After Dodging Harassment Allegations, San Diego Mayor Is Reported Set to Resign
NOTE: This article contains disturbing content that may be triggering for some readers.
By Jennifer Medina and Rob Davis
LOS ANGELES — As part of an agreement with city officials, the embattled mayor of San Diego, Bob Filner, was expected to resign on Friday, ending weeks of political turmoil over allegations that he sexually harassed more than a dozen women, officials close to the mediation effort said Thursday.
Mr. Filner’s resignation would end his eight-month tenure as the city’s first elected Democratic mayor in more than 20 years and force a new and expensive election to pick a replacement.
A lawyer for the former aide to Mr. Filner whose lawsuit against him and the city brought the sexual harassment charges to light said Thursday that she had not agreed to any settlement and expected to move forward with the suit.
Local officials, including two City Council members and the city attorney, were part of a three-day mediation effort led by a retired federal judge, and they announced the deal late Wednesday evening. Mr. Filner, 70, was seen taking boxes out of his office shortly afterward and did not make any public appearances on Thursday.
The Council is expected to meet Friday afternoon to approve the deal, which is said to include paying for at least part of Mr. Filner’s legal fees in the sexual harassment suit. Eighteen women have come forward in the last six weeks to accuse him of sexual harassment, both as mayor and during the 20 years he spent in Washington as a congressman representing San Diego.
The allegations against Mr. Filner include groping and forcibly kissing the women. He had consistently refused to step down, saying he had not broken the law. But calls for his resignation had grown louder in recent weeks, including demands from the entire City Council and two of the most powerful women in California, Senator Barbara Boxer and Representative Nancy Pelosi.
Organizers began collecting signatures on Sunday to force a recall election against Mr. Filner. A spokeswoman for that effort said Thursday that more than 11,000 signatures had been collected, about a tenth of what would be needed.
Jan Goldsmith, San Diego’s city attorney, who had filed a complaint against Mr. Filner arguing that the city should not be required to pay for his defense or for any damages related to the sexual harassment allegations, announced the deal with the mayor late Wednesday but declined to provide any details.
“The City Council has not heard of this proposal, and our process at City Hall as well as the mediation process requires that we maintain the confidentiality of the proposal until they have heard of it,” Mr. Goldsmith said.
The women who said they were harassed include a retired Navy rear admiral, a great-grandmother, a university dean and Mr. Filner’s former communications director, Irene McCormack Jackson, who filed the sexual harassment lawsuit against the mayor and the city. Ms. McCormack Jackson has said that Mr. Filner told her he wanted to see her naked, asked her to work without underwear and once placed his arm around her neck and dragged her around while whispering sexual comments to her.
Gloria Allred, the lawyer representing Ms. McCormack Jackson, said Thursday that she had no details of the arrangement struck between Mr. Filner and city officials, but that any resignation deal to pay for Mr. Filner’s legal fees and liabilities would amount to a “callous and unholy agreement.”
“It would be a slap in the face to the mayor’s many victims to see him get anything from the City of San Diego,” Ms. Allred said during a news conference at her Los Angeles office. “His parting gift should be good riddance instead of a handout.”
Ms. Allred said that she had not agreed to any settlement on Ms. McCormack Jackson’s behalf and that the city and Mr. Filner would still be defendants in the lawsuit that she expected to move forward with court hearings next month. Ms. McCormack Jackson was not at the news conference.
Gil Cabrera, a lawyer and the former chairman of the city’s ethics commission, said the city would most likely defend the mayor as it would any other city employee accused of on-the-job misconduct. “Even if the person has done something wrong, it’s still in the entity’s best interest to control the defense and limit liability,” he said.
Days after the allegations surfaced, Mr. Filner, who has a reputation as a brusque and forceful personality, announced that he would seek behavior treatment therapy at an undisclosed location. He had been widely expected to return to work this week, but he has only been seen publicly leaving his City Hall office.
James Payne, a lawyer for Mr. Filner, said in a statement Thursday that the mayor had returned to work on Wednesday, hours before the deal was announced.
If Mr. Filner resigns, a special election would be held in the next 90 days, which county officials estimate would cost $3 million to $6 million — the same as a recall election.
(To read original article, visit this New York Times link)