Politics

Friday, Aug 23 2013 04:06 PM

San Diego mayor will resign next Friday

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    By AP Photo/Gregory Bull

    San Diego Mayor Bob Filner speaks to city council during a meeting Friday, Aug. 23, 2013, in San Diego. Filner agreed Friday to resign on Aug. 30, bowing to enormous pressure after lurid sexual harassment allegations brought by at least 17 women eroded his support after just nine months as leader of the U.S. border city.

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BY JULIE WATSON Associated Press

SAN DIEGO -- Mayor Bob Filner agreed Friday to resign on Aug. 30, bowing to enormous pressure after lurid sexual harassment allegations brought by at least 17 women eroded his support less than nine months on the job.

Filner was regretful and defiant during a City Council meeting as he explained the "the toughest decision of my life." He apologized to his accusers but insisted he was innocent of sexual harassment and said he was the victim of a "lynch mob."

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Timeline of San Diego Mayor Bob Filner scandal

Key dates in the sexual harassment scandal of San Diego Mayor Bob Filner:

Nov. 6, 2012: Filner, a 10-term congressman, is elected mayor. He is the first Democrat in 20 years to lead the nation's eighth-largest city.

Dec. 3, 2012: Filner takes office.

June 20, 2013 : Filner communications director Irene McCormack Jackson confronts Filner at staff meeting about unwanted sexual advances. Allen Jones, Filner's deputy chief of staff, quits.

July 8: Filner's fiancee, Bronwyn Ingram, says she ended engagement, later says the mayor sent sexually explicit messages to other women and set up dates in her presence.

July 10: Donna Frye, a former city councilwoman and former Filner aide, calls for the mayor to resign, saying she received "credible evidence" that he harassed more than one woman.

July 11: Filner issues a public apology, saying he "diminished" the office of mayor, failed to respect women who work for him and intimidated them. The mayor says he is seeking professional help and pleads with voters for patience.

July 15: Filner announces he won't resign, saying he's not guilty of sexual harassment and will be vindicated.

July 22: McCormack files a sexual harassment lawsuit against Filner and the city, claiming, among other things, that the mayor asked her to work without panties. Filner rejects the allegations. Eventually, at least 17 women will publicly contend Filner made unwanted advances, ranging from inappropriately seeking dates to groping them.

July 25: The San Diego County Democratic Party Central Committee votes to ask Filner to resign.

July 26: The head of the Democratic National Committee calls on Filner to resign.

July 26: Filner announces he will undergo two weeks of intensive behavioral therapy and return to work Aug. 19.

July 28: U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., calls on Filner to resign.

July 30: The San Diego City Council votes to make Filner responsible for legal expenses in the sexual harassment suit.

Aug. 2: Organizers behind dueling efforts to recall the mayor say they will join forces to gather petition signatures.

Aug. 9: U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., sends open letter to Filner asking that he resign, says the allegations have "shaken me to my core."

Aug. 10: Filner completes the therapy program earlier than expected but his lawyers say he will continue to receive outpatient counseling.

Aug. 12: Filner issues a formal response to the recall effort, touting city progress and making no mention of the harassment allegations in an indication that he has no intention of resigning.

Aug. 18: Organizers begin collecting signatures to recall Filner.

Aug. 19: Filner meets with city officials, McCormack, her attorney Gloria Allred and a mediator to discuss settlement of the sexual harassment lawsuit.

Aug. 21: City Attorney Jan Goldsmith announces an agreement between Filner and the city, subject to City Council approval.

Aug. 22: Allred says McCormack is not part of the settlement and opposes any agreement that requires the city to pay Filner's legal expenses. She says lawsuit will continue.

Aug. 23: The City Council approves the agreement and Filner resigns, effective Aug. 30.

-- The Associated Press

"The city should not have to go through this, and my own personal failures were responsible and I apologize to the city," Filner said after the council voted 7-0 on a deal that ended a political stalemate after more than a dozen women publicly identified themselves as targets of unwanted advances, including touching, forcible kisses and lurid comments.

"To all the women that I've offended, I had no intention to be offensive, to violate any physical or emotional space," he said. "I was trying to establish personal relationships but the combination of awkwardness and hubris led to behavior that I think many found offensive."

The city will pay Filner's legal fees in a joint defense of a lawsuit filed by the mayor's former communications director and pay for any settlement costs assessed against the mayor except for punitive damages, said City Attorney Jan Goldsmith. The city would also pay up to $98,000 if Filner wants to hire his own attorney.

Goldsmith said the city was obligated to provide his legal defense no matter what.

