SAN DIEGO (AP) — San Diego Mayor Bob Filner responded to a recall effort over sexual harassment allegations by touting progress the city has made during his term.
Filner made no mention of the accusations in a written statement addressed to the city clerk’s office Monday to meet a deadline under the municipal code.
Instead, the city’s first Democratic mayor in two decades highlighted economic, environmental and job-creating projects that he has launched since his election last November.
The recall effort could legally proceed even if Filner missed the deadline, but now his response will be included on the petitions expected to begin circulating next week.
Filner pointed out a five-year labor agreement for city employees. He said his administration is working on expansion plans for the city’s convention center that will generate thousands of local jobs, and a proposal to try to bring the 2024 summer Olympics to San Diego and neighboring Tijuana, Mexico.
“As your Mayor, I am committed to moving San Diego forward!” he wrote.
More than a dozen women have accused the 70-year-old former congressman of making unwanted advances, such as inappropriate statements or groping. In addition to the recall, there have been numerous calls for Filner to resign.
“This is an insult to the entire community,” Michael Pallamary, head of the recall effort, told KNX 1070’s Tom Reopelle. “We don’t need a mayor like this. We don’t need a mayor who’s abusing and harassing women and destroying the city.”
Pallamary said recall volunteers will begin gathering signatures on Sunday.
“Our city is perceived as a city run by a sexual predator,” Pallamary said.
University of California, San Diego, political science professor Steve Erie said Filner seems to be in denial but also may be trying to appear like he is digging in his heels so he has more negotiating power over his future.
The mayor’s stubbornness could be aimed at leveraging a deal to leave office under the condition that he shed his financial responsibilities if the city loses a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by Filner’s former communications director, Irene McCormack Jackson, Erie said.
“I think what we’re seeing here is bunker mentality,” Erie said. “I think our mayor is still in denial or he wants to appear like he will resolve to fight it to the end. This may be a bargaining strategy, because the minute he resigns, all bets are off, and he’s lost leverage.”
Recall organizers planned to publish Filner’s response in the U-T San Diego newspaper immediately, as required by law.
Rachel Laing, a recall spokeswoman, said the effort had received more than 150 small donations but she did not know the total amount of money raised.
Several businesses — including four Hooters restaurant locations — have posted signs from a radio talk show campaign stating the establishments will not serve the mayor because “we believe women should be treated with respect.”
Melissa Fry, director of marketing for HootWinc, the West Coast Hooters franchise told Slate magazine it was not a political move but was a stand for the fair treatment of women.
Filner has not been seen publicly since entering an intensive two-week therapy session. His lawyers said Filner would not be available for comment this week while he receives outpatient care.
The mayor has apologized for what he says was inappropriate behavior and acknowledged disrespecting and intimidating women. But he has said he is not guilty of sexual harassment.
The nine-member City Council and state and federal elected officials have urged Filner to step down.
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