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Seattle’s mayor resigns after 5th sex abuse claim emerges

FILE - This June 14, 2017 file photo Seattle Mayor Ed Murray takes a question at a news conference at City Hall in Seattle. Murray announced his resignation, Tuesday, Sept. 12 after a fifth man came forward and accused him of sexual abuse decades ago. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)

SEATTLE (NEWS 1130) — Seattle Mayor Ed Murray announced his resignation Tuesday after a fifth man — one of his cousins — came forward and accused him of sexual abuse decades ago.

Murray, who had already announced that he would not seek a second term even as he denied wrongdoing, said he would step down effective 5 p.m. Wednesday.

“While the allegations against me are not true, it is important that my personal issues do not affect the ability of our City government to conduct the public’s business,” the Democrat said in a statement.

He apologized to his staff and to the city for “this painful situation,” and said it had become clear that his resignation was best for the city.

Murray made the announcement after The Seattle Times reported on the new allegations by Joseph Dyer, the son of Murray’s first cousin, Maryellen Sottile.

Four men had previously accused Murray of sexually abusing them. One, Delvonn Heckard, sued the mayor in April, saying Murray had paid him for sex when Heckard was a teen.

Heckard subsequently dropped the case, saying he would refile it after Murray was out of office. At the time, the mayor claimed the dropping of the lawsuit as vindication.

Another man who accused Murray, Jeff Simpson, approached Seattle media with the allegations in 2008, when Murray was a state legislator. Murray had been Simpson’s foster parent in Oregon.

The Times decided at the time not to write about the allegations because details could not be verified.

This year, Oregon’s Department of Human Services discovered old files that included a child-welfare investigator’s conclusion that Murray sexually abused Simpson in the early 1980s.

Dyer told the newspaper he was 13 and that Murray was in his early 20s when Murray came to live with Dyer’s family in Medford, New York, in 1975. The two shared a bedroom, and Murray repeatedly molested him over the course of a year, Dyer said.

“There would be times when I would fake sleeping because I didn’t want him touching me,” Dyer said.

Dyer said the molestation stopped only after Murray was accused of abuse by a boy in a Catholic group home where Murray worked. Dyer told the newspaper his uncle persuaded the group home not to pursue charges as long as Murray left.

Murray, who is gay, has not faced criminal charges. He denied abusing Dyer and blamed the allegation on resentment between their families.

He initially told the Times he would not resign, but calls for his resignation intensified Tuesday after the story was published.

Former U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan, who is vying to replace him, called for him to step down. Her rival, urban planner Cary Moon, had already done so.

“Mayor Murray is doing the right thing by stepping down,” Gov. Jay Inslee said in a statement after Murray announced his resignation. “He has done good things for Seattle and his resignation will allow the city to move forward.”

City Council President Bruce Harrell will become mayor upon Murray’s resignation and has five days to decide whether to fill out the remainder of his term, Murray said in his statement.

Before being elected mayor in 2013, Murray, 62, was a long-time state lawmaker who led the campaign to legalize same-sex marriage in Washington state. As mayor he pushed to raise the city’s minimum hourly wage to $15.

Murray grew up in working class neighborhoods in and around Seattle as one of seven children in an Irish Catholic family and became one of the state’s most prominent political figures.

As a young man, he considered joining the priesthood and spent a year at a seminary in 1976 before studying sociology at the University of Portland, a private Catholic institution.

Murray ended up working as a paralegal with public defender lawyers in Portland before returning to Seattle and joining the vanguard of the gay rights movement in the 1980s, serving as campaign manager for Cal Anderson, a Seattle state senator who was the state’s first openly gay member.

Anderson, Murray’s mentor, died in 1995. Murray failed in his bid to win Anderson’s seat, but he was appointed to fill the legislative seat of the state representative who won the state senate campaign.

During his 18 years as a state lawmaker, Murray was the prime sponsor of Washington’s gay marriage law, spearheaded an effort to protect LGBTQ youth in public schools and led the state’s push to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation.

The 2013 mayoral race was a bruising campaign that focused on whether Murray would be more liberal and effective than incumbent Mike McGinn, a fellow Democrat.

Murray kept his promise about the minimum wage increase. The higher minimum wage was phased in over time. Murray also recently fought to boost funding to address Seattle’s homelessness crisis.

After Trump was elected last fall, Murray became a frequent critic. He announced that Seattle was suing over Trump’s executive order that threatens to withhold federal funds from communities that refuse to cooperate with efforts to find and deport immigrants in the country illegally.

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