Supporters of San Diego Mayor Bob Filner call for due process in wake of sexual harassment claims

Office issues 'Forward With City Busines' email

SAN DIEGO - Supporters of embattled San Diego Mayor Bob Filner Thursday called for him to be provided his due process rights in the wake of sexual harassment allegations and resulting demands that he resign.

The news conference, attended by about 30 of Filner's backers, came just minutes after the mayor's office sent an email to reporters highlighting his continued governance of the city.

Longtime immigrant rights activist Enrique Morones read a long list of Filner's accomplishments over the years, including his participation in the civil rights struggles in the South in the 1960s, support for close ties with Mexico and legislation that directed benefits to Filipino veterans of World War II.

"Bob Filner, you deserve due process," Morones said. "It is not only your right, but you have earned it more than most. We will not endorse a public execution."

10News asked Morones if he would feel comfortable letting his daughters work with the mayor given the allegations.  

"Absolutely, these are allegations not facts. I have talked with a lot of women, none of them say they have been harassed by Mayor Filner," said Morones.  

Josie Calderon, president of the Mexican-American Business and Professional Organization, said Filner is being attacked "almost as a public lynching."

"I want to encourage all my fellow Democrats to make sure we follow a fair process that gives everyone an opportunity for a fair hearing, including Mayor Filner and his accusers," said San Diego Community College Trustee Maria Nieto.

"Everyone deserves due process in our legal system and especially a person like Mayor Bob Filner, who has dedicated the past 40-plus years to public service," said community organizer David Valladolid.

Last week and again this past Monday, three of the mayor's heretofore biggest supporters -- former Councilwoman Donna Frye, and lawyers Cory Briggs and Marco Gonzalez -- passed on allegations of sexual harassment and called for him to resign.

Numerous other local office-holders, many Democrats like Filner, also called for the mayor to step down.

Filner apologized at first, but later demanded due process rights and an investigation.

Calderon, who said she has known the mayor for more than three decades, said he has a right to face his accusers. She said she has experienced sexual harassment and called it "a very painful thing."

She said she has been part of Filner's "smaller circle" and has never witnessed any sexual harassment by him.

The speakers said they don't condone sexual harassment and would change their position should the allegations be proven.

The email sent to reporters was titled "Forward With City Business" and displayed photographs of the mayor at recent community events. (View the photos: http://bit.ly/12Q7inX)

"My appointed staff and I will continue to improve America's Finest City," Filner said in the release. "Whether it's attending internal or external events, for constituents or staff, I understand that the city's work comes first."

The mayor has avoided the press since the allegations were raised, until now. His public relations operation has been hampered since former Communications Director Irene McCormack was transferred to another department, leaving him with just one media relations representative.

Organizers of a recall effort against Filner are scheduled to hold a rally outside City Hall Friday at 4 p.m. to recruit volunteers. Their "Recall Bob Filner" Facebook page had received almost 5,000 "likes" by late Thursday afternoon.

Michael Pallamary, who is spearheading the Facebook movement, said, "We want to fire him, He's a coward."

The land-use consultant was successful at weeding out another city official -- Linda Berhardt -- in 1991, but he said this time there's much more at stake.

"The Sunroad event is a catastrophe; it is devastating. There are businesses and investors, we're talking huge money interests that want to come to San Diego but won't now. Our reputation is pathetic. Smart money is heading out of San Diego," said Pallamary.

"Depending on the response, that will dictate how we will go forward with the recall; it's a complex process with strict timelines. If people want a recall, show up tomorrow and express your positions," said Pallamary.  

He will be crafting the recall around the online responses as well as the ones that are received at Friday's rally.


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