How Being Involved In the Mayor Bob Filner Scandal is a Lesson in Negotiation

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As a negotiation expert I teach people about win-win negotiation and doing the right thing.  I have a 3 day training event to do just that October 11-13 in Orange County at the Sheraton Garden Grove Anaheim South Hotel.  See info in the onllne store.

Sometimes you have to negotiate through some rough spots in your life and sometimes you have to put yourself out there for the greater good.

You may have seen the national news on CNN and MSNBC with my interviews regarding sexual harassment from Mayor Bob Filner.  See videos below.

Click to View CNN Video and Article on

Click here for video and article from MSNBC

Technically what was done to me can’t be categorized as “sexual harassment.”  It’s just a creepy old dude hitting on me.  Men hit on women all the time.  So what’s the problem? Why make a big deal about someone hitting on me?

It is a big deal when the Mayor of San Diego who was considered a trusted supporter of the National Women Veterans Association of America (NWVAA) hits on at least 8 women in the organization who have all been victims of military sexual assault.  The NWVAA is an organization that helps and supports women who were victims of sexual assault in the military.

I am on the advisory board and was a speaker at last years NWVAA Healing and Hiring fair in August 2012, which was set up to offer support and services for victims of military sexual assault.  I myself am a victor over military sexual trauma, assault and sexual harassment.  I was raped while on active duty during my military career.  I have done a lot of work on myself to heal from those experiences and now advocate on behalf of my veteran sisters.

After speaking at the fair; (then) Congressmen Filner spoke and advocated against sexual assault and harassment of women in the military.  We all trusted him and invited him into our organization based on his advocacy on the issues and support of the organizations mission to help women veterans who have been victims of sexual assault in the military.

Later he approached me and complimented me on my speaking and asked me for a business card.  I gave him my business card expecting to have a further discussion about my speaking.  He looks at the card, looks at me and then says “Fernandez; married?  Do you have a husband? (Very rapid fire direct).  I was surprised by that question and said “no, I’m divorced.”  Then he says “you are beautiful, I can’t take my eyes off of you, I want to take you to dinner.”  Again I was surprised and wasn’t sure what to say as I was expecting to have a business conversation, not be hit on. His aide came and indicated they had to leave. A couple days later he called and left me the voicemail that is played in the above CNN video.

I shared this with a couple of my close friends but figured it to be a one off type of thing and nothing further ever came of it.  I deleted the voicemail.

During the past year the NWVAA was working on a gala dinner to honor the Mayor for his lifetime support of veterans.  When the sexual harassment lawsuit was filed, the president of the NWVAA Tara Jones started to receive calls from many women in the organization who complained they had been inappropriately touched or hit on by Filner.  It appears that Filner was using the group as a place to troll for women.  Really? Women who were all victims of sexual assault in the military? Wrong group to choose to exploit.

Women veterans should not have to continue to endure experiences like this. Especially in a place that is meant to be a safe space where we can some to get help, support and heal from our experiences.  We trusted this man as someone who had our backs, instead he was looking at our backsides.

I don’t see how he can be trusted to lead the city and represent the people of San Diego after all that has and continues to come out.

In the end as a negotiation expert, sometimes negotiation doesn’t have anything to do with signing a contract or making a deal.  It has to do with standing up, doing what’s right to help people to have win-win results in their lives.

Eldonna Lewis Fernandez
Eldonna Lewis Fernandez
Veteran negotiation and contracts expert Eldonna Lewis-Fernandez, author of “Think Like a Negotiator,” has over 30 years of experience crafting killer deals both stateside and internationally, many in excess of $100 million. She’s currently the CEO of Dynamic Vision International — a specialized consulting and training firm that helps individuals hone negotiation skills — as well as a nationally regarded keynote speaker, session leader and panelist on the Art of Negotiation. Eldonna may be reached online at

1 Comment

  1. Beautifully stated, Eldonna. Your courage is exemplary and a model for so many victims of sexual abuse and assault. I like how you’ve intelligently aligned it with your negotiation expertise. Your October event in Orange County, CA sounds like a very valuable experience. Good luck with it!

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