SAN DIEGO – Facing calls for his resignation after accusations of sexual harassment, San Diego Mayor Bob Filner apologized Thursday for his treatment of women and vowed to change his behavior, admitting “I need help.”
Filner indicated that he will not resign but said, “I have reached into my heart and soul and realize I must and will change my behavior.” He said he and his staff will take the sexual harassment training offered by the city.
On a DVD given to the media, Filner said, “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.”
He said he knew that San Diego residents “have every right to be disappointed” in him but asked that they “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.”
Earlier, at a news conference, three longtime friends and supporters called on him to resign for what one called “truly reprehensible” behavior toward women.
Although no details were given about the alleged sexual harassment, former City Councilwoman Donna Frye and lawyers Marco Gonzalez and Cory Briggs said they will help the women should they decide to sue.
Frye said the women “are too scared to speak.”
Briggs said his message to the women is: “When you’re ready to file lawsuits, I’ll be standing in court.”
The three said the alleged victims do not want to be in the media spotlight. Briggs asked reporters not to attempt to find out the women’s names and interview them.
The calls for his resignation are the latest in a series of turbulent events involving the 70-year-old Democrat, who was elected in November after 10 terms in Congress.
On Monday, Filner’s fiancee sent an email to friends and supporters, announcing that she and the mayor have broken their engagement and ended their relationship. The email from Bronwyn Ingram, whom Filner had referred to as San Diego’s first lady, provided no details.
There also have been published and broadcast reports that federal officials are looking into a deal between Filner and a land developer.
The developer donated $100,000 to two of Filner’s pet projects – one for veterans, one for bicyclists – allegedly in exchange for Filner dropping his opposition to a land-use project. Filner has since returned the money.
KGTV, a local television station, has also raised questions about the use of public money for a trip to Paris Filner took to participate in a rally organized by Iranian dissidents. San Diego police went on the trip to provide security for the mayor.