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I was in college when I started working for then-Congressman Bob Filner. I was a College Democrat and was excited about the chance to work for a congressman and former Freedom Rider. Although many years have passed since I was employed by him, it still pains me to see what has become of the man I was once so excited to work for.
Even as a college student two decades ago, I had no illusions that Filner was a nice guy. He was notorious for yelling at staff, often for little things like using the wrong size of paper clip. As I explained to a friend at the time, his campaign slogan “fighting for us” basically meant “he’s a jerk, but he’s our jerk.” He was hard on his staff but we saw it as part of our public service; and, I never experienced anything like what has been revealed to all of us over the last week.
The accusations made about Mayor Filner are disturbing to hear. The New York Times described allegations by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez as “including linking job advancement to sexual favors.” A recent press conference held by former City Councilwoman Donna Frye and attorneys Cory Briggs and Marco Gonzalez provided graphic allegations. Those accusers are as credible as you can find — not political enemies but rather close supporters and political allies who have come to the realization that he cannot be trusted to do the job that he was elected to do.
Even Filner’s own carefully nuanced statements are enough to condemn his actions:
“I have diminished the office….I am clearly doing something wrong…I have failed to fully respect the women who work for me….I have intimidated them.”
Filner admits that if his behavior does not change, he cannot lead the city. We are already well past that point — the mayor’s office is drastically understaffed. Employees leave faster than they can be hired. Good staff and good volunteers are driven away by his behavior.
I saw firsthand the high turnover rates when I offered to help his mayoral office with IT and data challenges. Two different staff members I was working with left, one after the other. A volunteer-driven project that would have benefited our city has instead floundered and left those of us who are volunteering our time increasingly frustrated by having to start over once again.
Filner finished his apology DVD message by asking us to give him “an opportunity to prove [he is] capable of change.” It reminds me of advice I got when I first started working for Filner those 20 years ago. I have taken it to heart and continue to use it this today, describing it to others as the “Filner rule.”
I was told that when I made a mistake, I should send him a memo answering three questions:
1. What happened?
2. What am I doing to fix the mistake?
3. What I am doing to make sure it never happens again?
If Filner provided good answers to these three questions, I would consider giving him another chance. But he has not and I’m forced to conclude it is because the answers are not good ones. All indications are that:
1. He sexually harassed women who were trying to work to make our city a better place.
2. He is taking no clear or specific actions to make amends.
3. It will almost certainly happen again.
Bob Filner needs to resign. If he does not resign, he needs to be recalled.
Katz’s commentary has been edited for style, grammar and clarity. See anything in there we should fact check? Tell us what to check out here.