Francine Busby is the chair of the San Diego County Democratic Party. The Central Committee just voted last night – July 25th – to ask Mayor Filner to resign because of the sexual harassment accusations, after a stalemate last week on the issue.
During the debate before the vote last week that resulted in a split of 24 to 24 votes on the committee that oversees the party, the president of the Point Loma Democratic Club, Susan Peinado argued against asking Filner to resign. She also criticized Busby and other leaders of the party.
The next day, in a move that Peinado views as some kind of retribution for speaking out, Peinado received an email from Busby that alleged one of the candidates in the District 2 race, Lifeguard Sgt. Ed Harris, could face similar kinds of accusations that Filner is suffering and that Peinado better be careful in not supporting Harris.
Busby is supporting another Democrat in the race, Sarah Boot, who is a federal prosecutor and founding member of Run Women Run – an organization that Busby is paid to lead. In her email, Busby warned that supporting Harris could be a problem for the Dems and Peinado because “as a leader of the lifeguards, he will be associated with a culture that has a long history of discrimination against women.” In her email, she referred to “sexual harassment issues”.
“about a woman lifeguard who sued the city over gender discrimination. Harris was not named in the suit, or deposed as part of it. His only connection to the suit seems to be working for the department where the discrimination took place. The lawsuit had nothing to do with sexual harassment.”
The Pt Loma Dems had not endorsed anyone for the race. Yet the party head cautioned Peinado about supporting Harris. She wrote:
“Whether or not you bring this issue to the attention of your members in the context of the impact that it will have on the election is your choice. If you don’t they may ask you if and when you learn of it and why you didn’t inform them and hold you responsible.”
VOSD quotes Peinado:
“I realized she was hitting back at me because of what I said at the meeting.”
VOSD asked Busby about this, and report that “Busby says she was merely putting the issue on the table for the sake of transparency.” Busby told their reporter:
“Some people in discussions about the mayor’s situation have voiced an opinion that party leaders had information that they didn’t share. I brought this to her attention so she would be aware of it.”
Meanwhile, by time this email was flying around, candidate Ed Harris had already dropped out of the District 2 race.
When he learned of the Busby email and her accusation, Harris was pissed because it spoke of a case he wasn’t involved in. He said:
“I’d expect that from the Republicans, I’d expect it during the campaign, but to get it from your own party, it was clear she was trying to poison the well.”
“Using that case was odd to say the least, but that was part of the strategy to raise questions about me.”
In response to the VOSD article, former head of the lifeguards, Chris Brewster, took umbrage and wrote in its comments:
As a former leader of the San Diego Lifeguard Service, I would like to make a statement for the record.
The San Diego Lifeguard Service does not have a “culture that has a long history of discrimination against women.” Quite the contrary.
The simple fact is that significantly less women apply to be ocean lifeguards than do men. This is reflected in the makeup of the workforce at all levels.
While there have been some isolated cases of complaints by individuals of unfair treatment, a few adjudicated, there is no evidence of which I am aware that they are any more prevalent than those in other workforces. They may indeed be less prevalent.
In any case, branding Mr. Harris with a taint with which he has no direct association is McCarthyist. We should indeed promote full participation of women in public leadership positions, but not by indiscriminately slandering men.