Given the Latest Lawsuit Against Central Committee Member Kasparian, How Long Will Women Support a Local Dysfunctional Democratic Party?
How many incidents of discrimination and/or sexual misconduct is too many for San Diego’s Democratic Party? Are four enough? How long will the party’s leaders continue to disparage those who defend victims in these cases in order to protect their cash flow? (Another story for another day)
In light of the latest news about a member of the organization’s Central Committee, it’s a fair question to ask. We need to be talking about these ugly matters, even as a series of op-eds in the Union-Tribune revives the painful episodes surrounding the fall of former Mayor Bob Filner.
County employee and Service Employees International Union Local 221 Board member Melody Godinez has filed a lawsuit against Mickey Kasparian, President of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 135 alleging “gender violence” and “vile and despicable” conduct.
The latest lawsuit, along with a deposition referenced in the filing, makes appalling claims against Kasparian, including six incidents, including four assaults, an inappropriate phone call, and an attempt to coerce the plaintiff into a three-woman sex encounter in a large “opulent” suite at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront.
There are now four lawsuits naming the labor leader, once considered a progressive icon, now seen as a toxic figure by many activists. A move to remove him from the Democratic Central Committee in March failed to gain the two-thirds support needed to pass.
UPDATE- This just in from Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez on Facebook:
Kasparian has vehemently denied all the allegations made against him over the past year and has threatened to sue his accusers. A hand-delivered a note to the San Diego Union-Tribune from the UFCW President said his latest accuser “has been repeatedly inappropriate in the past and has also threatened revenge against me personally.”
From the Union-Tribune story:
Kasparian has previously been accused in a lawsuit of pressuring a woman who worked for him into a longterm sexual relationship, and of firing another employee in retaliation for a political disagreement. Other women who have worked for Kasparian have accused him of boorish behavior that was not of a sexual nature.
He used to lead the regional Labor Council, a coalition of unions. After the allegations surfaced a year ago, he created his own separate organization, the San Diego Working Families Council.
Godinez’s attorney, Dan Gilleon, said that Kasparian is a kingmaker in progressive politics and fits into the national conversation about powerful men who victimize women.
Gilleon is seeking a jury trial in the case, assigned to Judge Eddie Sturgeon. The legal action, filed late on Wednesday, says Kasparian “acted with malice, oppression, fraud in conscious disregard of plaintiff’s rights and well-being, entitling Godinez to recover punitive damages against Local 135.”
At The Times of San Diego, reporter Ken Stone obtained a copy of a 32,000-word deposition made by Godinez as a witness in another pending lawsuit.
The Times story contains even more startling claims, including one by the witness saying she feared for her personal safety, following outbursts by Kasparian during the deposition:
Kasparian lawyer Feinberg, in the deposition, explained why his client was acting agitated over the Godinez remarks.
“When we hear comments that are the first time anyone has ever said such a thing and it is clear to my client that his reputation is being sullied and that the witness is lying, it is not unexpected that he might have a visceral reaction,” Feinberg said.
Lawyer Corrales began to say: “You’ll keep your client at ——
Feinberg: “Certainly. He’s not going to be of any harm to her.”
Godinez: “He already has harmed me, sir.”
David Garcias, president of SEUI 221 is accused of “colluding” with Kasparian to remove Godinez from the SEIU executive board as punishment for “standing up for the three sisters that have the lawsuits against Mr. Kasparian” in the deposition.
Garcias denied the claim in an email to the Times, writing “no action was ever discussed, threatened or taken against Ms. Godinez as a result of her position regarding this lawsuit. We are not a party or witness in the lawsuit.”
The Union-Tribune has three op-eds posted concerning the Democratic Party’s actions prior to and during the fall of Bob Filner.
Bonnie Dumanis, the former District Attorney and current candidate for District 4 County Supervisor, reviewed the Democratic Party’s actions from that era in light of the #MeToo movement without ever mentioning she just happens to be a Republican.
I mention this only because candidate Dumanis has long used voter confusion about her partisan affiliation to her advantage.
