Seattle Mayor Ed Murray says he is not resigning following claims by four men that he sexually abused them as teenagers.
Murray made the announcement Monday, saying his resignation would create a destabilizing transition that would likely bring city business to a halt.
In May, he said he wouldn't seek re-election after the allegations surfaced but pledged to serve out his term through the end of this year. However Murray, who denies the allegations, is facing increasing pressure to step down after it was reported Sunday by The Seattle Times that an Oregon child-welfare investigator concluded 30 years ago that he had sexually abused his foster son.
Murray's former foster son is one of the men who publicly accused him of sexual abuse. Murray said the child-welfare investigator didn't interview him at the time. He said the allegations were fully investigated and prosecutors never brought charges.
Still, the newspaper's latest revelations prompted one city council member, Lorena González, to issue a statement urging Murray to consider stepping down. She called the additional information about the Oregon case "incredibly serious and alarming."
Four other council members, Bruce Harrell, Lisa Herbold, Debora Juarez and Sally Bagshaw said there’s no proof Murray willfully violated his duties as mayor, which is one of the grounds for impeachment.
"At this point, I would just like to give the mayor his space to work through this and for us to acknowledge our responsibility which is to do the best we can for the people of our city and do it in a way that’s both honorable and complies with the charter," Bagshaw said.
Yet it was clear during a city council briefing on Monday that the council members have begun to familiarize themselves with the city's impeachment procedure, even if they seem reluctant at this point to take that step.
Seattle's city charter outlines the steps the council can take to remove the mayor. According to Carlton Seu, an assistant city attorney for Seattle, a majority of council members would have to vote to initiate the impeachment process.
Then, the mayor would have the right to defend himself with the help of an attorney. If six of the nine council members voted to impeach, he’d have to leave office, Seu said. Grounds for removing the mayor include willful violation of duty or the commission of an offense involving "moral turpitude." Seu said there’s state case law defining moral turpitude.
"In general, moral turpitude means something that is more than just the technical violation of law, but something that according to community standards violates a sense of morality for the community," Seu said.
If the mayor were impeached, Harrell, who is president of the council, would be offered the chance to fill his post. If Harrell turned that down, council members would choose another one from their ranks to fill in as mayor.