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Filner Accusers Now Include Region's Most Powerful Women

The four accusers who came forward Thursday show that anyone could be at risk of harassment.

The daily drumbeat this week of women publicly accusing San Diego Mayor Bob Filner has shown that his alleged sexual misconduct knows no bounds.

Thursday evening, four of the most powerful and accomplished women in the region each told KPBS stories of Filner’s sexually crude behavior toward them in numerous incidents going back years. The quartet included San Diego’s former Navy mayor and a dean at San Diego State University.

“I was really rattled,” said retired Navy Rear Adm. Ronne Froman after alleging that Filner ran his finger up her cheek and asked her if she was single following a meeting in his congressional office a couple years ago. “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.”

The allegations give a sense of ubiquity about Filner’s alleged behavior: No matter how powerful or low-ranking you are, if you come into contact with the mayor for any reason you’re at risk of him harassing you.

The four women added themselves to a list that includes Filner’s former spokeswoman, his former deputy campaign manager and a constituent looking for his help. And that’s just the group that’s gone public.

None of the women’s stories from Thursday covered new ground in terms of what Filner’s alleged to have done. They said he tried to kiss or grope them and made other unwanted advances along the lines of what others have said. What was different about Thursday’s revelation were the positions of the people coming forward.

Joyce Gattas, the dean of SDSU’s school of professional studies and fine arts, told KPBS that Filner often held her too tightly, inappropriately kissed her cheek and left his hand on her knee too long in a series of incidents. Gattas helped establish the university’s sexual harassment policy.

“Somehow when we establish the policy, the laws, we think our job is done,” Gattas said. “What happens is we don’t keep ever vigilant on making sure that we’re implementing those laws and those policies. What happens is we fall into this code of silence because there still is the fear of retribution.”

Meanwhile, Filner’s attempts to turn the page on all this look more ludicrous by the day. At a morning event downtown, he said he’d “like the city to take a deep breath.” At a second event in Barrio Logan Thursday, a crush of reporters chased Filner around as he refused to comment, as mariachi music played in the background.

Filner eventually repeated his line about wanting “due process” as the allegations play out.

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