John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
The embattled mayor, who is facing accusations of sexual harassment from more than a dozen women, blamed a "lynch mob" of politicians and media interests for his ouster.
Speaking with emotion and seeming anger on Friday in front of the San Diego city council, Mayor Bob Filner announced he will tender his resignation, effective August 30, and apologized to the dozen-plus women who have accused him of sexual harassment.
“I had no intention to be offensive, to violate any physical or emotional space," said the 70-year-old Filner. "I was trying to establish personal relationships, but the combination of awkwardness and hubris I think led to behavior they found offensive.” He denied outright having ever sexually harassed the women, but qualified he will "try to make amends in any suitable manner."
The city council accepted Filner's signed resignation and also a signed settlement agreement with the mayor. That settlement has been the subject of much recent speculation over whether San Diego's taxpayers will have to pay for the mayor's legal defense against the harassment claims. That will indeed be the case. In Friday's meeting, City Attorney Jan Goldsmith said his office would mount a joint defense with Filner in court, and that it would provide up to $98,000 if Filner decided to seek outside counsel.
"We, as with any employer in the private sector, have to step up to the plate," Goldsmith said. He added that if a court were to award damages against Filner, the city could try to wrangle a reimbursement from the mayor to cover the losses.
Goldsmith said the city decided settling was the best route because the recall process could take half a year to mount. That period of time would be marked by lot of negative publicity, he indicated. "Six more months of this would be devastating."
What is "this," exactly? As this site reported earlier:
The 70-year-old mayor has been under fire for the better part of a month, after several women, include the city's former chief operating officer, accused the mayor of unwanted sexual advances and inappropriate behavior. Among the racier allegations? The mayor's former press secretary has alleged that Filner once asked her to "get naked" and kiss him, and, another time, asked her to work without wearing panties.
In the hearing, Councilwoman Lorie Zapf echoed Goldsmith's words, albeit in a harsher manner. She called the mayor an “abusive man” whose “angry and demeaning behavior toward women has been directed at me personally on a number of occasions.” Zapf nevertheless supported the settlement agreement because there are “no guarantees" the city would reach a recall and it could be stuck "in this predicament indefinitely." If Filner were to remain in office, she worried, his public battle against sex claims could bruise San Diego's economy to the tune of "millions" of dollars.
In his resignation speech, Filner blamed a cabal of entrenched political operatives that he alleges have controlled the city for 50 years (prior to his assuming office in 2012, of course). The "fight to control this city has become vicious and bloody," he said.
His ouster was an "affront to democracy" and a "political coup," he said. No allegations of sexual harassment have been "independently verified or proven in court," he said. "I have never sexually harassed anyone, but the hysteria that has been created, and many of you helped to feed, is the hysteria of a lynch mob."
The settlement deal will no doubt disappoint many in the city – a local-news poll shows overwhelming hatred for such an arrangement – and should irk self-described "feminist attorney" Gloria Allred, who is representing one of the accusers. As our own Emily Badger wrote:
Gloria Allred, the attorney representing many of the women who've complained of harassment, preemptively came out [on August 22] to urge the city not to pay off the mayor to leave.... Local news outlets are also reporting that Filner stands to receive as much as $82,000 a year in public pensions....
"If the deal requires that the city council pay him one dollar, then I for one think that they should vote against it," Allred said Thursday. "There should be no payoff for Mayor Filner. 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. His parting gift should be 'good riddance' instead of a handout."
Filner was elected last year as the first Democratic mayor in the city since 1992. successfully running on a platform of job creation, public safety and improving relations with Tijuana.
Top: Protesters call for Mayor Bob Filner to resign on August 12, 2013, after more than a dozen women accused him of sexual harassment. (Mike Blake / Reuters)