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Kersey Calls for Investigation into ‘Disturbing’ Filner Sex Scandal

The mayor has been accused of sexual harassment, and the crowd asking for his resignation is growing after he admitted to inappropriate behavior.

San Diego Mayor Bob Filner (left) and San Diego City Councilman Mark Kersey. Photo by Khari Johnson.
San Diego Mayor Bob Filner (left) and San Diego City Councilman Mark Kersey. Photo by Khari Johnson.
Originally posted 5:11 p.m. Thursday. Updated 6:01 p.m. with statements from council members.

San Diego City Councilman Mark Kersey called for an immediate investigation into multiple claims of sexual harassment against Mayor Bob Filner on Thursday after the city chief issued a video apology as his supporters called for him to resign. 

"It is disturbing that the mayor did not deny any of the allegations made by four high-profile San Diegans," said Kersey, who represents Rancho Bernardo in District 5, in a statement. "Our immediate focus should be on the safety of our workers. No employee should feel intimidated or vulnerable on the job. We have to ensure that the City of San Diego sets the highest possible standards for professionalism in the workplace.

"Any and all claims must be immediately investigated by the City."

Filner's office sent out DVDs of the apology, which was later posted to YouTube, in which he admitted he had intimidated some women and needed help. He asked for time to correct his behavior and said he would undergo sexual harassment training, but did not say he would leave office.

[Read the statement and see the video here.]

Kersey, a Republican, ran unopposed to replace former Councilman Carl DeMaio in the District 5 seat last fall. DeMaio, also a Republican, gave up his seat after one term to run for mayor, but lost to Filner, a Democrat, in a 52-47 split. As the sexual harassment allegations against Filner swirled Wednesday and Thursday, DeMaio issued a statement saying the mayor was "simply incapable" of leading San Diego.

Other council members also reacted to the scandal, with Councilman Scott Sherman joining the call for Filner to step down.

"I am calling on Mayor Filner to resign," Sherman said in a statement issued after the video was released. "He has admitted that he is guilty of sexually harassing women and his actions are unacceptable under any circumstance. Unfortunately this is the latest and most disturbing of a series of scandals that make him incapable of leading our city."

Former Councilwoman Donna Frye was one of the mayor's supporters who, in a press conference Thursday morning, said she had to act after receiving what she deemed credible evidence of Filner's sexual harassment of multiple women.

Frye and attorneys Marco Gonzalez and Cory Briggs, who wrote letters asking Filner to resign, did not specify how many women made allegations or go into detail about the exact nature of the claims.

Council President Todd Gloria, who would fill the mayor's seat temporarily should he resign, encouraged those with allegations to come forward, saying sexual harassment is a "serious matter."

“People must be treated with respect and are right to expect a workplace that is free of harassment and intimidation," Gloria said in a statement. "I offer my assurance to any person who may have been harassed that their claims will not be discounted should they come forward. All applicable administrative and legal protocols will be followed by the City."

But even before the mayor admitted to wrongdoing in his apology video, others were stepping up to bolster the claims against him. Former Democratic Assemblywoman Lori Saldana told Voice of San Diego that she had warned her party years ago about Filner's inappropriate behavior. 

"Saldaña said that in summer 2011 six prominent women in local politics, business and education told her that Filner had physically or verbally harassed them," according to the VOSD report.

But even after former party Chairman Jess Durfee and other leaders met with the mayor, nothing happened, the former assemblywoman said.

“As disgraceful as Bob’s behavior has been, it’s been tolerated by our Democratic Party leadership,” Saldana told VOSD.

In response, Tony Krvaric, chairman of the Republican Party of San Diego County, wrote on Twitter, "How many women's dignity suffered because @sandiegodems and @LorenaSGonzalez remained quiet about @BobFilnerMayor's behavior for YEARS?"

He later wrote that he would "show up clipboard in hand" if there was a recall against Filner.

San Diego County Democratic Party Chair Francine Busby put out a statement crediting the mayor for apologizing, but said his behavior was "intolerable under any circumstances."

"Like all San Diegans, I am deeply disappointed by Mayor Filner's conduct toward women. Now that he has taken responsibility for his actions, I will hold him to his promises. I ask the people of San Diego, who elected Bob Filner to be our Mayor, to join me today and give him an opportunity to live up to his word."

Councilmembers David Alvarez and Myrtle Cole also issued statements, saying if Filner does not change he should resign.

Councilwoman Lorie Zapf, in her statement, said she was "deeply troubled" by Filner's behavior and he should step down. 

See the council members' full statements here.

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