San Diego Mayor Bob Filner Resigns
San Diego Mayor Bob Filner has resigned.
The City Council voted 7 to 0 to an agreement with Filner that included his resignation, effective Aug. 30. Filner then addressed the council, saying he both takes responsibility for his actions and blaming political opponents and the media for what he called a "political coup."
"I am responsible for providing ammunition. I did that," Filner said. "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."
The agreement includes the city dismissing its cross-complaint against Filner and providing a joint legal defense from the City Attorney's office for both the city of San Diego and Filner, City Attorney Jan Goldsmith said.
Filner can also hire his own lawyers, but there will be a $98,000 cap on the amount the city spends on those lawyers. In addition, if the city is found liable for Filner's behavior, the city can sue Filner for reimbursement.
While the city's agreement does not include criminal charges against Filner, the attorney general’s office is continuing a criminal investigation, a spokesman for the office confirmed.
Filner was both contrite and defiant at times during his statement, apologizing to the city, its residents, the women he says he "offended" and his ex-fiancée.
"The city should not have been put through this," he said. "I let you down. My own personal failures were responsible."
But Filner also said the city "just faced a lynch mob," where rumors became facts.
"Not one allegation has ever been independently verified or proven in court," he said. "I have never sexually harassed anyone."
Instead, Filner said he was "trying to establish personal relationships" with women, "but the combination of awkwardness and hubris led to behavior that many found offensive."
"We had a chance to do a progression vision in this city for the first time in 50 years," he continued. "We need to carry that vision forward. This is not the time to let it die."
Filner listed what he accomplished during his short time in office, including cleaning up bird poop in La Jolla cove, saving money through renegotiated property leases, a balanced budget and a five-year labor agreement with city employees.
According to the city charter, City Council President Todd Gloria becomes mayor immediately on an interim basis. A special election for mayor will be held to determine who will serve to the end of Filner’s term in 2016.
"Although none of us is glad to have reached this point in our city’s history, I think we all share a sense of relief that we can begin to put this period behind us, and most importantly, fill the leadership void in the Mayor’s office," Gloria said Friday. "The city of San Diego needs and deserves a mayor."
After KPBS broke news in July of sexual harassment allegations leveled at Mayor Filner, more than a dozen women stepped forward, accusing him of unwanted sexual advances.
The “Filner headlock” and the “Filner dance” became part of the local lexicon as victim after victim described the mayor putting his hands on them and how they tried to evade his advances.
Filner was initially accused on July 9 by three longtime supporters — former Councilwoman Donna Frye and attorneys Marco Gonzalez and Cory Briggs. They outlined anonymous allegations in calling for the resignation of their fellow Democrat.
In a statement released after Filner's resignation, the three said, "today we breathe a collective sigh of relief that this horrible chapter in the City of San Diego’s history has come to a close."
"While we feel some satisfaction for the part we played in reaching this juncture, we are neither happy nor celebrating," it continued. "Nobody should be. This is not the time to be trumpeting a partisan victory, or dancing on Bob Filner’s political grave. We have not “won” anything, as our entire community has suffered dearly, and in a way that transcends politics."
In the days after the initial accusation, Filner’s former communications chief went public and filed a lawsuit seeking unspecified damages for sexual harassment.
She was followed by more than a dozen women who publicly recounted a now-familiar pattern of Filner engaging in unwanted touching, kissing and whispered sexual innuendo.
In the meantime, Filner's chief of staff, Vince Hall, resigned and was replaced by Tony Buckles, who resigned about two weeks after taking on the top post in the mayor's administration.
Filner’s fiancée, Bronwyn Ingram, who announced their relationship was over just days before the allegations came to light, told KPBS that she'd found him “sexting” on his phone and asking women on dates even while she was at his side during the course of their relationship. She also publicly urged him to resign.
Filner responded first in a videotaped message and then in several TV interviews that he needed help. He called his behavior inexcusable and indefensible and told Univision that he had a monster inside him that he needed to deal with.
Filner announced July 26 that he was entering a psychological clinic for intense therapy to deal with his behavioral issues. According to that statement, he was set to enter therapy Aug. 5 and return to City Hall Aug. 19.
However, Filner's attorney confirmed Aug. 9 that the mayor had started and completed therapy a week earlier than he had publicly announced.
Filner built his decades-long political career on a commitment to championing civil and veteran rights.
Allegations of harassment from victims of rape and sexual assault while in the military helped stir calls for Filner to resign. California’s two Democratic senators, as well as those in the House and California Assembly, also asked that he step down.
Filner, 70, was first elected to public office in 1979 when he ran for a seat on the San Diego City Schools board of trustees. He climbed the local political ladder and was elected to Congress in 1992 where he served as chair of the House Veterans Affairs Committee as the ranking member.
Citing dysfunction in Washington, D.C., he turned his sights back to San Diego in 2012, where he won election as the first Democratic mayor in nearly 30 years.
Mayor Filner started making waves his first month in office, when he ordered the city to stop referring medical marijuana code violation cases to the city attorney for prosecution. As a result, some controversial marijuana dispensaries stayed open despite orders to shut down.
Filner also publicly feuded with Council President Gloria and City Attorney Goldsmith.
One argument centered on a hotel fee negotiation between the city and officials of the tourism marketing district. The three-month debate crisscrossed city meetings and court hearings.
The Department of Justice is investigating $100,000 donation made to the city of San Diego by developers, Sunroad Centrum Partners. The money was returned, when Mayor Filner learned a top-level administrator secured the donation in exchange to withdraw a veto tying up a mixed-use project Sunroad has been working on since 1997.
May marked a significant month for the mayor as he negotiated new leases for city offices downtown, saving the city $15.8 million and brokered a five-year agreement with city employees that was estimated to save the city $25 million alone in its first year.
But after initial allegations were leveled at Mayor Filner, his aggressive crusade to shake up city politics in a progressive fashion hit a wall.
The political pressure to resign mounted steadily until it reached a breaking point.