San Diego sets special election to replace mayor felled by scandal

Reuters News
Posted: Aug 28, 2013 4:40 PM
San Diego sets special election to replace mayor felled by scandal

By Marty Graham

SAN DIEGO (Reuters) - The San Diego City Council on Wednesday voted unanimously to approve a special election for November 19 to replace Mayor Bob Filner, who announced his resignation last week as part of a settlement with the city of a sexual harassment lawsuit.

The election will cost between $5.9 million and $6.2 million, according to City Clerk Liz Maland, who said that amount could increase if no candidate receives a majority of the votes, forcing a run-off.

Eight potential candidates have already filed papers stating their intention to run for mayor, although formal nomination documents could not be submitted until after the council's vote setting the election.

Of those eight candidates, former state assemblyman Nathan Fletcher is the only one who has previously held public office. He ran for mayor against Filner and two other candidates in 2012, but lost in the primary.

Filner, a former Democratic congressman who was elected mayor of California's second-largest city last year, announced on Friday that he would step down at the end of this week as part of a settlement with the city over a lawsuit filed by his former press secretary, Irene McCormack Jackson.

Since July, 18 women have accused Filner of unwanted sexual advances, but Jackson 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.

The city had also sued Filner seeking to recover any damages it might incur in Jackson's case, and council members voted to deny a request from the mayor's private lawyers to pick up any of his attorney fees.

But 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.

In announcing his resignation on Friday, an emotional Filner apologized to San Diego residents but said no sexual harassment allegations had been proven against him. He attributed his behavior to "a combination of awkwardness and hubris," and said he did not mean to offend anyone.

"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. "I cannot afford to fight this fight."

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

(Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Matthew Lewis)