SEATTLE — Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, beset over the past five months by sex abuse allegations, is resigning, bringing an ignoble end to a lengthy political career in which he championed gay rights and better pay for workers.
His announcement that he plans to resign came after The Seattle Times reported that a fifth man — a cousin from Long Island — had accused Murray of molesting him decades ago. Though he has vehemently denied all of the accusations against him, Murray, a Democrat, had already decided not to seek re-election.
“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,” he said in a statement Tuesday.
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.
The news left the city waiting to hear who would fulfill the remaining months in his term.
The latest allegations came from Joseph Dyer, the son of Murray’s first cousin, Maryellen Sottile. Dyer told the newspaper in a story published Tuesday that he was 13 and Murray was in his early 20s when Murray came to live with Dyer’s family in Medford 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.
Efforts by The Associated Press to reach Dyer were not immediately successful.
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 that he would not resign, but eventually did so as pressure mounted Tuesday.
Former U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan, who is vying to succeed him, called for Murray to step down and removed his endorsement from her campaign website. Her rival, urban planner Cary Moon, reiterated her own call for Murray’s resignation, which she first made months ago.
“Mayor Murray is doing the right thing by stepping down,” Gov. Jay Inslee said in a statement. “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. If he declines, the council would appoint someone else, possibly Councilman Tim Burgess, who is retiring this year.
Before being elected mayor in 2013, Murray, 62, was a longtime 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 worked 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.
As mayor, Murray recently fought to boost funding to address Seattle’s homelessness crisis.
Before Dyer, four men had accused Murray of sexually abusing them. 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. The mayor claimed the dropping of the lawsuit as vindication.
Another man who accused Murray, his former foster son Jeff Simpson, had first approached Seattle media with the allegations in 2008, when Murray was a state legislator. 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.