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Los Angeles - San Diego Mayor Bob Filner will resign as part of a deal he reached with municipal officials over a sexual harassment lawsuit brought against him and the city by a former aide, the Los Angeles Times and other media reported on Thursday.
But a high-profile attorney representing the plaintiff in the case said her client was not a party to the deal and that she opposed reported terms of a settlement calling for Filner to leave office in exchange for city assistance with his legal expenses.
“It is not appropriate for the city of San Diego to provide a gift of public funds to a sexual harasser to help him fight the victim of the lawsuit we filed,” attorney Gloria Allred told a news conference in Los Angeles
“While we strongly support the mayor's resignation, we would hope that whatever resolution has been reached between the city and the mayor does not include the payment of any of the mayor's legal fees,” she said.
Filner, who has kept a low profile in recent weeks, has come under mounting pressure to resign as mayor of California's second-largest city amid a hail of sexual harassment allegations. He had for weeks resisted calls to step aside, while saying he would begin behavioural counselling.
The 70-year-old US congressman was elected in November as San Diego's first Democratic mayor in two decades. If he resigns, a special election for a successor would be held within 90 days.
City Attorney Jan Goldsmith announced a deal late on Wednesday but said the terms were being kept under wraps until after it had been presented in closed session to the City Council on Friday.
The proposed settlement capped three days of talks that variously included the city, Filner's lawyers and Allred, who represents the mayor's former press secretary, Irene McCormack Jackson, in her harassment lawsuit.
Allred said she was physically present during the first day of negotiations, mediated by a retired federal judge, but was absent on Tuesday and Wednesday. She said that mediation between her client and Filner's lawyers was “ongoing.”
Filner's removal was widely reported to have been on the table as part of a potential resolution in the settlement talks, with the mayor using the prospect of resignation as a bargaining chip to obtain city help in covering his legal costs.
The city last month filed its own suit against Filner seeking to recover any damages it might incur in Jackson's case. The City Council also voted to deny a request from the mayor's private lawyers to pick up any of his attorney fees.
The Los Angeles Times, citing unnamed sources familiar with the talks, reported on Thursday that Filner would step down as part of the settlement in return for the city paying some, if not all, of his share of any damages awarded in the suit. The local NBC television affiliate carried a similar report.
When asked Wednesday night whether the deal would require Filner to resign, a source close to an individual involved in the talks told Reuters: “I think it's fair to say that looks like it's in the cards.”
The mayor's lawyers said on Thursday in a statement that a “tentative agreement” had been reached in the mediation but declined to disclose the terms.
The Times reported that the mayor was seen on Wednesday night loading boxes into a sport utility vehicle after bidding farewell to his staff and cleaning out his office.
A 43-second video posted to YouTube on Wednesday night shows Filner climbing into the passenger seat of his SUV outside City Hall, with several cardboard boxes visible as a member of his security detail gets in the back seat. The video was attributed to a staffer for City Councilman Scott Sherman.
Since Jackson filed her suit last month, 17 more women have come forward to accuse Filner of groping, forced kisses or making other unwanted advances.
Among them were a retired US Navy admiral, a college dean, a licensed vocational nurse, several business women and two military veterans who said he harassed them at a meeting for women who had been raped while serving in the armed forces.
Nearly every elected official in San Diego from both parties has urged him to step down, including all nine members of City Council. The mayor has apologised for what he acknowledged was a pattern of disrespectful and intimidating behaviour toward women.
On August 5, he entered behaviour-modification therapy at an undisclosed clinic. His lawyers said he left the clinic after several days but was taking additional time off last week before planning to return to work this week. - Reuters