By Marty Graham
SAN DIEGO, Aug 19 (Reuters) - Supporters of San Diego Mayor Bob Filner protested on Monday what they said were unfair attempts to oust him over sexual harassment accusations, amid reports that the mayor's lawyers were negotiating a possible end to the political standoff.
The rally by some 100 people came on the first day that Filner, who has resisted mounting pressure to resign in the face of allegations of unwanted sexual advances by 16 women, was due back at work following a leave of absence to seek therapy.
Filner was not seen at his City Hall offices by early afternoon, and local media reported he had gone into a downtown San Diego office building where negotiations were under way between his lawyers and attorneys for former aide Irene McCormack Jackson, who sued him for sexual harassment in July.
Local KCBS8-TV, reported that Filner was seen entering the office at about 9 a.m., followed about 45 minutes later by Jackson and her attorney, Gloria Allred.
Local 10News, citing two unnamed sources, reported that Filner's attorneys were in mediation with Allred and City Attorney Jan Goldsmith. Reuters could not immediately confirm those reports, and neither Filner's representatives nor Allred could immediately be reached for comment.
During the demonstration, Filner's supporters complained that the 70-year-old veteran politician had been denied due process by those seeking his removal from office.
The allegations have prompted nearly every elected official of both parties in San Diego, California's second-largest city, to call on Filner to resign, along with the San Diego County Democratic Central Committee.
But the mayor has so far refused to stand down. Instead, he has publicly apologized for what he has acknowledged was a pattern of disrespectful and intimidating treatment of women and took a brief leave of absence to enter behavior modification therapy at an undisclosed clinic.
His lawyers say he has since left the clinic but was taking some additional time off last week before returning to work.
On Sunday, volunteers began collecting signatures seeking to force a recall election for Filner. They will need to amass at least 102,000 valid signatures within 39 days, by Sept. 26, to qualify a recall vote for the ballot, a deadline that some experts have said would be difficult to meet.
But Michael Pallamary, a local Republican activist who helped spearhead the bipartisan campaign, said the effort got off to a brisk start with volunteers collecting many thousands of signatures during the first day spent circulating petitions. (Writing and additional reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Cynthia Osterman)
Bob Filner Supporters Rally Against 'Unfair Attempts' To Oust The Embattled Mayor