After a closed session to discuss a settlement deal reached during three days of mediation meetings with both city and Mayor Filner representatives, the San Diego City Council on August 23 ended a drama that started with an allegation of sexual harassment by the mayor towards staff members.
City Attorney Jan Goldsmith announced that the settlement deal includes the resignation of Mayor Bob Filner effective August 30. Then in a surprising move, he then turned the floor over to Mayor Filner who was expected to hold his own press release rather than appear before the Council.
Filner looked at each council member before speaking. After thanking them for their time, he offered “a deep apology” to the city and its citizens for letting the city down due to his personal failures. With a catch in his throat he also apologized to his former fiancée for the personal hurt he caused her.
To all the women he offended, he said he had no intention to be offensive, blaming it on awkwardness and hubris. He then went on to say he will try to make amends in any suitable manner.
With a long political history of never walking away from a battle, he had tears in his eyes as he said, “It was never my intention to be a mayor who went out like this.”
While apologizing for his behavior he vehemently denied all allegations of sexual harassment.
He cautioned the city and the council about lynch mobs which he fought early in his political career. "I think we have just faced one now in San Diego and you will have to deal with that.” Some members of the media in the audience said that comment seemed to have taken the air out of the room for a moment.
Almost like a professor he explained that with a lynch mob mentality rumors quickly become allegations, allegations become "facts," and facts become "evidence."
“Not one allegation has been independently verified or proven in a court,” Filner insisted with defiance. “I have never sexually harassed anyone. But the hysteria that has been created, and many of you have helped to defeat, is the hysteria of a lynch mob.”
He went on to discuss the fact that a lynch mob doesn’t use due process; the mob determines if you are guilty. Filner also blamed the media that fed the hysteria without waiting for any true evidence. “You need to look at what you helped to create, because you have unleashed a monster and we will be paying for this affront to democracy for a long time.”
Filner continued to explain that the hysteria ended up playing in the hands of those who wanted a political coup: the removal of a duly elected mayor purely by rumor and innuendo. He accepted the responsibility “for providing the ammunition that was used.” However the mayor blamed others for pointing the gun – implying that the reason they wanted him out of office was political and they did so in a “bloody and vicious way.”
City Attorney Jan Goldsmith then took over the podium and explained the terms of the agreement. “First, let me explain what the settlement is NOT about. This is not a resolution of any criminal actions.” He also explained that it did not involve money owed to the city for any alleged expenses or claims made not in the capacity as mayor.
He went on to say the city has accepted Mayor Filner’s signed resignation. Goldsmith explained about potential claims of sexual harassment against San Diego and the mayor. One term is that the city attorney’s office will be providing assistance to any former or current city employees with claims of sexual harassment. Mayor Filner will be paying for his own defense attorneys except for a set amount of money that the city will contribute.
Todd Gloria, head of the City Council, will act as interim mayor until a new mayor is elected. An election should be held 90 days from now.
(This reporter recorded the text of the speech during the live video feed of the City Council meeting and reported this as a witness to the event).