SAN DIEGO — Mayor Bob Filner agreed Friday to resign in return for the city's help defending him against claims he groped, kissed and made lewd comments to women, allegations that shook and embarrassed the city and turned the former 10-term congressman into a national punch line.
Filner was regretful and defiant during a City Council meeting as he explained the "the toughest decision of my life." He apologized to his accusers but insisted he was innocent of sexual harassment and said he was the victim of a "lynch mob."
"The city should not have to go through this, and my own personal failures were responsible and I apologize to the city," Filner said after the council voted 7-0 on a deal that ended a political stalemate after 17 women publicly accused him of harassment.
"To all the women that I offended, I had no intention to be offensive, to violate any physical or emotional space," he said. "I was trying to establish personal relationships but the combination of awkwardness and hubris I think led to behavior that many found offensive."
The city will pay Filner's legal fees in a joint defense of a lawsuit filed by the mayor's former communications director and pay for any settlement costs assessed against the mayor except for punitive damages, said City Attorney Jan Goldsmith. The city would also pay up to $98,000 if Filner wants to hire his own attorney.
Goldsmith said the city was obligated to provide his legal defense no matter what.
The city now must turn to settling the lawsuit by the former communications director, who was the first woman to go public with allegations against Filner and is the only accuser to file a lawsuit against the mayor and the city.
Irene McCormack Jackson claimed the mayor asked her to work without panties, demanded kisses, told her he wanted to see her naked and dragged her in a headlock while whispering in her ear.
"My thoughts are with the courageous women, who because they spoke out, galvanized the residents of this great city and its elected leaders to rise up against a serial sexual harasser and a gross abuser of power," said McCormack, as she is known professionally. "Bye-bye, Bob. You will not be missed."
Filner, backed by a sometimes boisterous crowd of supporters, challenged the City Council to pursue a laundry list of his policy initiatives, ranging from addressing climate change to bringing the Olympic Games to the region. He warned of dire consequences if his priorities are ignored by well-entrenched power brokers.
"I am responsible for providing the ammunition," he said. "I did that and I take full responsibility, but there are well-organized interests who have run this city for 50 years who pointed the gun, and the media and their political agents pulled the trigger."
Filner choked up as he apologized to his former fiancee, Bronwyn Ingram, who ended the relationship just before the scandal erupted and called for him to resign.
"I love you very much. You came to love San Diego as much as I did and you did memorable things in the short time that you were first lady," he said.