At least three top executives of Public Policy Strategies, a political consulting and public policy firm, resigned today amid controversy over the firm's owner, Tom Shepard, assisting embattled Mayor Bob Filner.
Shepard is a San Diego-based Republican political consultant who was instrumental in getting Filner elected. Many believe he is working to repair the mayor’s image after allegations of sexual harassment have surfaced from a former member of Filner’s senior staff.
In an email to colleagues, the firm's former president Phil Rath wrote:
"This note is to inform you that the time has come for me to move on to new opportunities in my career. I have left Public Policy Strategies effective immediately. I am considering my options, but I know that I love this business and enjoy serving my clients. I'm very excited about my future and will announce my plans shortly."
Shepard was recently highlighted in a piece by the UT Watchdog for visiting the mayor after hours the day before a former employee of Filner's stepped forward to claim she had been repeatedly sexually harassed by the mayor and that he treated women as "sexual objects or stupid idiots."
"I resigned to pursue business opportunities that were incompatible with the firm's other clients."
Laing served in the mayor's office under a prior administration as a spokeswoman to Mayor Jerry Sanders.
The firm's vice-president, Kimberly Hale, confirmed via a direct message on Twitter that she had also resigned.
Neither Rath or Laing could confirm who remained in Shepard's offices on Thursday afternoon. They both declined to confirm whether their decision to leave was tied to Shepard's support of Filner.
"We all love the work that we do and we enjoy our industry and I would expect that we would all stay in that industry," Rath said when asked if the trio was planning to start a new firm. "As to the form or the structure or anything, that’s just not what we’re dealing with today."
Shepard is the owner and founder of Public Policy Strategies. He has worked mostly as a Republican political consultant but drew heavy criticism from his own party last year after being instrumental in getting Filner elected.
He has been heavily criticized by people in both political parties this past week for remaining a supporter of Filner's, as several women have come forward to describe incidents in which they claim they were sexually harassed by the mayor. He could not be reached for comment.
Reached by phone last week, Shepard told NBC7 he was not prepared to answer any questions about whether or not claims of sexual harassment arose during the campaign.