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San Diego mayor to get therapy amid scandal

Saturday - 7/27/2013, 4:18am  ET

San Diego city workers look on as San Diego Mayor Bob Filner, right, speaks during a news conference at city hall Friday, July 26, 2013, in San Diego. Filner said Friday he will undergo therapy after less than a year in office amid allegations that he sexually harassed women. Filner announced his plan Friday for a two-week stay beginning Aug. 5. in a behavioral clinic after a series of women claimed he kissed, groped and placed them in headlocks. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

Associated Press

SAN DIEGO (AP) -- Declaring he "must become a better person," San Diego Mayor Bob Filner said Friday he will undergo two weeks of counseling after a series of women claimed he made unwanted sexual advances that included groping, kissing and offensive comments.

The announcement did little to stifle widespread calls for the former congressman to resign and further plunged the nation's eighth-largest city into political turmoil.

"Words alone are not enough," Filner said at a nationally televised news conference. "I am responsible for my conduct and I must take responsibility for my conduct so that such conduct does not ever happen again."

Filner said he will receive twice-a-day briefings about city operations while participating full-time in what he described as "intensive therapy" beginning Aug. 5. He said he would return on Aug. 19 and focus on "doing right by the city in terms of being the best mayor I can be, and the best person I must be."

He said the two-week stint will be part of a continuing program that involves ongoing counseling. City Attorney Jan Goldsmith said Filner, not the city, will pay for the therapy.

Filner, who is 70 and divorced, did not take any questions after the announcement.

Several people who have called on Filner to resign said his plan for therapy was inadequate and reiterated calls for the Democrat to step down.

"Two weeks of therapy may help Bob Filner with his personal problems, but it does not help to address the needs of San Diego," said Laura Fink, a political consultant who alleges that Filner patted her buttocks at a 2005 fundraiser when she was deputy campaign manager for the then-congressman.

Kevin Faulconer, a Republican city councilman, said Filner's "bad behavior" will not end after two weeks of therapy.

"Bob Filner should leave to receive the help he obviously needs, but he shouldn't take the office of the mayor and San Diego city government with him." Faulconer said. "He needs to resign and seek long-term treatment as a private citizen."

Another Republican city councilwoman, Lorie Zapf, said Filner's refusal to step down was "an insult to women everywhere." And Todd Gloria, the Democratic City Council president who would become acting mayor if Filner resigned, said the mayor was prolonging a "civic nightmare."

"The mayor has finally acknowledged his very serious disorder which prevents his ability to govern and seriously affects his ability to interact with people," Gloria said.

Filner was served with a subpoena Friday to address allegations in a lawsuit filed against him and the city by his former communications director, Irene McCormack Jackson, who claims the mayor asked her to work without panties, demanded kisses, told her he wanted to see her naked and dragged her in a headlock while whispering in her ear.

Filner will answer questions under oath on Aug. 9, said Goldsmith, whose office served the subpoena as the mayor left a regional planning agency meeting.

"We have a bunch of questions," Goldsmith said. "Our goal is to get to the heart of it as quickly as possible."

During his absence from City Hall, the mayor will keep his full authority, which includes overseeing parks, roads, libraries and other services along with signing legislation, Goldsmith said.

The former congressman is San Diego's first Democratic mayor in 20 years, and he is less than eight months into a four-year term.

When the allegations first surfaced two weeks ago, Filner apologized for disrespecting women and said he needed help. But soon after, he said he was innocent of sexual harassment and resisted calls to leave office.

Filner disclosed his plans hours after the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee called on him to resign, as did leaders of the San Diego Democratic party, after seven women identified themselves as targets of his sexual harassment.

DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz called Filner's alleged behavior "reprehensible and indefensible."

Francine Busby, chairwoman of the local Democratic Party, said, "We are not here to determine guilt or innocence. However, in the best interest of the city, the San Diego County Democratic Party has voted to ask Mayor Filner to step down, seek the personal help that he needs, and allow San Diego to move forward."

Veronica "Ronne" Froman, a retired rear admiral, said Filner once blocked a doorway after others left a meeting, ran his finger up her cheek and asked if she had a man in her life.

Froman, who is known in San Diego as the "Navy Mayor" and has led the American Red Cross local chapter, said the incident occurred a couple years ago at Filner's congressional office.

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