A new–and, depending on who’s counting, fifteenth or sixteenth–alleged sexual harassment victim of San Diego’s Democratic mayor, Bob Filner, came forward at a press conference with attorney Gloria Allred on Thursday afternoon in downtown San Diego.
The woman, Peggy Shannon, is a 67-year-old great-grandmother who alleges that Filner harassed her during her part-time work at a desk in the lobby of City Hall, where she worked assisting senior citizens seeking city services.
Local journalists, who greeted the initial accusations against Filner earlier in the summer with great interest, showed a degree of fatigue in the minutes before the conference. They perked up, however, as Shannon walked slowly into the room wearing a colorful purple-and-blue blouse with a powder-blue scarf and using a steel cane. A few gasps were heard.
“Apparently the mayor is no respector of age,” Allred quipped. “Women appear to be considered her sexual playthings. Is the City Hall his sexual playground?”
According to Shannon and Allred, Filner had frequently used flirtatious language with Shannon, and had hugged and kissed her on the lips at work without permission in January, shortly after he had taken office.
In a prepared statement, Shannon said: “On the day that Mayor Filner grabbed me and kissed me, I was so very surprised. I went home and I cried. I just felt so sad. I was just not sure how to take this contact, but it was very disturbing to me.”
Filner also allegedly asked Shannon to date him several times over a period of months, and boasted that he could “go eight hours.” His suggestive comments allegedly continued as late as July, up until the broader scandal broke.
In addition, once other accusations against Filner emerged, Allred said, he warned Shannon not to talk about what had happened between them by saying “Shhh!”
Shannon will be returning to work Friday, Allred said, though she has filed a complaint with the city’s Equal Employment Investigations Committee. Allred said that Shannon had not yet decided to file a lawsuit.
Allred has already filed a lawsuit against Filner and the City of San Diego on behalf of another client, Irene McCormack Jackson, the mayor’s former communications director.
Shannon called on Filner to resign “immediately,” as did Allred: “Mayor Filner, you suggested that you can go 8 hours; but Mayor Filner, we don’t care how long you can go. We just want you to go as quickly as possible.”
Allred said that the “highest echelons” of the Democratic Party had been “unanimous” in calling for Filner to resign, but acknowledged that President Barack Obama had declined to comment.
“We have not heard from the White House. We have not heard from President Obama,” she said. “But I think it’s clear that there is a call for [Filner] to resign.”
Allred said that she is still awaiting Filner’s deposition in the pending sexual harassment case, and that she is opposing his lawyers’ attempt to change the venue of the case, which they say is necessary given the negative publicity he has received.