Filner Accuser Helped Pay Off Campaign Debt

Filner Accuser Helped Pay Off Campaign Debt

Image via KPBS

KPBS created a level of trust that allowed Bob Filner's accusers to come forward to tell their stories.

One of the seven women who has publicly accused San Diego Mayor Bob Filner of inappropriate behavior helped pay off his campaign debt, according to a financial disclosure released Tuesday.

Sharon Bernie-Cloward, head of the San Diego Port Tenants Association, accused Filner last week of making an unwanted sexual advance toward her in 2010 and “groping her backside” after a campaign event last year.

“I was left there startled and fearful. In fact, I actually had someone walk me to my car that night,” Bernie-Cloward told KPBS.

A campaign filing released Tuesday shows Bernie-Cloward gave Filner $200 on Jan. 31 to help pay off the mayor’s more than $100,000 debt from his successful mayoral campaign. Filner raised enough money by the end of June to pay off his entire debt, including $3,500 of his own money and $45,500 from the local Democratic Party, according to the filing.

Six executives from developer Sunroad gave Filner a total of $3,000 to help pay off the debt as well, according to U-T San Diego. Filner is embroiled in a federal investigation over his handling of a Sunroad development project.

Update: Bernie-Cloward called me back soon after this story published. She said she was reluctant to send Filner the money but she had to do it for her job representing business owners along port tidelands, like she does when donating to other elected officials across the region.

“It was a typical campaign check,” Bernie-Cloward said. “My job is my job, and you’ve got to work with these people.”

Bernie-Cloward reiterated that she reported the 2012 incident to the Port Tenants Association board when it happened. She also said she was reluctant to make her accusations public earlier than she did because the port tenants’ PAC backed Filner’s opponent, Carl DeMaio.

“I guarantee you,” she said. “If I came forward at that time, they would have said that I was just coming to get him.”

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Liam Dillon

Liam Dillon

Liam Dillon is senior reporter and assistant editor for Voice of San Diego. He leads VOSD’s investigations and writes about how regular people interact with local government. What should he write about next? Please contact him directly at liam.dillon@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5663.

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5 comments
Witness
Witness

The story reveals a potential illegality. When employees are directed to make political contributions and then reimbursed by the employer, they are violating state election law that prohibits the laundering of campaign contributions.

Rachel Laing
Rachel Laing

I hope people don't infer from her donation that her accusations were false; if anything, it speaks to the level of power Filner holds over the women he made passes at -- and why women didn't come forward publicly. Anyone who works in the political arena pretty much has to make nice and help retire the winners' debt. The mayor has a lot of power over your career if part of your job is to get an audience with him or her. Cloward had little choice. The meager donation and silence are part of the same dynamic. He had power over these women's ability to do their jobs effectively.

Rachel Laing
Rachel Laing subscribermember

I hope people don't infer from her donation that her accusations were false; if anything, it speaks to the level of power Filner holds over the women he made passes at -- and why women didn't come forward publicly. Anyone who works in the political arena pretty much has to make nice and help retire the winners' debt. The mayor has a lot of power over your career if part of your job is to get an audience with him or her. Cloward had little choice. The meager donation and silence are part of the same dynamic. He had power over these women's ability to do their jobs effectively.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones

Cloward had a choice, and she chose to let Filner continue his behavior against other women because it was the easiest and most personally profitable route for her.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones subscriber

Cloward had a choice, and she chose to let Filner continue his behavior against other women because it was the easiest and most personally profitable route for her.