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San Diego Mayor Resigns Amid Sexual Harassment Allegations


To San Diego now where, after weeks of accusations of sexual harassment accusations, apologies, denials, a lawsuit and a trip to a treatment center, the saga of Mayor Bob Filner is coming to a close. The city council has struck a deal under which Filner, a Democrat, will resign on August 30. That's the end result of a scandal that's seen 18 women accuse Filner of inappropriate behavior. Addressing the city council this evening, Filner again apologized to the women he offended. He apologized to the city, but then again, he professed his innocence.

MAYOR BOB FILNER: I have never sexually harassed anyone, but the hysteria that has been created and many of you helped to feed is the hysteria of a lynch mob.

BLOCK: Sandhya Dirks of member station KPBS joins me now from San Diego City Hall. And, Sandhya, trying to explain this, he's apologizing but he's also saying that he's never sexually harassed anyone.

SANDHYA DIRKS, BYLINE: I know. It's a contradiction which has sort of marked Filner throughout the past few months in the summer of scandal. He was incredibly apologetic. He apologized to his supporters who were there in the room, and he apologized to his ex-fiance, actually tearing up when he began about the woman he had formally been engaged to. It was just a very emotional, but at times defiant, at times stubborn speech. He said that he's a fighter. He says he's doesn't usually shrink from a fight but he felt so isolated by the press and by city council and by political foes that he had to remove himself.

BLOCK: And he does have defenders. We heard them there applauding him and supporting what he had to say.

DIRKS: You know, this man was a progressive going back into the '60s, the civil rights movement, and it was the first time San Diego had a Democratic mayor in about 20 years, so for a lot of people, particularly those in civil rights and activist community, they really felt like they finally had a champion. Someone to, you know, listen to the little guy and I think for them there's a real tragedy in hearing him go.

BLOCK: Well, what can you tell us about the deal that the city council struck to get Bob Filner to resign?

DIRKS: Well, it's kind of a pay-to-go-away deal. They're dropping a countersuit that they have against the mayor and they are also going to pay for his legal fees, up to $98,000. The city council is defending its action saying look, we need him to go now. A recall process could drag on for months, but, you know, this nightmare has got to end.

BLOCK: And what happens once he steps down? Who takes over?

DIRKS: The city council president, Todd Gloria, becomes de facto mayor and the city then has 90 days to hold a special election, which isn't a lot of time in politics. So we'll see what happens. We're not even sure who's going to run yet.

BLOCK: OK. Reporter Sandhya Dirks of member station KPBS with the news that Mayor Bob Filner will resign. Sandhya, thanks so much.

DIRKS: Thank you so much, Melissa. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Sandhya Dirks arrived in Iowa in January of 2012 as a general assignment reporter. Since coming to Des Moines she has covered the Statehouse and traveled across Iowa to bring back stories for IPR. Sandhya was previously a reporter at KALW in San Francisco, covering education and criminal justice issues. Her work was awarded a SPJ Sigma Delta Chi and a regional Edward R. Murrow award.
As special correspondent and guest host of NPR's news programs, Melissa Block brings her signature combination of warmth and incisive reporting. Her work over the decades has earned her journalism's highest honors, and has made her one of NPR's most familiar and beloved voices.