SAN DIEGO (Reuters) – A 67-year-old great-grandmother became the latest of 16 women to publicly accuse San Diego Mayor Bob Filner of sexual harassment, as city officials calling for him to resign sought to turn up the pressure on the embattled politician.
Peggy Shannon, who earned $8 an hour in a part-time City Hall job providing information to senior citizens, said Filner repeatedly made unwanted advances toward her over a period of several months, asking for dates and once kissing her on the mouth. She did not give a specific timeframe for the alleged incidents.
On one occasion, she recounted, “Mayor Filner came by my desk and asked me if I thought he could go eight hours in one night. I was shocked that he would say that to me.”
Shannon, a great-grandmother whose job supplemented her Social Security income, said Filner’s behavior left her embarrassed and in tears, but she ultimately decided to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Investigations Office and to go public.
She did so at a news conference accompanied by attorney Gloria Allred, who also represents the mayor’s former press secretary, Irene McCormack Jackson, who filed a sexual harassment suit against Filner and the city on July 22.
At least 15 other women have come forward since then – Shannon being the latest – to accuse the 70-year-old Democrat and former congressman of groping and other sexually inappropriate behavior.
The allegations have prompted nearly every elected official in San Diego to call on Filner to resign as mayor of California’s second-largest city, and a bipartisan campaign seeking his ouster through a recall election has been launched.
Filner has apologized for what he has acknowledged was a pattern of disrespectful and intimidating treatment of women, and said last month he would undergo two weeks of intensive behavioral counseling.
According to his lawyers, Filner completed his therapy on Saturday – about 10 days earlier than originally planned – and would continue counseling while remaining on personal leave for another week. Representatives for Filner could not immediately be reached for comment.
TALK OF REMOVAL
Meanwhile, the mayor has come under mounting scrutiny for his use of a city-issued credit card for what opponents describe as questionable expenses and for allowing city lobbying contracts to lapse for several months.
Those two issues have led to discussions among the city attorney and City Council members of possible moves to curtail Filner’s powers as mayor or force his removal from office.
City Attorney Jan Goldsmith on Thursday publicly circulated a legal memo explaining a city charter provision that allows for an expedited lawsuit by the city, seeking the removal of any city official found to have made unauthorized expenditures of municipal funds.
Such a judgment would be rendered by a court, not by the City Council. But it would be up to the council to authorize the filing of a declaratory relief action at the City Attorney’s request, Goldsmith, a Republican, wrote.
City Council President Todd Gloria, a Democrat, has said he believes such an action would be considered in closed session with the city attorney next Wednesday, said Katie Keach, deputy chief of staff for Gloria.
She said it was up to the city attorney to decide on what basis Filner might be sued for unauthorized payments from the city treasury. The city attorney’s Office did not answer repeated requests for comment.
Republican Councilman Kevin Faulconer, a Republican and chairman of the audit committee, has called into question some $21,000 he said Filner spent using city credit cards on a June trip to Paris. Filner has promised to reimburse the city for those expenses.
The online newspaper U-T San Diego has reported the mayor ran up $11,000 in city credit card bills over several months for which he initially failed to submit required receipts, including nearly $1,000 deemed as personal expenses. The mayor’s office has said he would repay those expenses.
Faulconer has set a hearing next month to review the mayor’s credit card use, and Gloria has called on the mayor’s office for an update on contracts for lobbyists who are paid to represent the city’s interests in Sacramento and Washington, D.C.
Gloria has raised the idea of seeking to strip the mayor of intergovernmental responsibilities and turn those powers over to the City Council.