San Diego Mayor Bob Filner resigns
By JAMES R. RIFFEL
City News Service
After weeks of being dogged by allegations of sexual harassment, Bob Filner resigned today as mayor of San Diego, effective Aug. 30.
“I apologize to all of you,’’ Filner said in the San Diego City Council chamber after the council emerged from a 90-minute closed-door meeting, during which the panel unanimously approved a settlement agreement with the mayor.
As part of that deal, the city will provide a joint legal defense with the mayor of claims against him by city employees or contractors, but the city reserves the right to seek reimbursement for any damages it suffers. Filner will also be permitted to hire his own lawyer, according to the city attorney.
Council members insisted that the deal was good for the city and taxpayers. The deal was approved 7-0, with council members Myrtle Cole and Scott Sherman out of town.
Although he apologized, Filner blamed a “lynch mob mentality’’ for leading to his demise, and insisted that he “never sexually harassed anyone.’’
“I think I let you down,’’ Filner said, addressing his supporters in the room. “We had a chance to do a progressive vision in this city for the fist time in 50 years. … We need you to carry that vision forward. This is not the time to let it die.’’
Filner, a 70-year-old former congressman, offered a personal apology to his former fiancee, Bronwyn Ingram.
“I love you very much,’’ he said. “You came to love San Diego as much as I did. And you did memorable things in the short time you were first lady and I personally apologize for the hurt I have caused you, Bronwyn.
“To all the women that I offended, I had no intention to be offensive, to violate any physical or emotional space. I was trying to establish personal relationships, but the combination of awkwardness and hubris led to behavior that many found offensive.’’
Filner, mired in the sexual harassment claims and allegations of misusing a city-issued credit card and shakedowns of developers, had signed a resignation letter prior to the council’s meeting.
The deal between the city and the mayor stemmed from a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by Irene McCormack Jackson, the mayor’s ex-communications director. Her lawyer, Los Angeles-based Gloria Allred, said Thursday that her client’s portion of the litigation has not been settled.
The agreement in mediation talks led by retired federal Judge J. Lawrence Irving was reached Wednesday evening.
A total of 18 women have publicly accused Filner of improprieties.
One of them, Laura Fink, told the council members in the public comment portion of the meeting to keep the victims in mind during their deliberations.
“I hope that you will consider the nature and degree of the deplorable behavior the mayor that has exhibited and the havoc he has wreaked on the lives of his victims and this beautiful city,’’ said Fink, who said Filner groped her buttocks at a congressional campaign fundraiser.
Enrique Morones, an immigrant-rights activist who has led a small contingent of the Filner supporters, said the mayor spent decades serving the oppressed, and that his downfall is “a public execution.’’
“When my children ask me, `Where were you when the public lynching of Mayor Filner took place?’ I will tell them I was not an accessory,’’ Morones said. “I stood on the side of a man — Bob Filner — who has stood on the side of us for 40 years.’’
They were two of around 40 people who spoke to the City Council before members went into closed session to consider the deal.
With Filner’s resignation, Council President Todd Gloria will become interim mayor, and a special election will be scheduled within 90 days. If a candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote, that person would become mayor. Otherwise, a runoff election would be held between the top two vote-getters.
The 70-year-old former Democratic congressman became the third San Diego mayor to resign in recent times, following Roger Hedgecock and Dick Murphy.
During his speech to the council, Filner — who recently took a two-week leave of absence to undergo therapy — highlighted what he perceived to be his accomplishments since taking office last year. But he remained defiant, insisting that he was being railroaded out of office, casting blame on his detractors and the media.
“I started my political career facing lynch mobs, but I think we have just faced one here in San Diego,’’ Filner told the council. “And you’re going to have to deal with that. In a lynch mob mentality, rumors become allegations, allegations become facts, facts become evidence of sexual harassment, which have led to … the resignation and recall.
“Not one allegation, members of the council, has ever been independently verified or proven in court. I have never sexually harassed anyone. But there’s a hysteria that has been created, that many of you helped to feed. It’s the hysteria of a lynch mob.’’
All members of the council had called on Filner to resign.
Incoming interim Mayor Todd Gloria said today he will immediately order a “clean up’’ in San Diego City Hall when he assumes office next week.
After a City Council meeting at which Filner’s resignation was announced, Gloria told reporters his goal was to “basically clean up City Hall.’’
Gloria said he will immediately order a “top-down review’’ of city departments when he assumes office at 5 p.m. next Friday to ensure they are functioning within city rules, whittle down a backlog of public records requests that have stalled under Filner and institute weekly media briefings.
Filner met with reporters on an informal basis monthly until he came under fire for alleged sexual harassment. He was nearly impossible for the media to reach, otherwise.
Gloria, who recently won a second term on the City Council as the representative for downtown San Diego, Hillcrest and North Park, said his goals will be to run the mayor’s office with ethics, integrity and transparency.
He said he was “humbled’’ by the opportunity to fill in until a special election is held, and a new mayor is seated. It was unknown whether he would campaign to finish Filner’s term.
Councilwoman Sherri Lightner will run City Council meetings while he serves as mayor, he said.
City Attorney Jan Goldsmith told reporters Filner asked for one more week in office before stepping down, and the City Council honored the request.
Filner did not say what he would do with the time during a 15-minute address to the council members.
One of the top priorities Filner campaigned on, shifting civic priorities away from downtown and to the city’s neighborhoods, will be maintained, Gloria said.
According to the City Charter, the City Council president — the position held by Gloria — takes over when a mayor resigns.
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