Four more women accuse San Diego mayor of sexual misconduct – Reuters

San Diego mayor Bob Filner speaks during a ground breaking ceremony for improvements for the San Diego Trolley system in San Diego, California July 25, 2013. REUTERS/Sam Hodgson Acquire Licensing Rights
By Marty Graham
SAN DIEGO (Reuters) – Four more women, including a retired U.S. Navy admiral and a college dean, accused San Diego Mayor Bob Filner of making unwanted sexual advances toward them, as local party leaders called on the 70-year-old Democrat to resign on Thursday.
The latest allegations leveled at Filner during a group interview by public television station KPBS brought to seven the number of women who have come forth this week to accuse the former U.S. congressman of sexual harassment.
Retired Rear Admiral Veronica "Ronnie" Froman described an encounter a couple of years ago in Filner's congressional office in which she said Filner stepped between her and doorway, ran a finger up her cheek and whispered, "Do you have a man in your life?"
Joyce Gattas, dean of the College of Professional Studies and Fine Arts at San Diego State University, said Filner had behaved inappropriately toward her at various public events over the years – an embrace that was too tight, "a hand on the knee that lasted too long" – and had subjected her to verbal "sexual innuendo" on numerous occasions.
Patti Roscoe, a prominent businesswoman in San Diego's tourism industry, recounted an incident in recent months in which she said Filner tried to kiss her on the lips and "slobbered down my chin" as she pulled away.
Sharon Bernie-Cloward, president of the San Diego Port Tenants Association, recounted that Filner groped her buttocks at a public event during his 2012 campaign for mayor, an encounter that she said left her "startled and fearful."
Meanwhile, the San Diego County Democratic Party Central Committee voted 34-6 to approve a non-binding resolution calling on Filner to step down. The action came one week after the same group of party bosses and elected officials deadlocked 24-24 on a similar measure.
There was no immediate comment from the mayor's office in response to the latest flurry of allegations against Filner or the resolution urging his resignation.
When accusations against him first surfaced on July 11, even before any of the alleged victims went public, the mayor admitted to having engaged in inappropriate behavior toward female staff members and said he was seeking professional help.
But he has so far insisted that he would not resign.
Filner ducked reporters' questions about the scandal at two public appearances on Thursday. At a groundbreaking ceremony for a San Diego trolley construction project, he joked, "I see you've found a way to attract media attention to our efforts on the trolley."
The clamor against Filner intensified after his former press secretary at City Hall, Irene McCormack Jackson, filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against the mayor on Monday, accusing him of unwanted physical contact and suggestive comments.
Two other women, school psychologist Morgan Rose and political consultant Laura Fink, came forward to level similar allegations later in the week.
Approval of a formal rebuke demanding his resignation by the Democrats' local governing council cannot force Filner from office. Short of a felony conviction, only a recall election could remove him as mayor of California's second-largest city.
But the official call for his ouster by local party leaders and fellow San Diego-area politicians marked a sharp escalation on the pressure building on Filner to quit.
"We felt very strongly it was in the best interests of the city of San Diego for the mayor to step down," county Central Committee Chairwoman Francine Busby said after Thursday's vote.
A number of prominent local Democrats already have urged Filner to step down, including San Diego-area U.S. Representatives Susan Davis and Scott Peters and San Diego City Council President Todd Gloria.
A public opinion poll released late Wednesday found that 69 percent of San Diego residents believe Filner should go, up 10 percentage points since the same survey was conducted two weeks ago. Both polls were conducted by SurveyUSA on behalf of the San Diego Union-Tribune and local television station KGTV.
Filner was elected mayor last year after a 20-year career in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Fink, who has said Filner patted her buttocks at an event in 2005, when he was a congressman, described the mayor as "someone who once fought for the powerless and now he is abusing his power."
"I'm a Democrat and I agree with his political values, but if he can't represent his values, he should step down," she told Reuters on Thursday.
Additional reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; Writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Stacey Joyce
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
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