While many politicians in San Diego are calling for the resignation of San Diego Mayor Bob Filner, government officials in the South Bay appear split on the matter.
Filner, a former congressional representative of the 51st district which covers National City and Chula Vista, is facing several allegations of sexual harassment against constituents and coworkers.
These accusations spurred a series of press conferences by fellow Democrat and former San Diego councilwoman Donna Frye and attorney Marco Gonzalez, both asking Filner to step down from his post as San Diego’s highest-ranking official.
Gonzalez is the older brother of Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, who was elected to the South Bay’s 80th Assembly District in May.
Chula Vista City Councilwoman Mary Salas said she too wants Filner to resign immediately.
“I believe that the accusations come from very credible people and that it is very imperative that Bob resign as soon as possible,” Salas said.
Filner received Salas’ endorsement in the 2012 San Diego mayoral race.
Despite the recent allegations, Salas said she does not regret endorsing the one-time congressional representative because of his stellar track record in the community.
“As our representative in congress, he was very effective,” she said.
“What you can say about Bob Filner is he always fought for his community and for the good of his community. And he brought a tremendous amount of benefits to our region.”
As a congressman, Filner was able to secure funding for the city of Chula Vista to conduct an environmental impact report on a future university project.
Among many other accomplishments, the 70-year-old Democrat also helped Chula Vista gain funding for its libraries and for road improvement projects.
During his tenure as a congressman, Filner was an avid supporter of the Filipino community, U.S. Veterans and women’s rights.
Salas said Filner’s July 12 apology for “inappropriate behavior” toward women is not enough. She said if he truly wanted to rectify the issue he would resign immediately.
However, Chula Vista City Councilwoman Patricia Aguilar and Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, 79th District, both agreed that it’s premature to ask for Filner’s resignation. Aguilar and Weber said they would like to see the legal process play out.
“If the accusations are true, then I’m very disappointed and he should resign, but as of right now we don’t know if these accusations are true” Aguilar said.
“What I’m saying is Mr. Filner is entitled to his day in court, so to speak.”
Aguilar said she hasn’t been contacted by any victims regarding any of the alleged sexual harassment claims, so she said she hasn’t seen any evidence that Frye and others have.
Aguilar said, as with every American, Filner needs to be proven guilty if in fact the harassment claims are true.
“As far as I’m concerned I think that he should be presumed innocent until there is some kind of fair trail or some kind of administrative procedure.”
Aguilar also said being in the public eye, such accusations “come with the territory.”
Weber, who’s known Filner for more than 40 years and considers him a friend, said Filner and the accusers deserve to have their sides of the story told in court.
“While the incidents and the allegations have been unfortunate, everyone deserves to be heard out,” Weber said. “I try not to jump to conclusions.”
Weber said she maintains the position that Filner should not resign until the facts come out in court.
“I’m not one to call for someone’s resignation because of allegations that have been made,” Weber said. “And keep in mind, I don’t have the same information as everybody else has, I have not had the victims come to me.”
Weber said she understands the severity of sexual harassment claims because she has written the sexual harassment policy for several universities.
Weber said in all the years she’s known Filner, she never heard or saw any sexual misconduct by him.
Salas said she has not seen any sexual misconduct by Filner either but she said “there’s always been rumors,” and she’s seen what she calls “erratic behavior” by him.
“As far as my own personal experience with Bob was, I always put him in his place and never, never once let him take advantage of me in any way,” she said.
Salas said she considers Filner a friend but recently contacted Filner’s staff and asked that their friendship now be kept at a distance.
“This is a very difficult thing for me because I was a friend of his for many, many years,” she said. “There is going to be some sort of bridge in our friendship.”
She said Filner’s image is now beyond repair and if he were to serve out his term as mayor he would not be effective in any way.
Weber said Filner may be able to move forward and move beyond these allegations but he will forever be tied to them. Weber referenced how President Clinton faced allegations as well and was able to serve out his term but in the end when people talk about him the allegations always come up.
Salas added that she only has one thing to say to Filner: “Please resign.”
Louie Natividad, a council member for the city of National City, said he declined to comment because he works in San Diego City Councilwoman Myrtle Cole’s office and does not want his opinion to be reflected upon Cole.
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