SAN DIEGO —
Those who know him say he may have been more easily exposed as the leader of the nation’s eighth-largest city than as a congressman further from the spotlight. His behavior also may have deteriorated after being elected the city’s first Democratic mayor in 20 years.
“There was a flood of community members who now felt welcome at City Hall, who felt welcome in the mayor’s office after years, if not decades, of being shut out,” said attorney Cory Briggs. “The speculation on my part ... is that there were an awful lot of people who wanted an audience with the mayor and that provided him with an opportunity.”
Two months ago, Briggs joined a former city councilwoman and another longtime supporter to declare Filner unfit for office. Barely a week later, his communications director said he had asked her to work without underwear, demanded kisses and put her in headlocks.
He was, in the end, forced out by those who most embraced his liberal ideals.
Lori Saldana, a former Democratic state assemblywoman, said five or six women she invited to speak at a women’s studies class she taught at San Diego State University in 2011 confided they were previously targets of advances that fit a familiar pattern.
They said Filner managed to get them alone at a meeting or public event and startled them with hugs, flattery and proposals for romantic relationships. The women — civic and elected leaders — didn’t know he behaved the same way toward others and didn’t think of going public, Saldana said.
She said she raised concerns at the time with Jess Durfee, then-chairman of the San Diego County Democratic Party.
Durfee said he confronted Filner and was assured not to worry. Durfee said he took Filner at his word, noting that he had no names or firsthand accounts, and that Filner and Saldana had a rocky history.