Locals weigh in on Bob Filner
Monica Ketchum (right), outgoing president of the Calexico Chamber of Commerce, presents a Lava Lamp Award to then-Rep. Bob Filner, 51st District, during the Calexico Chamber of Commerce annual membership reception and 2012 Lava Lamp Awards at Calexico Cultural Arts Center in Calexico on June 29, 2012. At left is Calexico Chamber of Commerce executive director Hildy Carrillo. (JOSELITO VILLERO FILE PHOTO / August 2, 2013)
At least eight women have accused the San Diego mayor of sexual harassment, including his former communications director Irene McCormack Jackson, who filed a lawsuit against Filner and the city July 22.
Amid multiple recall efforts, Filner has said he will enter therapy for two weeks starting Monday.
Many locals like Imperial County District 3 Supervisor Mike Kelley said they were “surprised” by the allegations.
“Obviously his actions were inappropriate and he should be held accountable for his unprofessional actions,” Kelley said. “Why would anybody act like that?”
Numerous local public officials and former local Filner staffers Juanita Salas and Frank Salazar declined to comment on the matter.
Before becoming San Diego’s mayor, Filner was the congressional representative for the Valley and a staple at many area events.
After years of attending the Calexico Chamber of Commerce’s annual Lava Lamp Awards, he even received one himself in 2012 for his contributions to the community.
Calexico Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Hildy Carrillo said she’s known him for 11 to 12 years and considers him “a very good friend of mine.”
“The Bob Filner I’m reading about is not the Bob Filner I know,” she said, explaining that she never heard a woman complain about him.
“I never saw any of that, what he’s being accused of. It was never an issue when we were at different gatherings,” she said. “I never saw it and that seems kind of crazy I guess, but according to all those reports, he pulls them aside. On the other side of all of this, I wasn’t staffing him or anything.”
She said she was very happy when she heard that Filner successfully ran to become mayor of San Diego.
“If anything he was more harassed by me than the other way around, because we wanted things done now and he was very helpful with border issues, very helpful when people had issues with immigration, losing their homes, and all sorts of things,” Carrillo said. “It was wonderful to have access to a politician that would get things done for the community, which we haven’t necessary had in the past.”
She said she understood that sexual harassment can be traumatic but underscored the importance of victims’ documentation and a need to immediately report the incident.
“It’s just a shame that someone that’s done so much good for people, that it has come to this, but that’s what happens,” she said. “I’m sad for the women and sad for the Democratic Party and sad for him because he did such a good job up to this point.”
El Centro Mayor Pro-Tem Cheryl Viegas-Walker was elected to the City Council during the time Filner was the congressional representative for the Valley.
“I find it really sad that Bob Filner’s legacy is going to be defined by the sexual harassment charges brought against him, because when he was in Congress he did a lot of really, really good things for the Valley that have benefited us in a number of ways,” she said. “For a public servant who spent so many years in public office to go out in flames, essentially, is really very, very sad.”
She also had been optimistic about Filner’s new position as mayor.
“There was a number of us very excited about the prospect of Bob Filner, knowing how effective he was as our congressman, to be able to come in and start to champion a lot of quality of life issues of the city of San Diego,” she said. “Having such a close relationship with the Valley, I personally felt there were a lot of opportunities to see a collaborative approach to things that could benefit both regions.”
As to whether she had ever seen anything that may have been inappropriate, Viegas-Walker said “I think Mr. Filner had a number of challenges with his behavior and that there probably were occasions when he failed to exercise good judgment.”
Staff Writer Chelcey Adami can be reached at 760-337-3452 or firstname.lastname@example.org