Embattled San Diego mayor instructed to avoid closed-door meetings with women

Published July 18, 2013

| FoxNews.com

Embattled San Diego Mayor Bob Filner has been instructed to avoid closed-door meetings with female staffers and other women, Fox News has learned. 

Sources within City Hall tell Fox News that one of the first directives from the newly hired chief operating officer asks Filner to avoid the appearance of impropriety by not putting himself in closed-door situations similar to what's been described in anonymous allegations of sexual harassment. 

This recent development comes as the City Council has asked for the creation of workplace safety zones for any worker who feels threatened in Filner's presence. 

While many have been shocked by the allegations, this is not the first time Filner, a Democrat, has been accused of wrongdoing. 

Former state lawmaker Lori Saldana says several years ago she reported the abuse claims of six different women to the top Democratic official in San Diego.  "I went to the leader -- the elected leader of the county party," Saldana told a local TV station. "I expressed to him my concerns. Did he take strong enough action to make sure that things would improve? Apparently not." 

An emergency party meeting was held Thursday night to discuss the matter, but officials did not decide to call for his resignation during that session. Party officials have expressed conflicting views on whether to more forcefully call for Filner's resignation, as a majority of the City Council has done, or echo the mayor's claims that he's entitled to due process in defending himself. 

In January, City Attorney Jan Goldsmith previously sent an internal office memo reminding workers that "abuse may come in the form of yelling, degrading or even throwing things, none of which will be tolerated." KPBS-TV reports that Goldsmith later specifically instructed his female staffers not to go into the mayor's 11th floor offices without a witness. 

Since the latest explosive allegations of lewd conduct came to light over the past week, another woman, a lobbyist, says Filner "violated" her during office visits.  "We would go into his office. We would meet. We would talk," said the woman who refused to be identified during a local television interview. "There was always a photo taken either at the beginning or at the end and it seems that Mr. Filner always wanted to be next to a woman in the photos and on several occasions I was that person." 

This accuser described how Filner during the photo shoot would move his hands around her body. Starting with shoulder rubs then moving down her body and eventually "it would go to where he would caress on the bottom." 

A week ago, Filner issued a video apology for his actions, saying the charges against him are serious and that he had diminished the mayor's office. 

"I am embarrassed to admit that I have failed to fully respect the women who work for me and with me," he said. But ever since, he's struck a more defiant tone and reiterated his interest in staying in office.  "I do not believe I am guilty of sexual harassment, and I believe a full presentation of the facts will vindicate me," Filner wrote in an op-ed. 

Former Assistant City Attorney Chris Morris says Filner's video admission may already put him and the city in legal jeopardy. "The blanket admission that I need help -- let's just say it didn't protect the city's legal interests as either saying nothing or maybe a blanket denial would have." 

Filner has already retained a private lawyer and while he may ask for legal expenses to be covered by taxpayers, Councilman Scott Sherman says Filner shouldn't count on financial help. "We can't be in the position of looking after the mayor and trying to control his urges. I mean, the mayor should do the right thing and resign for the good of the city. ... He brought this on himself. He needs to pay the bill." 

Fox News' Lee Ross and William LaJeunesse contributed to this report.