San Diego mayor keeps low profile on final day
SAN DIEGO – Mayor Bob Filner's abbreviated tenure as mayor ended Friday but the sexual harassment allegations that drove him from office promise to follow him into retirement.
The only scheduled event marking his final day was a mock celebration by accusers who gave him several parting gifts, including a mirror that attorney Gloria Allred said he can look at when asking who's to blame for his resignation.
The former 10-term congressman had no public appearances scheduled. His spokeswoman, Lena Lewis, didn't respond to messages seeking comment on his whereabouts.
Employees in the City Hall lobby said they hadn't seen the 70-year-old mayor. An office receptionist had no comment.
Before the scandal, Filner was true to his reputation as a workaholic. Followers adopted a Twitter hashtag – #filnereverywhere – to chronicle his nonstop pace riding a bicycle to school with children, crashing the podium at the city attorney's news conference to denounce the speaker's positions, and marching to protest violence against women.
The city's first Democratic leader in 20 years turned into a virtual no-show after allegations surfaced last month that he sexually harassed women. The saga culminated in a defiant farewell speech to the City Council last week in which the onetime civil rights activist said he was the innocent victim of a "lynch mob."
At the mock celebration, Allred displayed a farewell card that said she looked forward to seeing Filner at a deposition in a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by former communications director Irene McCormack Jackson – the first of nearly 20 woman to identify herself as a target of the mayor's unwanted advances. She is the only one who has sued Filner.
Allred was flanked by two other Filner accusers.
"I was a victim and now I am a survivor," said Peggy Shannon, 67, who volunteers at the senior citizen information desk in the City Hall lobby and accused Filner of kissing her on the lips, repeatedly asking her on dates, and boasting of his sexual prowess.
City Council President Todd Gloria, a Democrat who becomes interim mayor, said he would interview Filner's staff and hoped to keep most in their jobs. On Thursday, he named McCormack, as she is known professionally, to be his communications director.
"The days of sliding backward are over," said Gloria, who is weighing whether to run for mayor in a Nov. 19 special election to replace Filner.
The California attorney general's office has launched a criminal investigation of Filner, and the San Diego County Sheriff's Department has been interviewing his accusers and will deliver its findings to the attorney general's office for possible prosecution
Filner leaves office as questions linger about how someone who acknowledged mistreating women for many years – but denied sexual harassing them – could have survived for so long in politics.
Only he and perhaps a small circle of advisers know how his behavior went undetected, and they weren't talking.
Those who know Filner say he may have been more easily exposed as the leader of the nation's eighth-largest city than as a congressman further from the spotlight. His behavior also may have deteriorated after being elected mayor.
"There was a flood of community members who now felt welcome at City Hall, who felt welcome in the mayor's office after years, if not decades, of being shut out," said attorney Cory Briggs. "The speculation on my part ... is that there were an awful lot of people who wanted an audience with the mayor and that provided him with an opportunity."