SAN DIEGO (CNS) - Local officials weighed in Thursday following calls for Mayor Bob Filner to step down amid sexual harassment allegations, and the apology he subsequently made admitting he had failed to respect women and had "diminished the office" of mayor.
Ex-supporters, such as former Councilwoman Donna Frye and lawyers Marco Gonzalez and Cory Briggs, sent letters urging Filner to resign and repeated that stance in a mid-morning news conference, although they declined to release details of the claims made against the mayor.
Filner later issued an apology via DVD, stating in part, "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."
He said he sought help to change his behavior and would participate in sexual harassment training.
Councilwoman Lorie Zapf said she was deeply troubled by Filner's behavior and asked "that the mayor do the honorable thing and step down."
City Councilman Scott Sherman also called for Filner's resignation, calling the allegations "the latest and most disturbing of a series of scandals that make him incapable of leading our city."
Councilwoman Myrtle Cole, a former police officer, said she was shocked that the mayor admitted to inappropriate behavior, but seeking help was the right step.
"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 the allegations.
"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."
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.
Former Mayor Jerry Sanders said the "recent events at City Hall are unfortunate and we hope these women are not further victimized."
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.
San Diego County Democratic Party Chair Francine Busby said such conduct is particularly damaging when the public trust is involved, but apologizing was a step in the right direction.
"Like all San Diegans, I am deeply disappointed by Mayor Filner's conduct toward women. Now that he has taken responsibility for his actions, I will hold him to his promises," Busby said. "I ask the people of San Diego, who elected Bob Filner to be our mayor, to join me today and give him an opportunity to live up to his word."
Councilwoman Marti Emerald commended Filner "for the courage to admit he has made mistakes and for his commitment to change his behavior."
"I hope the people of San Diego will support Mayor Filner in his effort to make a change and continue to make a positive difference in our city," Emerald said.