SAN DIEGO (Reuters) - San Diego Mayor Bob Filner admitted on Thursday to behaving inappropriately toward female staff members but indicated he would not resign, saying he wants to prove he is “capable of change.”
He was responding to calls for his resignation made at a news conference by a former city councilwoman and two lawyers who said at least one woman has accused the mayor of dubious behavior. The former councilwoman said Filner, 70, had sexually harassed female staff members.
The two attorneys, Marco Gonzalez and Cory Briggs, declined to provide details and said the alleged harassment did not rise to the level of criminal behavior. They said the woman or women who made the accusations wanted to remain anonymous.
The allegations threaten Filner’s tenure less than a year after he was elected to lead California’s second-largest city of 1.3 million residents.
“As someone who has spent a lifetime fighting for equality for all people, I am embarrassed to admit that I have failed to fully respect the women who work for me and with me, and that at times I have intimidated them,” Filner said in a written statement and video message.
Filner said that residents of San Diego have “every right to be disappointed” in him.
“I only ask that you give me an opportunity to prove I am capable of change, so that the vision I have for our city’s future can be realized,” he said.
Filner did not say he would resign over the accusations.
The former councilwoman, Donna Frye, who had served from 2002 to 2006, said she had spoken with one of the alleged victims. Frye tearfully called on the mayor to resign.
In his statement, Filner said that “when a friend like Donna Frye” is compelled to call for his resignation, he is “clearly doing something wrong.”
“I have reached into my heart and soul and realized I must and will change my behavior,” he said, adding that he is seeking professional help and that he and his staff will undergo sexual-harassment training.
Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis, Edith Honan and Philip Barbara