By Andy Cohen
Former City Councilwoman Donna Frye and attorneys Cory Briggs and Marco Gonzalez summoned the local media to discuss explosive allegations that came to light yesterday regarding sexual harassment claims against San Diego Mayor Bob Filner. All three have delivered letters to the mayor calling for his immediate resignation; Frye and Gonzalez for the harassment claims, and Briggs due to what he called a lack of “open, accountable, responsible government.”
It was the most anticipated press conference in San Diego perhaps in years, and maybe the most bizarre, with the participants who called for the local media refusing to directly answer questions with any detail. Members of the press who attended left more unsatisfied than when they arrived. No facts were offered, no supporting evidence, simply more allegations. Trust us, the hosts insisted. The accusations are true.
“We are putting our reputations on the line,” said Gonzalez, refusing to elaborate on how many women have come forward claiming harassment on the part of the mayor, or offering any specifics.
How many women do you represent? Gonzalez was asked. “Numerous” was the only response offered.
“Remaining silent given what’s in the public domain is something I’m unwilling to do,” said Briggs in his opening statement.
“When I received first hand, credible evidence of more than one woman being sexually harassed,” said Frye, fighting back tears, “I believe what they have told me, and they need to know that they are not alone.” Asked if her only evidence was that she was told of the incidents and that she believed the accusers, Frye simply replied “yes.”
“This is one of the hardest decisions I have ever made,” said Frye. “I understand that there are those who believe that I should not have said anything on behalf of those who are too fearful to speak for themselves, and simply remain silent until someone files a lawsuit,” she continued. “But I also understand the reluctance of the women involved to speak up, and for not wanting to be placed in a media spotlight.”
“I think it goes without saying that for the three of us to stand up here and ask someone who we have long considered an ally, who is one of our community to step down, it’s not an easy thing. We did not come to this decision lightly,” said Gonzalez.
“It’s not our place here today to relate to you details regarding these women and what they went through. That’s a decision for them to make in their due time,” said Gonzalez, who says he represents “numerous” women in the matter. “We are here to say to those women, ‘when you are ready, we will be here” in support.
“Mayor Filner knows why we are standing here,” said Gonzalez.
In the meantime, Gonzalez noted that he did not know of any criminal conduct on the part of Mayor Filner, and there are no lawsuits filed at this time.
Thus entailed the entirety of the information offered about the allegations.
Briggs, for his part, slammed the local media for its focus on the mayor in the Sunroad case and a lack of focus on the City Council and potential corruption there, all the while calling for Filner’s immediate resignation himself. Last month the City Council unanimously granted 18 feet of easements on city property to Sunroad Enterprises at the site of the company’s apartment development project in Kearney Mesa. The mayor vetoed the council vote, insisting that the city should not be giving away public land to corporate interests for free.
In an effort to curry favor with the mayor’s office, Sunroad’s Tom Story offered a donation of $100,000 to the city if the mayor would drop his objection to the easement request. In a June 28 press conference, Filner acknowledged that the City Council likely had the votes to override his veto, and said he felt that it was better for the city to at least get something in exchange for giving up rights to a public park.
Filner has since returned the $100,000 amid allegations of a quid-pro-quo arrangement, which is the basis for Briggs’ demands.
“Today serious and grievous allegations of harassment have been conveyed against Mayor Bob Filner by people that I know and trust,” said Congressman Scott Peters in a statement. “If the allegations are true, this behavior in inexcusable, shows terrible disregard for women, the voters, and the thousands of people who worked tirelessly to support the Mayor’s candidacy.” Peters is a former member of the San Diego City Council.
“Sexual harassment is a serious matter, and these allegations deserve a response. San Diegans need to hear from the mayor soon,” said Council President Todd Gloria in a statement of his own. “I offer my assurance to any person who may have been harassed that their claims will not be discounted should they come forward. All applicable administrative and legal protocols will be followed by the City,”