Last week four men publicly accused third term San Diego Unified school board trustee Kevin Beiser of sexual harassment. Now others are saying they too were preyed upon.
On March 18 a John Doe plaintiff filed a lawsuit alleging Beiser raped him in a Washington D.C. hotel room during the summer of 2013. Doe met Beiser while working in D.C. as a college student intern for Congresswoman Susan Davis.
Months later Doe accepted a campaign manager job from his alleged rapist and helped him get re-elected to the San Diego Unified School Board in 2014. The lawsuit alleges during the campaign Beiser repeatedly attempted to seduce Doe, spoke to him about how fun the alleged rape in D.C. was, offered Doe oral sex, asked him to get naked and join a group of gay men in Beiser’s hot tub and urged him to “hook up with gay dudes” even though he was not gay.
In 2016 Doe started his own campaign for San Diego City Council in district 7. The lawsuit alleges when he sought Beiser’s help and visited his home Beiser continued to sexually harass and assault him. Doe lost the election.
Beiser reportedly employed Doe for his third school board campaign in early 2018 but terminated him after a few months. The lawsuit alleges when Doe arrived at Beiser’s home to pick up his final paycheck Beiser took him to his bedroom and sexually assaulted him again.
Doe reportedly rejected Beiser’s advances numerous times but kept returning to him because of his power and influence.
On March 19 Voice of San Diego reported stories of other men who say Beiser sexually assaulted or harassed them. Like Doe they were young men getting started in politics with the Democratic Party.
Paul Crawford told Voice that Beiser lured him to a pool party at his home in July 2017, coerced him into joining an orgy and after pleasuring himself told the young man he was a “good boy.”
Patrick Macfarland said he was groped during a shared Lyft ride in Sacramento during the Democratic Party state convention in May 2017. A fourth man was allegedly kissed and touched inappropriately.
Unlike Doe the other three men reportedly stayed away from Beiser after their disturbing encounters with him. Two of them ran for public office in the November 2018 election; Macfarland for Chula Vista City Council and Crawford for South Bay Irrigation District. Both lost.
However, Beiser won re-election to the school board for his third term with 72.9% of the vote. No victim of Beiser’s alleged predatory behavior had yet gone public. Voters didn’t know.
In January Beiser filed to run for San Diego City Council in district 7, the same seat Doe ran for in 2016. That same month Crawford reportedly received a phone call encouraging him to go public about Beiser.
Beiser has categorically denied the four men’s allegations. He said the accusations against him are politically motivated. But his accusers have indicated their prior silence was politically motivated.
Voice of San Diego reported Macfarland’s description of the choice he wrestled with last year. When former San Diego Democratic Party chair Jess Durfee, a friend of Beiser, questioned him in July 2018, Macfarland thought about Beiser’s power and influence.
He decided to assure Durfee and Beiser that “nothing happened.” This year he changed his mind about staying quiet.
Democratic strategist Eva Posner worked with Macfarland on his campaign and became aware of all four stories over the last year and a half. She was the organizer that brought the accusers together to talk to Voice of San Diego on February 5.
She told me Macfarland and Crawford weren’t comfortable going public about Beiser while they were running for office last year.
“Any discussions regarding whether or not to publicly tell their stories were off the table until after November 2018. Even then, there was a lot of indecision about coming forward at all — because of the trauma that survivors face when they choose to tell their stories.”
She denies the timing was calculated to ensure Beiser’s school board seat stayed in the hands of a Democrat or was due to any internal Democratic competition for the district 7 city council seat. (Wendy Wheatcroft is the other Democrat running for that seat. She has called for Beiser’s resignation.)
She says what cemented the alleged victims’ willingness to come forward was the allegations that forced California Democratic Party chair Eric Bauman to resign at the end of 2018. (Newly elected San Diego Democratic Party chair Will Rodriguez-Kennedy is one of the plaintiffs in a sexual harassment lawsuit against Bauman.)
Posner explains, “They realized there was a pattern of predators using the mechanism of the Democratic Party to prey on people, and they decided that they could do their part to stop it by speaking out.”
In response to Beiser’s statement she says, “[The accusers] supported Mr. Beiser politically. The idea that this is politically motivated is disingenuous and simply a way for Mr. Beiser to try to avoid taking responsibility for his actions.”
