• Outgoing mayor insists he ‘never sexually harassed anyone,’ and that ‘awkwardness and hubris’ led to offensive behavior
City News Service/La Jolla Light Staff ReportsAfter weeks of being dogged by allegations of sexual harassment, Bob Filner tendered his resignation as San Diego mayor Friday, Aug. 23, effective Aug. 30.
“I apologize to all of you,” Filner said in San Diego City Council chambers 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 City Attorney Jan Goldsmith
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, touted a list of accomplishments during his short tenure as mayor, which started with his successful push to remove vehicles from the Plaza de Panama in Balboa Park
“We’ve protected seals and we protected La Jolla from the poop from the seals and others,” Filner stated, as his second item on a long list of accomplishments — the latter of which City Council President Pro Tem Sherri Lightner, who represents La Jolla, also took credit for during a post-meeting press conference (though Lightner phrased it as “cleaning up the odor at La Jolla Cove”).
Filner also used his time to offer 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, 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 Aug. 22 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.
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.
Lightner will help lead the council beside Gloria in an interim position.
Following the council meeting, Lightner held a press conference during which she thanked Council President Gloria and her council colleagues for “placing your trust in me to lead the council in the coming months.”
“I’m looking forward to working cooperatively and productively with each of my colleagues,” Lightner said.
“As a former community volunteer and small business owner I know how important stability, reliability and transparency are in our city government and I look forward to promoting a culture at city hall that embodies those qualities going forward.
“I’m a mechanical engineer, so when I ran for office in 2008, my goal was to simply get things done for our city and our neighborhoods. … I have a clean track record of being able to tackle big, complex issues involving many diverse stakeholders and interests in a cooperative and effective way. I’ll bring those skills to my interim tenure leading the council. I have confidence in Todd Gloria’s ability to lead us through this difficult time and I know he will be working very closely with the council and our city departments to keep our city moving in the right direction.
“I also want to thank all our city employees for the tremendous job they have been doing despite all the distractions,” Lightner added. “There’s no doubt that we have a lot of work to do in the coming months. Now is the time for everyone who loves San Diego to work together for the greater good of our community. …”
Filner 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 —remained defiant, insisting that he was being railroaded out of office, casting blame on his detractors and the media.
“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.”