San Diego Mayor to Enter 'Intensive Therapy' Following Accusations of Sexual Harassment

PHOTO: San Diego Mayor Bob Filner
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Mayor Bob Filner indicated today that he is not resigning, but said he will attend a two-week intensive behavioral counseling clinic after seven women publicly came forward to allege he sexually harassed them.

Calling his actions towards women "inexcusable," Filner, 70, apologized to the residents of San Diego and the women he offended.

"I must become a better person," Filner said. "I must take responsibility so it doesn't happen again."

Filner told assembled reporters that he will be at the clinic full time, though he will receive morning and evening briefings on city business. After completing the counseling, he plans to return to full-time mayoral duties on Aug. 19

Local and national Democrats have called on Filner, a Democrat, to resign amid the accusations, which have led to a sexual harassment lawsuit.

The San Diego County Democratic Party voted 34-6 for Filner to step down from office on July 22.

"We are not here to determine guilt or innocence," Francine Busby, chair of the San Diego County Democrats, wrote in a statement. "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."

"Our opposition at this point still stands," Busby told ABC News immediately after the news conference. "There are still charges. There is still unacceptable behavior."

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., who chairs the Democratic National Committee, also issued a statement today calling for Filner's resignation.

"There is no place for this type of conduct in the workplace and certainly not in our city halls and public offices," she said.

Schultz added that she was "personally offended by his actions."

The San Diego County Sheriff's office had set up a hotline for women to come forward with complaints of harassment against Filner. The sheriff's office did not return calls for comment about the number of complaints received.

A Facebook group, "Recall Bob Finer," had more than 6,200 likes as of Friday afternoon. Twitter was filled with users expressing outrage over his actions and calling for his resignation as well.

Timeline of Accusations Against Filner

The allegations of sexual harassment against Filner have been brewing since mid-July, when a former member of his administration, Donna Frye, told a news conference there were serious accusations that Filner mistreated women.

Two weeks later, on July 22, Irene McCormack Jackson, Filner's former communications director, filed a lawsuit against him alleging sexual harassment. Jackson said in a statement that Filner had kept her in "the Filner headlock," in which she was "moved around as a rag doll while he whispered sexual comments in my ear."

She said Filner also told her she should work without her underwear and that he wanted to see her naked.

"The past six months turned out to be the worst time of my entire working life," Jackson wrote in a statement. "I had to work and do my job in an atmosphere where women were viewed by Mayor Filner as sexual objects or stupid idiots."

Jackson is currently the only woman to file suit, said her lawyer Gloria Allred. But six other women quickly followed McCormack's lead in publicizing their experiences with the mayor.

The following day, Laura Fink, a co-founder of the firm Fink & Hernandez Consulting and Filner's former deputy campaign manager, told KPBS that in 2005, then-U.S. Rep. Filner patted her "posterior" and made a crude joke. She demanded an apology, she told KPBS, but was afraid to publicize what happened because she did not want to put her career in jeopardy.

The next day, Morgan Rose, a school psychiatrist in the San Diego School District, said Filner had tried to kiss her in a restaurant in 2009.

Finally, on the evening of July 25, four women conducted a joint interview on KPBS testifying to similar experiences with Filner. Sharon Bernie Cloward, president of the San Diego Port Tenants Association; Patti Rosco, a businesswoman; Veronica Froman, a former Navy rear admiral who served as chief operating officer in former San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders' administration; and Joyce Gattas, dean of the College of Professional Studies and Fine Arts at San Diego State University -- all maintained they had received unwanted sexual advances from Mayor Filner.

Like Jackson, Roscoe said Filner had put her in his infamous headlock.

"He would come in and try to kiss me on the lips and I'd have to squirm to get away," Roscoe told KPBS. "And just as recently as a few months ago this happened. I turned and he just slobbered down my chin."

Allred told ABC News that Jackson was currently her only client, but that her firm had spoken with some of the women who had come forward, as well as women who had not come forward. She would not specify which women she had spoken with.

"We don't know if there is an end in sight to the number of women coming forward," she said. "No one knows how many more will come forward."

Mayor Filner's Response

The mayor was contrite when the initial allegations emerged. He released both a written and an oral statement, the latter of which he posted on YouTube, admitting that he had intimidated women and claiming he needed to work on his behavior.

On Monday, he released another statement after Jackson filed suit, maintaining that he was "saddened" by the allegations, but that he did "not believe these claims are valid."

"That is why due process is so important. I intend to defend myself vigorously, and I know that justice will prevail," he said.

Until today's news conference, Filner's office did not issue any other official statements as the other women came forward, and his office could not be reached for comment.

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