Bob Filner’s therapy plan only increases calls for his resignation


SAN DIEGO -- Mayor Bob Filner’s announcement that he plans to undergo behavioral therapy to learn how to stop treating women disrespectfully has increased demands for his resignation or recall among San Diego City Council members.

Just minutes after Filner’s surprise announcement Friday, Councilwoman Sherri Lightner said Filner should resign because he “can no longer effectively lead our city.” A Democrat, Lightner had been among three council members who held out while six others called for Filner to resign.

Also on Friday afternoon, Councilman Mark Kersey, a Republican, asked Council President Todd Gloria to put an item on a meeting agenda to allow the council to iron out legal difficulties with the city’s recall procedures.


The city’s recall laws “are contradictory, not in conformance with state law, and likely unconstitutional,” said Kersey, who has called for Filner to resign.

Filner has so far resisted the pressure for him to step down amid allegations of sexual harssment of staff members, constituents and others. There is no impeachment process in the City Charter.

A citizens group has announced plans for a recall movement against Filner, a difficult process requiring large-scale signature-gathering to qualify the issue for a public vote. The last recall of a San Diego official was in 1991.

City law needs to be changed, Kersey said, so that “voters may have confidence in the legal viability of future [recall] elections.”

Reaction among city council members to Filner’s plan to undergo two weeks of therapy at a residential facility was uniformly negative.

Filner “continues to put his needs in front of the needs of his victims and the citizens of San Diego,” said Councilwoman Lorie Zapf.

The toughest comment came from Councilman Scott Sherman: “San Diegans should accept nothing less than Bob Filner’s resignation and/or arrest.”

At a packed news conference at City Hall, Filner said he would undergo the therapy starting Aug. 5 and return to work full time Aug. 19. “I must become a better person,” the 70-year-old Democrat said.

Filner apologized for engaging in behavior toward women “over many years” that he called disrespectful and intimidating. But he stopped short of admitting that he has sexually harassed women.

In a strong voice, Filner, reading from a statement, said his conduct has undermined his long political career spent “fighting for equality and justice for all people.” He took no questions.

Filner said the two-week stay at the undisclosed site would be only the first step toward changing his behavior.

Elected in November, Filner is the city’s first Democratic mayor in 20 years, elected on promises to improve neighborhood services and break up the “old boy’s network” that he says has run City Hall for decades.

Seven women have publicly accused Filner of sexual misconduct. One, a former top aide, has filed a lawsuit seeking unspecified damages for alleged sexual harassment, including being put repeatedly in the “Filner headlock” and being told on one occasion to come to work without panties.

In announcing the lawsuit, Filner’s former director of communications Irene McCormack Jackson said she has seen Filner touch numerous women inappropriately.

The latest women to accuse Filner of making unwanted sexual advances were a retired Navy admiral, a San Diego State University dean, a leader in the city’s tourism industry and head of a group of business owners who are tenants of the San Diego Port District.

Jackson’s attorney, Gloria Allred, has subpoenaed Filner to be deposed in the Jackson lawsuit on Aug. 9, a date within the two weeks that Filner said he will be receiving therapy.


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