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San Diego Mayor enters therapy amid sexual harassment allegations

San Diego mayor Bob Filner speaks at a news conference in San Diego, California July 26, 2013. REUTERS/Fred Greaves
San Diego mayor Bob Filner speaks at a news conference in San Diego, California July 26, 2013. REUTERS/Fred Greaves

By Marty Graham

SAN DIEGO (Reuters) - San Diego's mayor, facing mounting pressure to resign over sexual harassment allegations from nearly a dozen women, entered an intensive therapy program on Monday, a spokeswoman said.

As Mayor Bob Filner, a Democrat, prepared over the weekend to begin his treatment, a tenth woman came forward to accuse him of inappropriate behavior, saying the 70-year-old mayor had asked her out during a political event in June.

"He took me by the hand and said, 'You are so beautiful I cannot take my eyes off of you," Renee Estill-Sombright told a Fox News station. "Are you married?"

Filner, who took the helm of California's second-largest city last year, has resisted calls to resign after a sexual harassment lawsuit was filed against him last month by his former press secretary. The secretary accused him of telling her she would work better without panties.

Since then, a string of other women have come forward to publicly accuse Filner of making unwanted sexual advances. Both fellow Democrats and rival Republicans have joined forces in a signature drive seeking a recall election to unseat him.

"The behavior I have engaged in over many years is wrong," Filner said when he announced his plan to enter treatment late last month. "My failure to respect women and the intimidating conduct I engaged in at times is inexcusable."

On Monday, spokeswoman Lena Lewis confirmed that Filner had entered a counseling program but did not say where it was located or whether Filner was staying there overnight. Filner had said he would take two weeks off for the counseling program, but promised to stay involved in running the city during that time.

At City Hall on Monday the mayor's office was quiet.

A prominent lawyer for Filner's former press secretary, Irene McCormack Jackson, who filed the lawsuit against him, dismissed Filner's "decision to seek therapy as a ploy to stay in power and to try to gain sympathy.

"It is ridiculous to think that he needs therapy in order to understand that women deserve respect and should not be treated like pieces of meat," lawyer Gloria Allred said.

(Additional reporting and writing by Sharon Bernstein, Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Ken Wills)

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