San Diego mayor resigns over sex-harassment suit

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 25 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 25 August, 2013, 7:56am

San Diego Mayor Bob Filner, facing a sexual-harassment lawsuit and a string of allegations of inappropriate behaviour towards women, has resigned as the head of California's second-largest city.

A visibly emotional Filner addressed the city council after members emerged from a closed meeting where they voted 7-0 to accept a settlement that requires him to step down, effective August 30, in exchange for the city joining in his legal defence in the lawsuit.

Filner, a 70-year-old Democratic former congressman elected mayor last year, had faced mounting pressure to step down after acknowledging unsuitable behaviour towards women.

While he pledged to resign, his speech to a room full of reporters, accompanied by occasional cheers from supporters, was also defiant at times as he described being forced out of office.

"Certainly it was never my intention to be a mayor who went out like this," Filner said, before making an apparent reference to his 1960s work with civil-rights group the Freedom Riders.

"You know I started my political career facing lynch mobs, and I think we have just faced one here in San Diego," he said.

Filner's former press secretary, Irene McCormack Jackson, sued him last month, accusing him of sexually harassing her. Since then 17 more women have come forward to say he groped them or made other unwanted advances.

The city also sued him last month seeking to hold him responsible for any damages arising from the Jackson lawsuit.

As part of the deal, the city will join in his legal defence, according to an outline of the arrangement from the City Attorney's Office, which will be responsible for representing the mayor.

Sand Diego could also underwrite up to US$98,000 in lawyers' fees for Filner's private defence, the document said, and while the city would pay for some forms of damages that may arise, it would not cover punitive damages.