SAN DIEGO (AP) – Bob Filner ended his brief but tumultuous tenure as mayor Friday amid allegations that he sexually harassed women, making no public appearances on a final day that came one week after a defiant farewell speech in which the onetime civil rights activist called himself the victim of a “lynch mob.”
Interim Mayor Todd Gloria said Filner’s last act as mayor was to halt a controversial remodeling of a neighborhood Jack in the Box restaurant. Gloria immediately overturned the decision, saying it exposed the city to litigation.
The former 10-term congressman kept a low profile on last final day, ceding media attention to 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.
Employees in the City Hall lobby said they didn’t see the 70-year-old mayor on his last day. 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.
At a news conference, 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 women 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. Shannon 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.
Gloria, a Democrat, 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.
Gloria inspected his new office and made brief comments to reporters as he left City Hall. He didn’t speak with Filner on Friday.
“It’s a new day in San Diego,” Gloria said.
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.
Those who know Filner say he might have been more easily exposed as the leader of the nation’s eighth-largest city than as a congressman farther from the spotlight. His behavior also might 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,” attorney Cory Briggs said. “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.”
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.