SAN DIEGO — After six weeks of civic turmoil over his treatment of women, Mayor Bob Filner submitted his resignation Friday, and the City Council approved a deal to pay for some of his expenses from a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by a former aide.
In an emotional and defiant address to the council after the vote was announced, Filner apologized to his victims and supporters but also said he had been victimized by “the hysteria of the lynch mob” caused by politicians and the media once the allegations by some 18 women became public.
“I faced lynch mobs many times when I was younger,” Filner said, a reference to his activism in the 1960s as a Freedom Rider in the segregated South when he spent two months in a Mississippi jail.
But, Filner added, his voice breaking, “The city should not have been put through this, and my own personal failings were responsible.” The resignation is effective Aug. 30.
“This settlement is an end to our civic nightmare and allows this city to begin to heal,” said Council President Todd Gloria, one of two council members who negotiated for three days with Filner, his attorneys, and the city attorney to reach the deal.
Within minutes of the council decision, a spokesman for the state attorney general’s office confirmed that a criminal investigation into Filner’s treatment of women “is underway.” Investigators have been interviewing some of the women who have come forward with allegations.
Filner’s resignation does not affect the investigation, a source close to the investigation said.
Filner, 70, was elected in November as the city’s first Democratic mayor in two decades.
When he entered the council chambers after the vote was announced, his supporters stood and applauded but council members, all of whom had called for Filner to resign, showed no emotion.
He repeated his previous apologies to the city and to the women he has offended. But he also called on the council and his potential successors not to abandon the agenda he brought to the mayor’s office: better neighborhood services, respect for city employees and concern for lower-income neighborhoods.
Filner said that his own conduct provided the ammunition for his critics but that “well-organized interests who have run this city for half a century” conspired to run him from office. He singled out politicians and the media for criticism.
He apologized to his ex-fiancee, Bronwyn Ingram, who ended their relationship just days before the first allegations were made against Filner. She said she had caught Filner making dates with other women.
“I love you very much,” Filner said to Ingram, who was not present. “You love San Diego as much as I did. I personally apologize for the hurt I caused you.”
“Justice has been done,” said City Atty. Jan Goldsmith.
The deal approved 7-0 by the council does not resolve the lawsuit filed against Filner and the city by Los Angeles attorney Gloria Allred on behalf of Irene McCormack Jackson, Filner’s former director of communications.
Under the agreement, the city will pay $98,000 to Filner’s private attorneys. The city will also defend Filner against the Jackson lawsuit and pay any damages that result from a court decision or an out-of-court settlement.
Council members insisted that even though the deal obligates the city to assist Filner financially in fighting the lawsuit, it is in the best interests of the taxpayers because it may limit any damages the city might face from her case.
Even as he apologized, Filner remained defiant, blasting the council’s decision to pay some of his legal fees only if he resigned. “I cannot afford to continue this battle,” he said, “even though if I did I know I would be vindicated.”
His conduct, he said, was due to awkwardness and thoughtlessness but not an intention to harass or abuse women.
The council now must call an election to be held within 90 days to find a successor. In the interim, Gloria will assume greater authority but not the full powers of the “strong mayor” adopted by voters in 2004.
Filner becomes the fourth of the last seven mayors of San Diego to leave office early.
Before the council went into closed session, it heard the comments of several dozen people from among the 200-plus who had crowded into the council chambers for the 1 p.m. meeting.
Many demanded that the settlement be rejected and that the recall movement be allowed to proceed. Others, some speaking Spanish, said the council should remember Filner’s long history of support for minority communities.
Joan Raymond, a retired garbage truck driver, expressed support for Filner and urged the council to let the voters decide his fate, calling fears of civic paralysis if he remained as mayor exaggerated.
“It’s the city workers in the field that make the city run 24/7. Our water is still being delivered. Our toilets are still flushing. Our trash is still being picked up despite this political hysteria,” Raymond said.
Laura Fink, a political consultant and one of Filner’s accusers, pressed for his ouster. Early in the scandal, Fink told interviewers that Filner had patted her buttocks.
“Today I stand shoulder to shoulder with the other women that have come forward asking for the mayor to resign,” she told the council.
“Without the mayor’s resignation, our city will continue to be paralyzed with this scandal, progress will be arrested, and our focus will continue to be monopolized by this dark chapter in our history,” Fink said.
The scandal began in mid-July when three former Filner supporters sent letters to him demanding that he resign. When he refused their demand, the three held a news conference to again seek his resignation for alleged sexual harassment.
Faced with the allegations, Filner distributed a video in which he admitted treating women with disrespect, apologized and said, “I need help.” He hired new staff to give a sense of stability in his office.
Then he announced he planned to undergo a two-week regimen of intensive behavioral therapy. He promised to return to City Hall on Aug. 19 ready to be “the best mayor I can.”
At first, the allegations were anonymous. Then Allred filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against Filner and the city on Jackson’s behalf.
Soon other women began going public with accusations in television interviews. By Friday, 18 women had accused Filner of groping them and making lewd remarks.
His accusers included three business executives, two college officials, two military veterans, a Navy admiral, two singers, three city employees and a nurse.