SAN DIEGO — Mayor Bob Filner agreed Friday to resign in return for the city's help defending him against claims he groped, kissed and made lewd comments to women, allegations that shook the city and turned the former 10-term congressman into a national punch line.
Filner was regretful and defiant during a City Council meeting as he explained "the toughest decision of my life." He apologized to his accusers but insisted he was innocent of sexual harassment and said he was the victim of a "lynch mob."
"The city should not have to go through this, and my own personal failures were responsible, and I apologize to the city," Filner said after the council voted 7-0 on a deal that ended a political stalemate after 17 women publicly accused him of harassment.
"To all the women that I've offended, I had no intention to be offensive, to violate any physical or emotional space," he said. "I was trying to establish personal relationships, but the combination of awkwardness and hubris led to behavior that I think many found offensive."
The city will pay Filner's legal fees in a joint defense of a lawsuit filed by the mayor's former communications director and pay for any settlement costs assessed against the mayor except for punitive damages, said City Attorney Jan Goldsmith. The city would also pay up to $98,000 if Filner wants to hire his own attorney.
Goldsmith said the city was obligated to provide his legal defense no matter what.
The 70-year-old Filner, a liberal Democrat, served 20 years in Congress before becoming mayor of the nation's eighth-largest city last year. His resignation takes effect Aug. 30.
Some of Filner's closest political allies and all nine members of the council called on him to quit.
Backed by a sometimes boisterous crowd of supporters on Friday, he challenged the City Council to pursue a laundry list of his policy initiatives, ranging from addressing climate change to bringing the Olympic Games to the region.
He warned of dire consequences if his priorities are ignored by well-entrenched power brokers.