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Wed August 21, 2013
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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
San Diego Mayor Bob Filner is back on the job after two weeks of what he has described as intensive therapy in response to accusations by more than a dozen women that he had sexually harassed them. Still, he's been a no-show at City Hall. The mayor and his aides have spent the past two days negotiating whether he can remain in office. He's been called upon to resign by the entire city council, powerful voices in his Democratic Party and many who voted for him. Reporter Sandhya Dirks at member station KPBS has been covering this story, and joined us from San Diego. Good morning.
SANDHYA DIRKS, BYLINE: Good morning, Renee.
MONTAGNE: So catch us up on this tale. Remind us how the mayor got himself to this point.
DIRKS: Well, multiple women have come forward, and they have accused the mayor of what amounts to a pattern of sexual harassment of things like the Filner headlock, where he grabs women, forcible kissing. And the mayor - while denying that he's actually guilty of sexual harassment - has said there is a monster inside of him, and he said that he needed to get help. And he checked himself into intensive inpatient therapy.
He also took a little extra time off, apparently, to think about all of this. And so he's been gone for three weeks, but things really have not quieted down in his absence, have they?
MONTAGNE: No. It's been a summer of scandal, here. While he was gone, more women came forward with complaints, including women who were in the military, who were survivors of rape, that said that he had hit on them and asked them out after they gave detailed accounts of things that had happened to them. And so it just - all of these sort of sorted details have been pouring out. And as that has happened, more former supporters have come forward to call for his resignation.
And there's a campaign to recall the mayor, and it's been picking up steam. They've been out in full force, even though that recall campaign faces a ticking clock and an uphill battle.
MONTAGNE: Does he have supporters out there?
DIRKS: He does, and you will see people protesting with signs that say due process for Filner. You know, there are people who really believe in this mayor. He was a huge progressive figure. He was the first Democrat elected in San Diego in over 20 years. And people really thought that he would bring change, that he would take the emphasis away from downtown development and bring it back to the neighborhoods, to African-Americans, to Latinos, to the homeless.
And so there are some people who really don't want to see him go, because they don't want to see his progressive agenda disappear. So there are people holding on. But at the same time, 80 percent of San Diegans in recent polls have said they want the mayor to resign.
MONTAGNE: Now, talk to us about those discussions about whether he can stay in office. What exactly is going on there?
DIRKS: Well, for the past two days, we've learned that the mayor is in mediation. On Monday, he was in mediation with Gloria Allred, who is the lawyer that is representing many of the women who have come forward to charge him with sexual harassment, including one who is suing the city and the mayor. So he was, you know, in mediation with one of his accusers. The city attorney was also there. The city council president and some other city council members were there.
And so we know that they were talking, but no one is saying anything. And this is a small town, where people like to talk. So the fact that no one's saying anything actually might be a sign that something is happening. What that something is, we really don't know. But for now, the city is both captivated and, in a sense, held captive by this summer of scandal.
MONTAGNE: Thank you very much for joining us.
DIRKS: Thank you so much, Renee.
MONTAGNE: Sandhya Dirks from member station KPBS in San Diego. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.