Filner said he will enter a clinic for full-time, intensive counseling on Aug. 5. He said will be briefed twice a day on city business during his stay and planned to return to his duties two weeks later.
“So when I return on Aug. 19, my focus will be on making sure that I am doing right by the city in terms of being the best mayor that I can be and the best person I must be,” the mayor said.
Filner made the announcement at a news conference outside the Mayor’s Office just after 12 p.m. following calls by both local and national Democratic Party leaders for him to step down. The news conference got off to a rocky start when the mayor’s microphone cut out part way through his statement. He went back to his office and came out again about 10 minutes later after the audio equipment had been fixed.
“Let me be absolutely clear: the behavior I have engaged in over many years is wrong. My failure to respect women and the intimidating contact I engage in at times is inexcusable,” Filner said. “It has undermined what I have spent my whole professional life working on: fighting for equality and justice for all people. And it is simply not acceptable for me to try to explain away my conduct as the product of the standards of a different generation.”
Filner apologized to the people of San Diego and “most of all, I apologize to the women I have offended.”
The mayor said that the intensive therapy will be followed by ongoing counseling when he returns to his duties at City Hall. He said that he hopes to someday be forgiven, but first he must demonstrate that his behavior has changed.
Reaction to the mayor’s statement was immediate and overwhelming negative. Several City Council members issued statements renewing their calls for Filner to resign.
“Bob Filner’s announcement that he will be taking a leave of absence prolongs the pain he is inflicting on our city at a time when San Diegans are calling for an end to this civic nightmare,” wrote Council President Todd Gloria.
“Mayor Filner continues to put his needs in front of the needs of his victims and the needs of citizens of San Diego,” Councilwoman Lorie Zapf wrote” By not stepping down, it is an insult to the victims, and an insult to women everywhere.”
“Two weeks of therapy will not end decades of bad behavior,” Councilman Kevin Faulconer wrote. “(Filner) needs to resign and seek long-term treatment as a private citizen.”
“Mayor Filner needs to wrestle with his demons as a private citizen—not on the public’s time or the taxpayer’s dime,” Councilman Mark Kersey wrote.
Attorney Gloria Allred, who is suing Filner on behalf of his former communications director, said that Filner should not need therapy to understand that women “should not be treated like pieces of meat.”
“Mayor Filner has harmed many women, including my client Irene McCormack Jackson. He should resign immediately,” Allred wrote. “I view his decision to seek therapy as a ploy to stay in power and to try to gain sympathy.”
Filner, a Democrat who left Congress to become San Diego’s mayor last fall, has been accused by seven women of unwanted advances and touching, dating back several years. The first woman came forward Monday and others have followed every day this week.
Filner, 70, first came under fire for sexual harassment about two weeks ago, when three of his former political allies, including former Councilwoman Donna Frye, held a joint news conference to say they had become aware of his indiscretions and wanted his immediate resignation. Since then, numerous other political and civic leaders have also called for his resignation, including the majority of the City Council and Filner’s former fiancee.
Filner initially apologized when harassment allegations were first raised. More recently, however, he has said his actions do not constitute sexual harassment and that he wants his due process rights.
The sheriff’s department has created a hotline for women who believe they are victims at 619-481-0220.