Reality TV star becomes latest woman to accuse San Diego mayor of groping
SAN DIEGO (Reuters) - A former star of a reality TV show on Wednesday became the 18th woman to publicly accuse San Diego Mayor Bob Filner of groping or other inappropriate behavior, as settlement talks in a sexual harassment suit against him entered a third day.
Filner, meanwhile, was spotted inside City Hall on Wednesday in what was believed to be the first sighting of him there since he took a brief leave of absence to enter behavioral modification therapy early this month.
But neither his office nor his lawyers have replied to repeated queries this week about whether the 70-year-old Democrat and former U.S. congressman has fully resumed his duties as the top elected official of California's second-largest city.
Filner has come under mounting pressure to resign amid a torrent of sexual harassment allegations leveled at him, starting with his former press secretary, Irene McCormack Jackson, who sued the mayor and the city on July 22.
Negotiations aimed at reaching a settlement of the litigation began on Monday at a downtown office building near City Hall, according to Jackson's attorney, Gloria Allred.
Allred said the sessions were presided over by a retired federal judge, J. Lawrence Irving, a respected mediator, who has asked all parties to refrain from discussing the talks publicly.
At least two City Council members were present for the first two days of the talks, and one of them, Council President Todd Gloria, was there as negotiations resumed for a third day on Wednesday afternoon, his spokesman, Katie Keach, told Reuters.
Officials from the city attorney's office and Filner's lawyers also were believed to be taking part in the sessions, and Filner himself was seen entering that office building on Monday.
There was no word on whether any progress had been made toward resolving the case. Allred declined to comment except to say, "The mediation is ongoing."
'ADDICTED TO BEAUTY'
Since Jackson filed her suit last month, 17 more women have come forward to accuse Filner of making unwanted advances, the latest being Dianne York, 50, who starred in a short-lived reality show about cosmetic surgery on the Oxygen Channel cable network called "Addicted to Beauty."
York, who has acknowledged on the show's website that she has undergone "more than five and less than 10" cosmetic surgical procedures herself, was depicted on the series as launching a business partnership with a prominent plastic surgeon to open a day spa in San Diego.
At a news conference on Wednesday, York said the mayor put his hand on her buttocks when she posed with him for a photo at his office in May following a meeting to discuss what she called an illegal foreclosure on her business, the Spa of La Jolla.
"I was shocked," she said. "It was inappropriate." She gave few other details except to say she reported the incident to the county sheriff's department, which has set up a hot line to field complaints about alleged misconduct by the mayor.
County court records show York has been involved in more than a dozen lawsuits during the past three years, some of them disputes with her own attorneys.
Among the other women who have alleged sexual harassment by Filner were a retired U.S. Navy admiral, a college dean, a licensed vocational nurse, several business women and two military veterans who were victims of unrelated sexual assaults in the armed forces.
Filner has so far refused to step down but has apologized for what he acknowledged was a pattern of disrespectful and intimidating behavior toward women.
On August 5, he entered a treatment at an undisclosed behavioral counseling clinic. His lawyers said he left the clinic after several days but was taking additional time off last week before planning to return to work this week.
On Sunday, volunteers began collecting signatures for a petition seeking to oust Filner through a recall election. Organizers said that as of Tuesday night they had collected 11,000 of the 102,000 signatures needed by September 26 to qualify a recall for the ballot.