Filner Announces He Will Enter Counseling Clinic; Says Nothing Of Resigning
After facing an onslaught of sexual harassment allegations over the past two weeks, Mayor Bob Filner today announced he would enter "a behavioral counseling clinic" beginning August 5 to "begin the process of addressing my behavior."
Filner read a prepared statement to a room packed with reporters in City Hall. But he did not answer any questions, nor did he address the many demands that he resign his office.
He said he would be in the clinic full time August 5 to 19, and would be briefed on city activities every morning and evening. He did not say whether he would continue to act as the leader of San Diego during that time, or if someone else would temporarily take on that role.
Seven women have gone public this week with allegations of unwanted sexual advances by the mayor, and a growing chorus of local and national leaders have called for his resignation. The San Diego County Democratic Party voted Thursday night to ask Filner to resign and Friday morning the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee repeated that request.
Filner's statement admitted only that he failed to respect women and engaged in intimidating conduct. Women have told KPBS that he groped them, tried to kiss them and refused to take no for an answer.
Filner's said his actions have "undermined what I have spent my professional life working on: fighting for the equality and justice of all people," his statement said.
"It is simply not acceptable for me to try to explain away my conduct as the product of the standards of a different generation."
Filner said he has apologized to his staff and others he's worked with "over the years," and "we have instituted changes in how the mayor's office is run." He did not say what those changes are.
"However, words alone are not enough," he said. "I am responsible for my conduct. And I must take responsibility for my conduct by taking action so that such conduct does not ever happen again."
The mayor looked somber, read slowly and carefully, and was dressed in a grey suit, white shirt and red tie, a departure from the flashier colors he often chooses.
Reaction to the mayor's statement from fellow politicians was mostly negative. Members of the San Diego City Council called his apologies and plans to get treatment not nearly enough.
"Bob Filner's announcement that he will be taking a leave of absence prolongs the pain he is inflicting on our city, at a time when San Diegans are calling for an end to this civic nightmare." said City Council President Todd Gloria. Like Filner, Gloria is a Democrat, and his expressed desire for Filner to resign predated the latest statement by Filner.
But today another council Democrat, Sherri Lightner, indicated it was time to Filner to step down. In a statement sent to media organizations today, she said, "I have personally met with the mayor and requested he resign." This means only two of nine San Diego councilmembers, both Democrats, have not demanded the mayor's resignation.
The four Republican members of the council also renewed their calls for Filner's resignation. City Councilmember for District 7, Scott Sherman, stated the city should "accept nothing less than Bob Filner's resignation and/or arrest."
Francine Busby, chairwoman of the San Diego County Democratic Party, said Filner's press conference had no effect on the group's call for Filner to quit. Gloria Allred, the attorney representing Irene McCormack Jackson in the only lawsuit filed against the mayor, called the Filner's decision to receive therapy "a ploy to stay in power and to try to gain sympathy."
"It is ridiculous to think that he needs therapy in order to understand that women deserve respect and should not be treated like pieces of meat," she said.
An odd moment occurred halfway through the mayor's reading of his statement, when the audio on his microphone cut out. Filner stood in front of reporters for a few minutes while his staff attempted to repair it, smiling somewhat awkwardly and saying nothing. One reporter shouted a question of where the counseling clinic would be, but Filner's staff immediately responded that there would be no questions.
Filner then went into a side room while a new microphone was set up. After a few minutes, he returned and re-read the statement from the beginning.
Filner ended by saying he "must become a better person."
"And my hope is that by becoming a better person I put myself in a position to someday be forgiven," he said. "However, before I can even think of asking for forgiveness, I need to demonstrate that my behavior has changed."