SAN DIEGO - Amid calls for him to resign over allegations of sexual harassment, Mayor Bob Filner admitted Thursday he had mistreated women in his office and apologized for his behavior, saying he had "diminished the office" of mayor.
In a statement released on DVD by his office, Filner said:
"I begin today by apologizing to you. I have diminished the office to which you elected me.
The charges made at today's news conference are serious. When a friend like Donna Frye is compelled to call for my resignation, I'm clearly doing something wrong. I have reached into my heart and soul and realized I must and will change my behavior.
As someone who has spent a lifetime fighting for equality for all people, I am embarrassed to admit that I have failed to fully respect the women who work for me and with me, and that at times I have intimidated them.
It's a good thing that behavior that would have been tolerated in the past is being called out in this generation for what it is: inappropriate and wrong.
I am also humbled to admit that I need help. I have begun to work with professionals to make changes in my behavior and approach. In addition, my staff and I will participate in sexual harassment training provided by the city. Please know that I fully understand that only I am the one that can make these changes.
If my behavior doesn't change, I cannot succeed in leading our city.
In the next few days, I will be reaching out to those who now work in the Mayor's Office or have previously worked for me - both men and women - to personally apologize for my behavior.
I will also be announcing fundamental changes within the Mayor's Office designed to promote a new spirit of cooperation, respect and effectiveness.
You have every right to be disappointed in me. I only ask that you give me an opportunity to prove I am capable of change, so that the vision I have for our city's future can be realized.
Filner's statement came hours after three of his former supporters held a news conference reiterating their call for the mayor to step down.
"When I received credible first-hand evidence of more than one woman being sexually harassed, I could not not act," former Councilwoman Donna Frye said, her voice cracking at times. "I believe what they have told me and they need to know that they are not alone."
Frye, who until April served as Filner's director of open government, was joined at the news conference by attorneys Marco Gonzalez and Cory Briggs, each of whom sent letters to the mayor this week requesting he immediately resign.
Gonzalez, known for lawsuits challenging coastal fireworks, declined to provide details of the alleged harassment -- including the number of victims, their identities or the specific allegations made.
"At this point, I think what's best for the community is for the mayor to hear our pleas, to respond appropriately, and that appropriate response in our opinion today is to step down and let us move forward with the healing and let these women continue to go on with their lives without having to be twice victimized," Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez said via Twitter that he, Frye and Briggs would respond to Filner's statement Friday, after consulting with clients and others.
Briggs, who sued to stop the convention center expansion and renewal of the city's Tourism Marketing District, said in a letter faxed to the mayor's office that "long-term damage" to the principles of open government would be caused if Filner remained in office.
"At this point, I cannot maintain my credibility in the community as an advocate for good government while pretending that your office has not been irreversibly compromised," Briggs wrote, adding his "request" was made reluctantly, since he shares the mayor's views on what's wrong with the city and the ways to fix the problems.
Local officials from both inside and outside City Hall pointed to the seriousness of the allegations.
Councilwoman Myrtle Cole issued this statement:
"As a former police officer, I am very aware of the seriousness of these sexual harassment allegations.
"I am very shocked and disappointed to hear the Mayor admit to his inappropriate behavior, and seeking help is the right first step.
"And as the Mayor has indicated, if his behavior doesn't change or further erodes the ability of the City to conduct the people's business, then he should resign."
Councilman Mark Kersey said it was disturbing that Filner did not deny any of the allegations made against him.
"Our immediate focus should be on the safety of our workers. No employee should feel intimidated or vulnerable on the job," Kersey said. "We have to ensure that the city of San Diego sets the highest possible standards for professionalism in the workplace. Any and all claims must be immediately investigated by the city."
Rep. Scott Peters, D-San Diego, said "serious and grievous accusations of harassment" were conveyed to him by people he knew and trusted, although the facts were not yet fully known.
"However, if the allegations are true, this behavior is inexcusable, shows terrible disregard for women, the voters and the thousands of people who worked tirelessly to support the mayor's candidacy," Peters said.
Former Mayor Jerry Sanders said the "recent events at City Hall are unfortunate and we hope these women are not further victimized."
City Council President Todd Gloria said people should be able to work in an environment free of harassment and intimidation.
"I offer my assurance to any person who may have been harassed that their claims will not be discounted should they come forward," Gloria said. "All applicable administrative and legal protocols will be followed by the city."
Click here to view all statements in response to Filner's apology
The 70-year-old mayor, who was elected last year after serving 10 terms in Congress, has had a tumultuous few weeks.
Briggs said he filed lawsuits to nullify City Council approval of a waiver of municipal policy on setbacks for a developer who donated $100,000 to the city, which was later returned, and to force the release of an unredacted transcript of a closed session between Filner, the City Council and the City Attorney's Office, in which the mayor berated one of the city's top lawyers and ordered his removal by police.
It was reported last week that federal investigators plan to investigate the mayor's office's about-face on the setback policy waiver for Sunroad Enterprises, which is constructing apartment buildings in Kearny Mesa.
Filner blamed the donation on ex-Deputy Chief of Staff Allen Jones, who recently resigned. Jones told reporters he left his job because of the way the mayor treats his employees.
On Monday, Filner's 48-year-old fiancee announced that she had broken off their engagement. Bronwyn Ingram said she would no longer pursue projects to help San Diego's homeless.
Mayor's full statement (PDF): http://bit.ly/15kDfHV
Watch his video statement below (mobile users: http://bit.ly/12pVBZG):