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San Diego mayor defiant as he steps down

Says ‘lynch mob’ is to blame for his resignation

Bob Filner, in office for nine months, has been accused of sexual harassment by 17 women.

Gregory Bull/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Bob Filner, in office for nine months, has been accused of sexual harassment by 17 women.

SAN DIEGO — Mayor Bob Filner agreed Friday to resign next Friday, bowing to enormous pressure after lurid sexual harassment allegations brought by at least 17 women eroded his support after only nine months on the job.

Filner was regretful and defiant during a City Council meeting as he explained ‘‘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.’’

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‘‘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 more than a dozen women publicly identified themselves as targets of unwanted advances, including touching, forcible kisses, and lurid comments.

‘‘To all the women that I’ve 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 led to behavior that I think many found offensive.’’

Legal terms of the deal were being revealed as the council meeting continued into the late afternoon.

Filner, a Democrat, served 20 years in Congress before becoming mayor of the nation’s eighth-largest city. He had insisted he still could be an effective mayor and underwent two weeks of behavioral therapy before returning to work.

But his support diminished as more women — one of them a great-grandmother and another a retired Navy admiral — came forward.

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Some of Filner’s political allies and all nine members of the council called on him to quit.

On Friday, just before the council vote, the Democratic National Committee took the extraordinary step of passing a resolution demanding that Filner leave.

Dozens of people spoke for and against the mayor before the council convened behind closed doors to discuss terms negotiated by Filner and city attorney Jan Goldsmith.

‘‘Without the mayor’s resignation, our city will continue to be paralyzed by this scandal, progress will be arrested, and our focus will continue to be monopolized by this dark chapter in our history,’’ said Laura Fink, a political consultant who accused Filner of patting her buttocks in 2005 when she was deputy campaign manager to the then-congressman.

Rachel Laing, a spokeswoman for an effort to recall the mayor, said petition gatherers collected 20,000 signatures in five days to qualify for the ballot but that she would accept a deal for the mayor to resign.

‘‘Every day he’s in office is a day that the city remains in paralysis and that his victims suffer,’’ she told the council.

Still, many who came to the special meeting supported the 70-year-old mayor, hailing the liberal Democrat’s work on behalf of civil rights and struggling minority groups.

‘‘When my children ask me, ‘Where were you when the public lynching of Mayor Filner took place?’ I will tell them I was not an accessory,’’ said Enrique Morones, of immigrant advocacy group Border Angels.

Filner’s biggest bargaining chip at the negotiating table was his refusal to resign.

The deal was negotiated between Filner, his lawyers, Goldsmith, and two City Council members.

It does not include attorney Gloria Allred, who represents Filner’s former communications director, Irene McCormack Jackson, in a lawsuit filed against Filner and the city.

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