In a video statement released Thursday, San Diego Mayor Bob Filner apologized over allegations he sexually harassed women at his workplace but did not respond to calls to resign made by friends and colleagues.
"As someone who has spent a lifetime fighting for equality for all people, 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," Filner said in the video.
Filner announced that he and his staff would participate in sexual harassment training and that he would reach out to past and current staff, both men and women, to apologize for his behavior. He gave no indication in the video that he planned to step down, instead noting that he would soon be announcing "fundamental changes within the Mayor's Office designed to promote a new spirit of cooperation, respect and effectiveness."
Former Councilwoman Donna Frye, a prominent supporter of the mayor, had earlier called for him to step down, saying that the allegations he sexually harassed women are based on victims' firsthand accounts, though she refused to divulge specifics. She choked up as she said it was one of the most difficult decisions she has made.
"The charges made at today's news conference are serious," Filner said in the video. "When a friend like Donna Frye is compelled to call for my resignation, I'm clearly doing something wrong, and I've reached into my heart and soul. I must and will change my behavior."
Frye said more than one woman told her about being harassed but she didn't elaborate on who they are or say how many, or whether the incidents occurred while Filner was mayor.
"I believe what they have told me, and they need to know that they are not alone," Frye said at an earlier news conference. "There are people who support and care about them."
Frye, a fellow Democrat who is endeared by Filner's liberal base, said she wouldn't run for office if the mayor stepped down.
Filner initially remained silent on Wednesday after the allegations emerged.
"There are no allegations to address," Filner told KNSD-TV, which caught up with him in an elevator of his downtown apartment building.
The scandal erupted during a bad spell for Filner, 70, who suffered two high-profile staff defections last month. On Monday, Filner's fiance, Bronwyn Ingram, announced in an email to her team of volunteers that she was breaking their engagement.
"I am extremely disappointed and heartbroken, both for what Team First Lady could have accomplished, and for me, personally; however, this is the only action I can take given the devolvement of our personal relationship," Ingram wrote.
Marco Gonzalez, an environmental attorney who has worked closely with Frye on many issues, had also urged Filner to step down.
"At our recent meeting I was of the impression that you understood the gravity of the circumstances surrounding your treatment of staff, and in particular, the women who work for you in the Office of the Mayor," he wrote the mayor.
Filner was elected to a four-year term in November as San Diego's first Democratic mayor in 20 years after 10 terms in Congress.
Frye was Filner's director of open government for several months until resigning for a position at Californians Aware, a group that advocates for open government. KPBS, San Diego radio and television station, said she made clear in an interview that she was not a victim.
Frye lost a write-in campaign for mayor in 2004 only because several thousand voters who wrote her name on the ballot failed to darken the adjoining ovals. If those ballots were counted, she would have unseated Republican Dick Murphy, who later resigned amid a scandal over city finances.
San Diego County Democratic Party Chair Francine Busby said she wanted more details before weighing in on the allegations against Filner.
"Key questions remain to be answered both by Mayor Filner and those leveling these charges," she said.
Scott Peters, a Democratic congressman, also said he wanted more specifics.
"If these accusations are proven true, Mayor Filner will face real, tough and serious consequences," he said.