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Bob Filner to resign as part of a sexual harassment lawsuit deal

San Diego Mayor Bob Filner cleaned out his office Wednesday night. Sources say he will resign in exchange for the city paying some or all of his legal fees.

August 22, 2013|By Tony Perry
  • A city employee tweeted a photo of San Diego Mayor Bob Filner entering an SUV parked near City Hall after loading boxes in the backseat Wednesday night.
A city employee tweeted a photo of San Diego Mayor Bob Filner entering an… (Diana Palacios, Associated…)

SAN DIEGO — After six weeks of scandal and demands for his ouster, Mayor Bob Filner has agreed to resign just eight months into his first term as part of a proposed mediation deal reached with city officials over his sexual harassment lawsuit, sources familiar with the negotiations said Thursday.

At least 18 women have publicly accused the 70-year-old Democrat of sexual misconduct, including a former aide who filed a lawsuit seeking damages from the city and Filner.

As more women went public with accusations, public opinion polls showed that a large majority of residents wanted Filner out.

In exchange for his resignation, the city will pay some, if not all, of Filner's legal fees and his share of any damages awarded in the lawsuit, said the sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly. One estimate is that the agreement will cost the city several hundred thousand dollars.

Filner's decision to resign came after three days of closed-door mediation. The City Council is set to vote on the proposed settlement in a closed session Friday. Under the city charter, a special election would have to be held within 90 days to find a successor.

The lawsuit against Filner was filed July 22 by Los Angeles attorney Gloria Allred on behalf of Irene McCormack Jackson, Filner's former director of communications.

In a news conference Thursday, Allred said that although she does not know the details of the mediation deal, it would be "morally repugnant" for the city to "make a gift of public funds" to Filner so that he can, in effect, continue to fight against the lawsuit.

"Our lawsuit is not settled," Allred said.

Allred said that Filner should offer "a resignation without conditions." A deal from City Council to make a financial settlement in exchange for his resignation would represent "a callous and unholy agreement," she said.

Three former allies of Filner went public with accusations on July 11, setting off a scandal that quickly mushroomed when one woman after another came forward to allege groping, forced kisses or inappropriate language by the mayor.

Phrases like the "Filner headlock" and "Filner dance" were used to describe how he immobilized women while he made unwanted advances.

His accusers included three business executives, two college officials, two military veterans, a Navy admiral, two singers, three city employees and a nurse.

Jackson said she took a $50,000 pay cut to join Filner's staff because she believed in his political agenda. Instead, she said, she found that Filner was verbally abusive to her and others and that he once told her she would do better work if she would not wear panties.

All nine members of the council — five Democrats and four Republicans — have demanded for weeks that Filner resign.

Council President Todd Gloria and Councilman Kevin Faulconer said that city government has been paralyzed and cannot function properly while Filner is mayor. When Filner leaves, Gloria will assume added duties until an election is held.

"We need a mayor who can lead," Faulconer said Tuesday, before the mediation deal was reached. "When it's national news if your mayor even shows up for work, you know your city has a problem."

Gloria and Faulconer were part of the mediation negotiations, along with Filner, his three attorneys, City Atty. Jan Goldsmith and two deputy city attorneys. The negotiations were overseen by retired federal Judge J. Lawrence Irving.

Goldsmith announced Wednesday night that a deal has been reached but added that no details would be publicly released until the council meeting on Friday.

Filner was seen later Wednesday night loading boxes into an SUV parked in front of City Hall after saying farewell to his staff and cleaning out his office.

Filner, a former San Diego State history professor who had served on the San Diego school board, City Council and then 10 terms in the Congress, was elected in November as the city's first Democratic mayor in two decades.

Starting with his activism as a Freedom Rider in the 1960s, Filner was known as a strong supporter of civil rights, military veterans and San Diego residents, many of them minorities, who felt shunned by city government.

"For many people, Filner coming to office was a time of hope and expectation — many of whom had never before felt connected to San Diego's politics or governance," said George Mitrovich, president of the City Club of San Diego. "Those expectations have been brutally crushed by a mayor who allowed his ill-temper and narcissism to destroy whatever good he had hoped to accomplish."

Even as mediation talks leading to Filner's ouster were being held, a small band of supporters held a rally outside City Hall on Monday pleading with him not to resign. Many felt that conservative business interests were using the allegations of sexual harassment to oust him.

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