Seattle’s mayor announced his resignation Tuesday following allegations of sexual abuse dating back decades, with the most recent accusation coming from a cousin. Five men in all have accused the mayor of wrongdoing.
In a statement, Mayor Ed Murray said that “while the allegations against me are not true, it is important that my personal issues do not affect the ability of our city government to conduct the public’s business.”
He plans to leave his position as of 5 p.m. Wednesday, the statement said.
City Council President Bruce Harrell will take over as mayor, and he has five days to decide whether he wants to finish out Murray’s term, which runs through December. If he declines, the council will choose one of its members to become interim mayor until the election of a new mayor in November.
“I have a plan in place for a seamless transition in order for city operations to continue at the highest standard,” Harrell said in a statement. “Seattleites deserve a government that holds their full confidence and trust.”
Murray, a Democratic champion of social justice causes and a leader of the state’s same-sex marriage legalization effort, became Seattle’s first openly gay mayor after his election in 2013.
But the former state legislator withdrew his plans to run for reelection this spring as news outlets published reports of sex-abuse accusations against Murray in years past. Murray has repeatedly denied the accusations.
With the support of a majority of City Council members, Murray had planned to finish out the rest of his term before he abruptly stepped down this week.
Murray’s resignation came just hours after the Seattle Times published a new account from a younger cousin, Joseph Dyer, 54, a dialysis technician and Air Force veteran, who told the newspaper that Murray, now 62, sexually assaulted Dyer in Melford, N.Y., in the 1970s, when Dyer was 13. Murray would have been in his early 20s at the time.
“There would be times when I would fake sleeping because I didn’t want him touching me,” Dyer told the Seattle Times. “And that’s when he would molest me. And my mother would be right there in the house. She’d be in the living room … watching TV; at that time it was probably ‘M*A*S*H.’ And my sisters would be in their rooms, sleeping. And I would be in my room, and he would be in there, molesting me.”
Murray denied Dyer’s allegation. “There’s been numerous fights between our two families for many years, and much ugliness,” Murray told the newspaper before his resignation. “I guess they see me down and out, and they want to finish me off.”
But the new report prompted Seattle mayoral candidate and former U.S. Atty. Jenny Durkan, who was endorsed by Murray, to call on the mayor to step down.
“I previously urged the mayor to reflect deeply about whether he could continue to lead and what was in the best interests of the city,” Durkan said in a statement. “It’s clear that it is in everyone’s best interest for him to resign. As a parent, former public official and openly gay woman these allegations are beyond sad and tragic; no official is above the law.”
Cary Moon, Durkan’s opponent, called for Murray’s resignation in May, and repeated the call Tuesday, saying in a statement it would be in “the best interests of everyone — especially the many survivors of sexual assault re-experiencing their own traumas — for the mayor to step down now so that City Hall can get back to work.”
Moon accused Murray of attempting to “demean and even silence his accusers,” labeling that as “deeply divisive to our community and triggering for survivors of sexual assault.”
Pressure had been mounting on the mayor since April, when a man going by the initials “D.H.” filed a lawsuit alleging that Murray “raped and molested him” and paid him for sex starting in 1986, when the man was a 15-year-old high school dropout addicted to crack cocaine.
The lawsuit was later withdrawn. But the Seattle Times also revealed that two men, Jeff Simpson and Lloyd Anderson, had contacted the paper in 2008 to say Murray had sexually abused them as teenagers in the 1980s when he was in his 20s, though the paper did not initially publish their allegations.
The men had met Murray at a Portland, Ore., center for troubled children where they grew up and where Murray worked.
While in jail on drug charges, a fourth man, Maurice Jones, came forward and accused Murray of paying him for sex when Jones was a teenager.
Murray denied all the claims, pointed at the men’s criminal backgrounds and raised suspicions that the allegations were politically motivated — timed to interfere with his reelection effort this year. He announced in the spring that he would not seek a second term.
At the request of the Seattle Times, the state of Oregon unsealed records from the 1980s that showed that an Oregon Child Protective Services caseworker believed Murray had sexually abused Simpson.
The records also showed that a Multnomah County prosecutor had decided not to prosecute Murray not because she didn’t believe Simpson’s claims, but because he was too unreliable a witness to meet the burden of proof in a criminal case.
Washington state Democratic Party Chair Tina Podlodowski said Tuesday that Murray “made the correct decision to resign.”
“Since the beginning, this has been a shocking and frustrating situation for our Seattle community,” Podlodowski said in a statement. “As a mom of three children, and an openly lesbian former City Council member, I am heartbroken by the tragic events that have led to this moment.”
Seattle Councilwoman Kshama Sawant, who had previously called on Murray to resign, said she was “relieved” by his decision.
“I don’t think anybody should be tried in the court of public opinion,” Sawant said in an interview, but she added that “the mayor had failed in his duty as an elected official in the way in which he attacked the character of his accusers, saying they could not be trusted because they had troubled backgrounds.”
When sexual-assault survivors speak out, “they often face character assassination,” Sawant said, and she said it was the responsibility of elected officials to show solidarity with victims.
Staff writer Pearce reported from Los Angeles and special correspondent Anderson from Seattle.
Matt Pearce is a national reporter for The Times. Follow him on Twitter at @mattdpearce.
6:05 p.m.: This article was updated with comments from Tina Podlodowski.
4:35 p.m.: This article was updated with additional background and comments from Bruce Harrell, Jenny Durkan, Cary Moon and Kshama Sawant.
This article was originally published at 1:45 p.m.