Filner, backed by a sometimes boisterous crowd of supporters, challenged the City Council to pursue a laundry list of his policy initiatives, ranging from addressing climate change to bringing the Olympic Games to the region. He warned of dire consequences if his priorities are ignored by well-entrenched power brokers.

"I am responsible for providing the ammunition," he said. "I did that and I take full responsibility, but there are well-organized interests who have run this city for 50 years who pointed the gun, and the media and their political agents pulled the trigger."

Filner choked up as he apologized to his former fiancee, Bronwyn Ingram, who ended the relationship just before the scandal erupted and called for him to resign.

"I love you very much. You came to love San Diego as much as I did and you did memorable things in the short time that you were first lady," he said.

The 70-year-old Filner, a liberal Democrat, served 20 years in Congress before becoming mayor of the nation's eighth-largest city.

He had previously insisted he still could be an effective mayor and underwent two weeks of behavioral therapy before returning to work this week.

But his support diminished as more women -- one of them a great-grandmother and another a retired Navy admiral -- came forward.

Some of Filner's closest political allies and all nine members of the council called on him to quit.

On Friday, just before the council vote, the Democratic National Committee took the extraordinary step of passing a resolution demanding Filner leave.

Dozens of people spoke for and against the mayor before the council convened behind closed doors to discuss terms negotiated between Filner and the city attorney.

"Without the mayor's resignation, our city will continue to be paralyzed by this scandal, progress will be arrested and our focus will continue to be monopolized by this dark chapter in our history," said Laura Fink, a political consultant who accused Filner of patting her buttocks in 2005 when she was deputy campaign manager to the then-congressman.

Rachel Laing, a spokeswoman for an effort to recall the mayor, said petition gatherers have collected 20,000 signatures in five days to qualify for the ballot but that she would accept a deal for the mayor to resign.

"Every day he's in office is a day that the city remains in paralysis and that his victims suffer," she told the council.

Still, many who came to the special meeting supported the embattled mayor, hailing his work on behalf of civil rights and struggling minority groups.

"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," said Enrique Morones, president of immigrant advocacy group Border Angels.

Filner's biggest bargaining chip at the negotiating table was his refusal to resign.

The deal does not include attorney Gloria Allred, who represents Filner's former communications director, Irene McCormack Jackson, in a lawsuit filed against Filner and the city.

Allred had said earlier that the City Council should not support it if in exchange for his resignation the city is going to use taxpayer money to pay Filner's legal bills.

"The mayor's resignation should not be bought at the expense of his victims," she said Thursday. "It would be morally wrong and hypocritical for the city to align itself with the mayor by helping him pay his legal fees."

McCormack, as she is known professionally, was the first woman to go public with allegations against Filner and her lawsuit is the only filed against the mayor and the city. McCormack claimed the mayor asked her to work without panties, demanded kisses, told her he wanted to see her naked and dragged her in a headlock while whispering in her ear.

Filner's troubles may also not be over. The San Diego County Sheriff's Department has interviewed McCormack and opened a hotline to field any complaints about Filner. Investigators will deliver their findings to California attorney general's office to consider any possible criminal prosecution.

San Diego is not new to political scandals -- Mayor Dick Murphy resigned in 2005 amid a financial crisis and Mayor Roger Hedgecock stepped down in 1985 after a felony conviction for conspiracy in connection with illegal campaign contributions -- but even so Democratic consultant Chris Crotty said this has reached a new level.

When Filner's resignation takes effect, Todd Gloria, the Democratic City Council president, becomes acting mayor until a special election is held within 90 days. Democrats enjoy a solid edge over Republicans in voter registration, but the GOP will capitalize on the Filner debacle to try to reclaim an office it has held for nearly all of the last four decades.

After taking office on Dec. 3, 2012, Filner struck a five-year labor agreement with city unions and opened a city of San Diego office in Tijuana to strengthen ties with the Mexican border city, However, he alienated many key players even before the allegations surfaced, including members of the City Council, the city attorney and hoteliers.

He served 10 terms in Congress, marked perhaps most famously by a 2007 run-in with a United Airlines baggage handler at Dulles International Airport that resulted in him acknowledging a misdemeanor charge of trespassing. Joanne Kunkel alleged in a criminal complaint that Filner barged past other customers, screamed at employees, repeatedly pushed her and yelled, "You can't stop me."

Filner, who began his political career on the San Diego school board and later served on the City Council, is twice divorced. Ex-fiancee Ingram ended her marriage engagement days before the scandal broke and later said Filner sent sexually explicit text messages to other women and arranged dates in her presence.

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