None-the-less, her words sting:
In October 2012, after running unsuccessfully against him in the mayor’s race, I criticized Filner for his “disruptive, disrespectful and demeaning” actions, especially to women. And I pointed out the challenge these women face in the Voice of San Diego: “Women don’t want to step forward because they are afraid of his vindictive nature.”
Ironically, Filner pointed to his support from female elected officials and women’s organizations, and called my comments a personal attack. Others called my comments purely political. My warnings, like Lori Saldaña’s, were dismissed and Filner’s behavior persisted. Several women who defended him have since apologized to me, and I’m sure others regret their complicity in his abuse.
For several weeks now, we’ve had daily reminders of how pervasive this kind of behavior is among the powerful. Through the #MeToo campaign, women are finding their courage, finding their voices, and sharing their stories and their pain. And for the first time, finding justice through public awareness and support.
Lori Saldaña also had strong words to share in her op ed, but started off by suggesting the creation of “an independent, nonpartisan investigative body to thoroughly vet complaints against candidates during elections.”
In addition to looking back at the Filner debacle, Saldaña also discusses actions of Democratic party honchos during the 2014 Congressional campaign.
A former campaign employee of Republican Carl DeMaio made accusations of sexual misconduct against the candidate, later proven to be false. Democrats, including the party’s former chairman, organized a demonstration outside a DeMaio campaign event.
The former Assemblymember, who is also running for the District 4 Supervisor seat as a Democrat, has a rocky history with the local party. She ran as an independent in the Mayoral race following Filner’s resignation.
Her break with the party (she has now returned) followed what she viewed as a lack of action after she and others complained to Party Chair Jess Durfee about then-mayoral candidate Congressman Bob Filner’s behavior.
From the UT op-ed: :
But Filner told Durfee that “no one has filed a complaint.” Durfee dismissed our concerns, and supported Filner’s election. In August 2013, Filner was forced to resign in disgrace for abusive behavior towards women.
Filner’s statement was not surprising. Filing a formal complaint against a congressman is time-consuming, and often career-ending. And Durfee’s rationale was political: His job as a party official was to elect Democrats, no matter how flawed or abusive they were toward women.
What happened next was also not surprising: Durfee told others of my comments. Filner’s supporters accused me of undermining his campaign. From their perspective, the problem was not that Filner was harassing women. The problem was women were not remaining silent and tolerating his behavior
Finally, former San Diego Democratic Party Chair Jess Durfee weighed in with his observations in a third op-ed.
After declaring the party to be the party of women’s rights, and noting the organization’s “swift, unequivocal action to support the brave women breaking the silence on sexual harassment in the workplace and halls of power,” he goes after the woman making noise on the local level.
During Filner’s mayoral campaign, Saldaña, while claiming to have been a whistleblower, in fact did not provide any actionable information to me or others about Bob Filner’s behavior. Then, Saldaña, as a central committee member sat silent while the party endorsed Filner and then personally endorsed and supported him despite her claims of firsthand knowledge of Filner’s reprehensible record of sexual harassment and abuse.
Now Saldaña is cynically exploiting victims of sexual harassment in an effort to gain political traction, even though when women needed her most, Lori Saldaña sided with Bob Filner.
These attacks against the Democratic Party cannot go unanswered. Because if there’s one lesson the silence breakers’ courageous action demands we learn, it is that silence enables the abuse to continue. And all of us have a responsibility to stand up, speak out and break the silence.
There is a backstory here, namely long-simmering conflicts between Saldaña and the county party arising out of her 2012 primary challenge of Scott Peters. The now-Congressman was a clear favorite of party insiders, who –it is alleged– put their thumb on the scale in the contest against outsider Saldaña.
None-the-less, the insinuations about Saldaña are –at best– poor optics, especially given the current party leadership’s acquiescence to Kasparian’s continued involvement with its Central Committee.
If Senator Al Franken had to go at the national level, then so does Mickey Kasparian at the local level.
There is a tremendous upsurge in volunteers and enthusiasm for progressive candidates on the national and local level, especially among women. How long can the San Diego Democratic Party continue to be oblivious to the blight in its midst?
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