NATIONAL CITY (CBS/AP) — A San Diego businesswoman stepped forward on Wednesday to say the leader of the nation’s eighth largest city had made unwanted sexual advances toward her, the latest woman to accuse Mayor Bob Filner of sexual harassment.
The 70-year-old former congressman has been besieged by allegations from at least 17 women, and whether he’ll be able to hang onto his job is in limbo.
A petition drive to recall Filner is in full swing, and calls from his own party urging him to step down were mounting with the Democratic National Committee planning to vote on a resolution Friday. The measure would formalize a plea to Filner to leave office and also would condemn anyone who creates a hostile workplace or sexually harasses women or men.
La Jolla businesswoman Dianne York, the latest accuser, said Filner placed his hand on her buttocks while she posed for a photo with him about three months ago.
“At the end, at the conclusion, when we got up to say our goodbyes, I asked for a photo from the mayor. I thought it was exciting to get to meet the mayor for the first time. Unbeknownst to me when we posed for the photo, there was a hand that went to my back, to my buttocks. I was shocked, it was inappropriate and I was startled at the time,” she said.
York told reporters at a news conference in National City that the incident took place after a meeting at his office. She said she reported the incident to the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department.
“I have now come forward and I’m sure there are many, many more who could, but it does take a lot of courage,” she said.
York has filed for bankruptcy. Some people said the only reason she came forward was for financial gain.
“I feel sorry for (my critics). I did this for all of us, not for me,” she said.
Settlement talks over a sexual harassment lawsuit brought against the city and Filner resumed for a third day on Wednesday.
On Tuesday, City Attorney Jan Goldsmith hinted that the talks could go on for longer than originally expected.
“Mediation can be a long process — we are in that process,” he told reporters Tuesday after an all-day session.
It was unclear whether Filner’s potential resignation was being discussed as part of the bargaining.
Carl Luna, a political science professor at Mesa College, said Filner may be still fighting to stay in office or he may be trying to negotiate a deal that would limit his financial liability in the lawsuit if he agrees to resign.
“Oddly enough the person holding the most cards is Bob Filner, because he’s the one in position to end all this,” Luna said.
Those at the negotiating table said they have been told not to comment while the talks are ongoing. Filner has been attending the talks along with Goldsmith, City Council President Todd Gloria and Councilman Kevin Faulconer.
Gloria would serve as acting mayor if Filner resigns.
Attorney Gloria Allred and her client, Irene McCormack Jackson, attended the first day of talks and were in communication but not physically present with the parties on Tuesday.
Filner’s former communications director, McCormack, as she is known professionally, was the first to go public with allegations against him. Other accusers include a university dean and a retired Navy rear admiral. Some contend he cornered, groped and forcibly kissed them.
Filner announced three weeks ago that he would undergo therapy after acknowledging he has disrespected and intimidated women. He has denied committing sexual harassment.
Questions also have been raised over Filner’s spending and a trip to Paris. He is being investigated over the various issues by the city attorney’s office, state attorney general’s office, sheriff’s department and U.S. attorney.
Before going into therapy, Filner said when he returns his focus “will be on making sure that I am doing right by the city in terms of being the best mayor I can be.” He has not issued a statement since returning.
Recall organizers must collect 101,597 signatures of registered San Diego voters by Sept. 26. If the petition has fewer than that, the recall campaign will have 30 more days to gather additional valid signatures.
If enough signatures are validated, the City Council must schedule an election within 60 to 90 days.
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