A nurse and a brain-injured Iraq War vet meet with mayor in his office in June
Mayor Bob Filner allegedly asks everyone to leave his office, except the nurse
Mayor asks for dates from nurse Michelle Tyler in exchange for his help, she says
Nurse is 11th woman to allege sexual harassment against mayor, who's now in therapy
A nurse Tuesday accused San Diego Bob Filner of rubbing her arm in his office and asking for dinner dates in June in exchange for his helping a brain-injured Iraq War veteran.
The allegations make her the 11th woman this summer to accuse Filner of sexual harassment while he was mayor or a congressman. Filner, who this week began intensive counseling for his behavior with women, couldn’t be immediately reached for comment.
“I felt that his rubbing my arm and telling me to relax and making me feel that help for Katherine was contingent on my going out with him was extremely inappropriate and unacceptable,” Michelle Tyler, a licensed vocational nurse, told reporters at a San Diego press conference where she was accompanied by her attorney, Gloria Allred.
Tyler was the caregiver to Katherine Ragazzino, a Marine injured in Iraq, who was seeking Filner’s assistance in negotiating problems with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for her traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Ragazzino was homeless during her post-war ordeal and now resides with Tyler, Allred said.
The alleged incident occurred June 11 when Tyler, Ragazzino and a veteran’s representative were in Filner’s office, and then Filner asked to meet alone with Tyler, telling Ragazzino and the veteran’s representative: “Please step out, you don’t need to hear this,” Allred said.
Then Tyler was alone with the mayor in his office.
“The mayor sat back in his chair and said, ‘Wow, you are really magnificent.’ The mayor started rubbing Ms. Tyler’s arm and stated ‘Relax, you are incredible. I will help your veteran. I want you to go out to dinner with me and spend time with me,’” Allred said.
Filner allegedly asked Tyler if she was married, and she replied she was in the middle of a divorce. The mayor allegedly replied, “Good,” according to Allred.
Filner then allegedly referred to Tyler’s paperwork requesting the meeting and asked, “Is that your phone number that I can call you at?” Allred said.
Stunned, Tyler responded, “I am here to focus on Katherine,” according to Allred.
Filner allegedly persisted and said, “I am going to help her but I would really like to be seen in public with you, you are really something,” Allred said.
Filner allegedly asked Tyler, “Will you go to dinner with me if I help your Marine? Can I call you?” according to Allred.
Tyler said she needed to leave his office, but the mayor allegedly told her, “If we were not here in my office, I would like to kiss you,” Allred said.
After telling the mayor he should focus on Ragazzino’s issues, Tyler stood up and left his office, and the mayor allegedly said on her way out, “I am going to call you,” Allred said.
Tyler and Ragazzino, who have known each other since 2004, first met with Filner when he was a congressman in 2011, and “he encouraged us to seek him out again if appropriate corrective measures were not taken by the VA,” Ragazzino said.
Ragazzino was injured in Iraq and spent 18 months in a hospital as a result of her traumatic brain injury. She and Allred declined to elaborate on the injury.
At one point, Ragazzino was living in her car, and her problems with the VA about her disability “seriously affected my healing process,” she said.
After discharged from the Marines, Ragazzino was “at rock bottom and pushing everyone away” because of the brain injury and post-traumatic stress, she said.
Ragazzino said she felt “deeply disappointed and upset” by Filner’s alleged misconduct toward Tyler.
“I don’t appreciate being used as a bargaining chip to fulfill his sexual desires,” Ragazzino said.
Said Tyler: “It was extremely disturbing to me that he made it very clear to me that his expectation was that his help for Katherine depended on my willingness to go to dinner with him, spend personal time with him and be seen in public with him.”
Tyler and Ragazzino are asking the city attorney to investigate the mayor for sexual harassment.
Tyler doesn’t have plans to file any civil lawsuit, Allred said.
During Tuesday’s press conference, Allred displayed a warning sign that she said should be displayed out the mayor’s office: “Danger. Warning to women. Keep out. Keep out. Mayor is in his office. Proceed at your own risk.”
Earlier this summer, when the allegations against him emerged, Filner acknowledged “I need help,” and added, “I’m clearly doing something wrong.”
“I am embarrassed to admit that I have failed to fully respect the women who work for me and with me, and that at times I have intimidated them. It’s a good thing that behavior that would have been tolerated in the past is being called out in this generation for what it is: inappropriate and wrong,” he said in a statement issued July 11.
But Filner, 70, has also said he believes he will be vindicated by “a full presentation of the facts” and he will not resign, though alleged victims have so asked.
Filner served 10 terms, or 20 years, in Congress before being elected mayor in 2012. Many of the accusations come from his time as a congressman.