San Diego Business Leadership Alliance, other business groups demand Filner resign

Unanimous decision happened at meeting

SAN DIEGO - The San Diego Business Leadership Alliance unanimously voted Thursday to call on Mayor Bob Filner to immediately resign during an emergency meeting.

The group included San Diego Port Tenants Association President Sharon Bernie-Cloward, who is one of eight women to publicly accuse Filner of sexual harassment.

In an online post, Mark Cafferty, CEO of the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp., told 10News, "Collectively unopposed, more than 30 business associations felt the need to come together today to say that for the good of the economy and the community, to ask the mayor to step down."

Filner's predecessor, Jerry Sanders -- now the head of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce -- also called for his resignation.

"To see -- in six months -- one individual tear down the reputation of the city and make us the laughing stock of the U.S. it's just really tragic," Sanders said. "These women are very courageous. We're going to have to stand behind them and make sure they are not victimized again."

"I think the Business Leadership Alliance felt that very strongly. That's 33 organizations that were not going to tolerate this and we're not going to tolerate the women being re-victimized and we're tired of paralysis in the city," Sanders added.

"It has become impossible to ignore how interconnected our region's economic development efforts are with the mayor's office," Cafferty said. "This interconnectedness is becoming more of a detriment every day."

He said the allegations of abuse against the mayor have had a "serious negative impact on our economy."

According to Cafferty, conversations with businesses planning to move to or expand in San Diego have become dominated by talk of and questions about the allegations and derailed by jokes.

Also, joint initiatives with the city have been paralyzed by "uncertainty and confusion" in the mayor's office.

Business leaders have threatened to back out of meetings he is scheduled to attend, and he can't send female employees to meet with the mayor, he said.

Cafferty is on the board of the Business Leadership Alliance, which includes Sanders, Kris Michell, president of the San Diego Downtown Partnership, and Joe Terzi, who heads the San Diego Tourism Authority.

The website for the San Diego Business Leadership Alliance states part of its mission is to "collaborate on ideas and identify and advocate for or against public policies that will affect business and jobs."

Bill Geppert, co-Chair of the Business Leadership Alliance, said, "We know these women and they are very credible women and very respected in the community. We really felt strongly that we needed to be there to support them and thank them for their courageousness."

When 10News asked Geppert how Cloward responded to the vote, he told 10News, "She was very fortified by it, encouraged by it.  She suggested it was one of the most difficult things she'd ever done in her life and really appreciated it (the vote of support)."

The calls for resignation from business leaders are in addition to those from numerous elected officials from both major parties.