An attorney who alleges “numerous” women were sexually harassed by San Diego Mayor Bob Filner told NBC 7 Investigates none of the alleged victims alerted their supervisor or other coworkers about the behavior.
Environmental attorney Marco Gonzalez describes himself as an ally of Mayor Filner. On Thursday, Gonzalez stood alongside other Filner supporters attorney Cory Briggs and former San Diego City Councilmember Donna Frye at a news conference requesting that Filner “do the right thing” and resign from office.
While they did not reveal details of the alleged sexual harassment, the trio said they felt compelled to come forward.
Several hours later, Mayor Filner responded with a statement and a recorded message in which he admitted he said he was “embarrassed to admit that I have failed to fully respect the women who work for me and with me, and that at times I have intimidated them.”
In telling his constituents he is seeking help Filner said, “You have every right to be disappointed in me.”
“I only ask that you give me an opportunity to prove I am capable of change, so that the vision I have for our city’s future can be realized.”
Gonzales refused to publicly identify the women accusing Filner of sexual harassment or even release a number of alleged victims. He would only say there are “numerous” and emphasized the seriousness of the claims.
“There’s no excuse for what was done. There’s no legal or plausible excuse for what was done,” Gonzalez told NBC 7 Investigates in an exclusive interview. “Nothing he can do or say that excuses what’s been done.”
NBC 7 has contacted the City Attorney's Office to ask if any sexual harassment claims have been filed and has not received a response.
We also checked the Department of Fair Employment and Housing where sexual harassment claims are filed as precusors to lawsuits and found no record of cases filed against Filner.
When asked whether the women involved went through any Human Resources procedures or alerted their supervisor or other coworkers about sexual harassment, Gonzalez said they did not.
“When it’s the mayor, it’s a really, really big deal and so it’s really hard to go to the person who is also working for the mayor and report something like this,” he explained.
“These people (referencing the women he’s helping) are Filner supporters who recognized the gravity of the situation. And tried to fix the situation,” he added. “They sought counsel from people who they trusted to try to fix it. “
Gonzalez has said his clients have not filed any lawsuits.
“We’re not treating this like it’s a legal claim. It may turn into that. Right now it’s about people. It’s about the workplace and it’s about women,” he said.
Filner’s supporters may ask if the alleged victims failed to report the situation to anyone in City Hall, did Filner know there was an issue?
Gonzalez said he met personally with the mayor. While he refused to reveal details of the conversation he told NBC 7, ”We had a meeting. He’s aware.”
Among the promises Filner made in his statement was one that he and his staff would undergo training on sexual harassment in the workplace.
“I have begun to work with professionals to make changes in my behavior and approach. In addition, my staff and I will participate in sexual harassment training provided by the city,” he said.
Gonzalez has said his clients have not filed any lawsuits. After Filner's statement, Gonzalez said he would check with his clients to see if they are satisfied with his apology.