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San Diego mayor accused of sexual harassment leaves office quietly

San Diego Mayor Bob Filner steps away from the podium after addressing a special meeting of the San Diego city council following his resigna
San Diego Mayor Bob Filner steps away from the podium after addressing a special meeting of the San Diego city council following his resigna

By Marty Graham

SAN DIEGO (Reuters) - Bob Filner's term as San Diego mayor came to a quiet end on Friday as the veteran politician who resigned in the face of a sexual harassment lawsuit stayed out of the public eye on his last day in office.

Filner, a former Democratic congressman elected to lead California's second-largest city last year, announced his resignation last week as part of a settlement with the city over how to handle a lawsuit filed by his former press secretary.

The press secretary, Irene McCormack Jackson, is among 18 women who have accused the 70-year-old politician of making unwanted sexual advances toward them, but is so far the only one to sue him.

Parks department employee Stacy McKenzie filed a $500,000 battery and sexual assault claim against the city in what her attorney has said was a precursor to a lawsuit.

As part of the deal in which Filner agreed to resign, the city will join in his legal defense, according to an outline from the city attorney's office, which will be responsible for representing the mayor.

Filner had said that he would work until 5 p.m. on Friday, but it was unclear if he made an appearance at his office during the day. The city has scheduled a special election for November 19 to replace him, at a cost of between $5.9 million and $6.2 million.

A woman answering the phone in Filner's office at about noon declined to say if he was at work, and his spokeswoman did not return calls seeking comment. People who work in the lobby of the building said he had not been seen all week.

Todd Gloria, president of the city council who will act as interim mayor, told reporters that he would be moving into the office shortly.

"We're going to be moving forward and doing it aggressively because we're having to make up for lost time," Gloria told the San Diego Union-Tribune newspaper. "We've been moving backward and that ends today."

Meanwhile, Gloria Allred, the Los Angeles attorney who represents Jackson and several other women making accusations against Filner, held a news conference to celebrate his departure.

"At 5 p.m. today, San Diego will finally be free of Bob Filner and all the shame that he has brought to the city of San Diego," Allred said.

In announcing his resignation, an emotional Filner apologized to San Diego residents but said no sexual harassment allegations had been proven against him.

"In a lynch mob mentality, rumors become allegations, allegations become facts, facts become evidence of sexual harassment which have led to demands for my resignation and recall," he said.

Nearly every elected official in San Diego from both parties had urged him to step down, including all nine members of city council.

(Writing and additional reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Cynthia Johnston, Matthew Lewis and Lisa Shumaker)

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