SAN DIEGO — A prominent businesswoman came forward Wednesday as the 18th woman to accuse San Diego Mayor Bob Filner of sexual harassment.
Dianne York, president and CEO of The Spa of La Jolla, told CNN that during a meeting with Filner three months ago, he put his hands on her buttocks while a photo was being taken and others were present in the room.
The first woman to accuse Filner of unwanted advances, groping or, in some instances, forced kissing, was his former communications director, Irene Jackson McCormack. She is suing the mayor and the city for unspecified damages.
Mediation between Filner, lawyers and city officials began Monday. All parties have refused to say whether they would go into a third day of negotiations today — negotiations reported to be dealing in part with the possibility of Filner’s resignation.
“It can be a long process. We are in that process; it is ongoing,” City Attorney Jan Goldsmith said of the talks taking place on the 17th floor of a downtown high-rise.
McCormack Jackson came forward with her allegations in mid-July. She is one of three city employees among Filner’s alleged 18 victims.
Goldsmith told reporters Tuesday that retired federal judge J. Lawrence Irving ordered participants not to discuss the substance of the negotiations. Goldsmith, himself a former judge, said he would honor Irving’s request.
He and others who were at Tuesday’s negotiations, including City Council President Todd Gloria and Councilman Kevin Faulconer, walked away without responding when reporters asked if more mediation was scheduled for today.
Sources told U-T San Diego that Filner’s resignation was on the table. The newspaper also reported that a key point in the discussion surrounded limiting the amount of money that the taxpayers and the city would have to pay McCormack Jackson.
Filner has attended both days of the talks, so he has not returned to work at the City Administration Building. Neither his spokeswoman nor his Irvine-based private lawyer, James Payne, would say when the 70-year-old former congressman might resume his mayoral work.
Los Angeles-based lawyer Gloria Allred, who represents McCormack Jackson, was not present Tuesday, though she had been the previous day. But she was reported to have taken part in the talks by telephone.
The mayor has apologized publicly for what he called a failure to respect women and for his “intimidating conduct.” However, he denied his actions have amounted to sexual harassment.
Earlier this month, he voluntarily under went behavioral therapy at an inpatient facility. His lawyer said the mayor was continuing therapy on an outpatient basis.
Filner, who is also mired in investigations over alleged misuse of city- issued credit cards and shakedowns of developers, has so far rebuffed calls from all nine City Council members, other officeholders and business leaders to resign.
While the mediation sessions took place, organizers of an effort to recall Filner circulated petitions around the city. They need to turn in nearly 102,000 signatures to the City Clerk’s Office by Sept. 26.
They reported Tuesday that 400 petitions had been returned to campaign headquarters. With 10 signatures each, that made the total 4,000 — not counting the thousands of forms that had not been turned in.
The campaign promised a release of rough signature counts on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
In the meantime, the pressure on Filner was continuing unabated. It was reported Tuesday that members of the Democratic National Committee will vote on a five-page resolution this week that demands Filner, a 10-term Democratic congressman, step down.
DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz has demanded Filner resign, as have California’s two senators and other Democratic legislators. The DNC is scheduled to meet in Phoenix this week. According to CNN, the draft of the five- page resolution states in part:
“We cannot reassure voters that a vote for a Democrat is a vote for a champion for women unless Democrats walk our talk on equality and take firm action in accordance with our values and stand up for women by condemning his behavior and calling on him to immediately resign as Mayor of San Diego.”