The alleged victims weren’t the only ones who had to decide whether to speak out or stay silent. Leaders in San Diego’s gay community and Democratic Party have known about Beiser’s alleged predatory behavior for many years, long before he was first elected to the school board in 2010.
Multiple people who fit the profile Beiser allegedly preyed on – young, male, tall and thin – were warned by multiple community leaders over the years to stay away from him and reject invitations to his pool parties.
Eric Hufford, a former employee of the now defunct Gay and Lesbian Times, says when he started working there in 2005 the paper’s late publisher gave him a warning. “Michael G. Portantino told me to never be alone with Beiser, that he liked young tall skinny boys like myself.”
He posted a question to social media, “If I was told this 15 years ago, what happened before then, what happened since, and why do we protect people? How did some people get warned and others not? Did I luck out?”
He also posted his memory of Voice of San Diego and Union Tribune reporters looking for victims of Beiser to come forward a year ago. The Union Tribune endorsed Beiser for school board last October.
Radio host Carl DeMaio tweeted after the lawsuit was filed that “Democrats knew of these allegations for a LONG time” and “a local liberal media outlet had this story and sat on it.”
Voice of San Diego reporter Andrew Keatts clarified to me that in April 2018 he saw a blog post by Democratic activist Sara Kent about gay men in San Diego who have been accosted by powerful gay Democrats. He says he reached out and offered to listen but nobody came forward to tell him their story until February of this year.
“The first time I knew a name of any accuser or heard any of their accusations was in early February when I met them as a group, and I worked the story from there.”
Tom Keliinoi ran against Beiser last year for school board. He says throughout the campaign he was presented with rumors that Beiser is a sexual predator.
“It turned out the rumors were true. But I don’t believe in spreading rumors. My view at the time was if this is true, an opposing campaign was the wrong place to bring it. One person told me, ‘I have a name of someone, a guy named Macfarland. I think it’ll be a #MeToo movement thing.’ It’s too bad it’s just come out now.”
He thinks the allegations should have been made before the last school board campaign so voters could have had the information they deserve.
Jonathan Goetz is a longtime friend of Beiser who met him at a Democratic Party meeting when he was a college student. He was Beiser’s campaign treasurer and consultant for his first school board campaign in 2010 and helped him unseat incumbent Katherine Nakamura.
Goetz believes the accusers. He says Beiser often shows affection towards others with his “greeting kisses” and “bear hugs” and would often hit on him. He says Beiser touched him inappropriately once. It happened in the “infamous hot tub.”
“When Dan went inside the house it was just the two of us in the hot tub. But I was not about to take him up on a horribly disgusting affair.”
He says he rejected Beiser’s advance and it never happened again. He didn’t feel violated but worried Beiser might do it to someone who would. “I suspected something like this might come out one day.”
Goetz says he became disillusioned with “the promiscuity and breakdown of traditional moral values that is prevalent.”
He wishes he could have stopped Beiser from doing what he is accused of. “I feel guilty for not having a come-to-Jesus moment with Kevin and telling him not to do it again. Not to me. Not to anyone. I feel horrible for Doe’s trauma. In hindsight Nakamura would never have done this to anyone. And I helped Kevin unseat her.”
The day after all four accusations became public Rodriguez-Kennedy called for Beiser’s resignation. “The San Diego County Democratic Party is resolute in our support of the survivors of sexual assault and harassment. There is no place in our community or our Party for the heinous behavior that has been alleged here.”
The San Diego Democratic Party Central Committee voted 58-4 to call on Beiser to resign.
“Whatever the Democrats did in the past to look the other way or enable the predatory behavior of Beiser or others not yet exposed they took swift and decisive action after the victims went public.”
Doe has now declared his candidacy for the 53rd Congressional District in 2020. He’ll attempt to unseat his former boss, Congresswoman Susan Davis. Davis did not respond to a question about whether she was informed of the alleged rape of her college intern in 2013 or whether she helped connect him with Beiser.
In a 2014 Union Tribune article about accusations Beiser neglected his work as a math teacher at Castle Park Middle School in Chula Vista because of his school board and political activities, Beiser was quoted as saying his students have his cellphone number, something typically considered inappropriate, especially for middle school students.
A Sweetwater Union school district spokesperson says Beiser is on leave from his teaching job but could not elaborate on whether it is voluntary or forced.
A Chula Vista Police Department spokesperson says they have not received a complaint against Beiser and are not currently investigating him.
Neither the San Diego Police Department nor Beiser responded to a request for comment.