voted for Filner … he was a good man, I like what he’s doing for the homeless, ‘cause I’m homeless myself. But for something like that to go on, and people actually stepping up, and him admitting to what he had done, I do believe he should resign.”

CNN’s Casey Wian, Faith Karimi, Tina Burnside, Michael Martinez and Matt Smith contributed to this report.

Tricia Escobedo | CNN