UPDATED 7/12: San Diego Mayor Bob Filner asked to resign over alleged sexual harassment, issues apology
Shortly after 3 p.m. July 11, San Diego Mayor Bob Filner issued an apology to the residents of San Diego, in response to allegations that he sexually harassed women.
KPBS, letters were delivered to San Diego Mayor Bob Filner on July 10 demanding his resignation, one citing sexual harassment. KPBS reported former Councilwoman Donna Frye, and attorneys Marco Gonzalez and Cory Briggs each personally delivered the letters to Filner.
Briggs, a San Diego lawyer who sued to stop the convention center expansion and renewal of the city’s Tourism Marketing District, faxed a letter to the mayor’s office, saying that “long-term damage’’ to the principles of open government would be caused if Filner were to remain in office.
“At this point, I cannot maintain my credibility in the community as an advocate for good government while pretending that your office has not been irreversibly compromised,’’ Briggs wrote.
He said his “request’’ was made reluctantly, since he shares the mayor’s views on what’s wrong with the city and the ways to fix the problems.
Frye, who was appointed by Filner as director of open government in December, resigned three months ago to take the helm of a statewide nonprofit. She says in her letter that she has “received credible evidence of more than one woman being sexually harassed by you.”
Briggs, Gonzalez and Frye organized a press conference to address the accusations Thursday morning, July 11, though they did not disclose the women’s names and Frye declined to tell the
La Jolla Lightwhether the alleged harassment happened while Filner was serving as mayor or predates that time.
Filner’s apology reads as follows:“I begin today by apologizing to you. I have diminished the office to which you elected me.
The charges made at today’s news conference are serious. When a friend like Donna Frye is compelled to call for my resignation, I’m clearly doing something wrong. I have reached into my heart and soul and realized I must and will change my behavior.
As someone who has spent a lifetime fighting for equality for all people, I am embarrassed to admit that I have failed to fully respect the women who work for me and with me, and that at times I have intimidated them.
It’s a good thing that behavior that would have been tolerated in the past is being called out in this generation for what it is: inappropriate and wrong.
I am also humbled to admit that I need help. I have begun to work with professionals to make changes in my behavior and approach. In addition, my staff and I will participate in sexual harassment training provided by the city. Please know that I fully understand that only I am the one that can make these changes.
If my behavior doesn’t change, I cannot succeed in leading our city.
In the next few days, I will be reaching out to those who now work in the Mayor’s Office or have previously worked for me – both men and women – to personally apologize for my behavior.
I will also be announcing fundamental changes within the Mayor’s Office designed to promote a new spirit of cooperation, respect and effectiveness.
You have every right to be disappointed in me. I only ask that you give me an opportunity to prove I am capable of change, so that the vision I have for our city’s future can be realized.”
In response to the allegations, La Jolla resident and Congress member Scott Peters, a Democrat representing the 52nd District, issued a statement, saying, in part, “If the allegations are true, this behavior is inexcusable, shows terrible disregard for women, the voters, and the thousands of people who worked tirelessly to support the Mayor’s candidacy.”
San Diego County Democratic Party Chair Francine Busby added:
“Today the Mayor conceded that his past treatment of women has been ‘inappropriate and wrong.’ While we have yet to learn any names or details about the women stating that Mayor Filner sexually harassed them, he has admitted to behavior that is intolerable under any circumstances. Such conduct is particularly damaging when the public trust is involved.
“The Mayor has taken a step in the right direction by apologizing. He has committed to getting professional help for his behavior, vowed to apologize personally to the people he has hurt, and outlined plans to promote a more respectful environment in his office. Further, he has acknowledged that if his behavior does not change, he cannot succeed in his role as Mayor.
“Like all San Diegans, I am deeply disappointed by Mayor Filner’s conduct toward women. Now that he has taken responsibility for his actions, I will hold him to his promises. I ask the people of San Diego, who elected Bob Filner to be our Mayor, to join me today and give him an opportunity to live up to his word.”
District 1 City Council member Sherri Lightner offered a similar statement, saying “I was deeply troubled by the serious allegations made yesterday regarding the Mayor’s conduct. Sexual harassment is demeaning and harmful behavior which cannot be tolerated. I appreciate that the Mayor is working with professionals to change both his personal behavior and the tone he has established within his office. I look forward to working with my Council colleagues to focus on the important business at hand in our city.”
However, on July 12, Council President Todd Gloria issued a statement asking the mayor to resign. The statement reads in part:
“Yesterday, Mayor Filner admitted that he has harassed and intimidated women under his authority. While I believe coming forward and admitting to this unacceptable behavior is the right thing to do, I do not believe he can effectively continue as mayor of San Diego after these admissions. As a San Diegan, I am asking Mayor Filner to resign.”