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Another high-profile press conference and another declaration from the mayor came and went Monday, leaving the city with an escalating standoff between two sides that are digging in deeper and deeper.
According to three prominent progressive activists, the mayor jammed his tongue down the throat of a supporter and reached under her bra, kissed another constituent at the end of a City Hall meeting and grabbed the buttocks and chest of one of his employees.
“Bob Filner is tragically unsafe for any woman to approach,” said former City Councilwoman Donna Frye at a packed Monday news conference outside City Hall. “Again this morning, we call on the mayor to resign.”
Filner has made it increasingly clear he’s going to do no such thing.
Before the press conference, Filner released his most defiant statement yet on the allegations against him, saying he’s entitled to the opportunity to respond to specific allegations against him in a fair and impartial venue.
“I do not believe I am guilty of sexual harassment, and I believe a full presentation of the facts will vindicate me,” Filner said.
The result is two sides unwilling to cede an inch.
When Frye, Gonzalez and Briggs first called on the mayor to resign last week, they gave almost no details about the women who had told them their stories. On Monday, Frye pounded the lectern and spoke with dramatic force when recounting the allegations and responding to questions. But the trio still didn’t name names and still hasn’t filed a formal complaint with any civil or criminal body. (Gonzalez said a sexual harassment complaint against Filner would be filed to the city soon.)
While they were speaking, a Greek chorus of Filner supporters standing behind them with pro-Filner signs yelled out “Due Process!” after almost every allegation leveled against the mayor.
Filner’s statements, meanwhile, have gone from contrite to bold.
Thursday afternoon, he apologized to San Diegans, admitted he’d intimidated and “failed to fully respect” his female employees and pledged to seek help. Friday afternoon, he encouraged women who felt aggrieved to file complaints against him, but said any independent investigation would prove he didn’t sexually harass anyone. Monday morning, he tried to get on with the business of the city by announcing a staff shakeup, including hiring Walt Ekard, the former manager of San Diego County and region’s most respected administrator, to run things.
“Today’s announcements make clear the operations of city government will not be negatively impacted,” Filner said.
But Filner, mainly holed up at City Hall since the scandal broke last week, has yet to answer questions about the allegations and how he’ll continue to hold the city together amid the chaos.
In the meantime, the calls for Filner to go away are increasing, as are lurid details about his behavior toward women.
Monday morning, local Democratic Rep. Susan Davis became the latest high-profile politician to call for his resignation. She joined Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, who as a union leader is credited with getting Filner elected last November, Assemblywoman Toni Atkins and six of nine City Council members. (Republican Mark Kersey added his name to the list after Monday’s press conference.) Filner’s Chief of Staff Vince Hall also resigned Friday.