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San Diego considers special election to replace scandal-tainted mayor

San Diego Mayor Bob Filner steps away from the podium after addressing a special meeting of the San Diego city council following his resigna
San Diego Mayor Bob Filner steps away from the podium after addressing a special meeting of the San Diego city council following his resigna

By Marty Graham

SAN DIEGO (Reuters) - The San Diego City Council on Wednesday will consider holding a special election in November to replace Mayor Bob Filner, who has announced his resignation as part of a settlement with the city over a sexual harassment lawsuit.

The nine-member council will vote on a proposal to hold the election on November 19, according to its agenda. The council, which is required to set a special election within 90 days of Filner stepping down, was expected to approve it as a formality.

Filner, a former Democratic congressman who was elected mayor of California's second-largest city last year, announced on Friday that he would step down at the end of this week as part of a settlement with the city over a lawsuit filed by his former press secretary, Irene McCormack Jackson.

Jackson is among 18 women who accuse the 70-year-old politician of making unwanted sexual advances toward them, but is so far the only one to sue him.

Parks department employee Stacy McKenzie filed a $500,000 battery and sexual harassment claim with the city on Monday in what her attorney has said was a precursor to a lawsuit. McKenzie said the mayor put her in a head lock and rubbed her breasts at a public event in April.

The city earlier 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.

But as part of the deal under which Filner agreed to resign, the city will join in his legal defense, according to an outline of the arrangement from the city attorney's office, which will be responsible for representing the mayor.

Already, six potential candidates have filed papers stating their intention to run for mayor in the special election, although no formal nomination documents can be submitted until the election date is set.

Of those six, former state assemblyman Nathan Fletcher is the only one with any history in public office. He ran for mayor against Filner and two other candidates in 2012, but lost in the primary.

The special election was expected to cost between $3 million and $6 million, and could result in a runoff if no candidate receives the majority of the votes, according to city documents.

In announcing his resignation on Friday, an emotional Filner apologized to San Diego residents but said no sexual harassment allegations had been proven against him.

"In a lynch mob mentality, rumors become allegations, allegations become facts, facts become evidence of sexual harassment which have led to demands for my resignation and recall," he said.

Nearly every elected official in San Diego from both parties had urged him to step down, including all nine members of the City Council.

(Writing and additional reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Leslie Adler)

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