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Former Communications Director Sues Filner For Harassment

Aired 7/22/13 on KPBS Midday Edition.

Mark Sauer, Senior Editor, KPBS News

Amita Sharma, KPBS Investigative Reporter

Sandhya Dirks, KPBS Metro Reporter

Claire Trageser, KPBS News Reporter


Aired 7/22/13 on KPBS News.

Irene McCormack Jackson, former communications director for San Diego Mayor Bob Filner, sues mayor for sexual harassment.

Citing specific examples of lewd behavior by the mayor, Irene McCormack Jackson -- former communications director for San Diego Mayor Bob Filner -- has filed a suit against the mayor and the city for sexual harassment.

McCormack Jackson is represented by noted women's-rights attorney Gloria Allred. Together they described repeated specific instances of sexual harassment and possible criminal behavior by Filner since McCormack Jackson went to work at City Hall in January.

Special Feature Read the Backstory

All of the accusations, statements and apologies from the key players in the developing story about allegations of sexual harassment in Mayor Bob Filner's office and calls from former mayoral supporters for his resignation.

Reading in a clear and powerful voice from a prepared text, McCormack Jackson said the day she was named Filner's communications director -- a job for which she took a $50,000 per year pay cut -- was one of the proudest of her career. But the past six months proved to be the worst period of her working life, she said. (She earned $125,000 annually at the city.)

The mayor treated women working for him as either sexual objects or idiots, said McCormack Jackson, who did not take reporters' questions.

She described Filner's penchant for putting her into a headlock and pulling her about, while whispering sexually explicit comments in her ear. She said the mayor often told her he loved her, wanted to kiss her, told her he wanted to see her naked and that she should work without panties at City Hall; and that he wanted to "consummate their relationship."

"I saw him place his hands where they did not belong on numerous women,'' she said.

McCormack Jackson said the only relationship she ever had with Filner was a working relationship, and that she never gave the mayor any reason to believe otherwise.

Filner responded in a statement Monday evening, saying he was saddened by the charges.

"Once due process is allowed to unfold,  I am certain there will be a better understanding of this situation," the statement said. “I remain committed to the people of San Diego and the work that needs to be done.  My dreams and plans for moving this City to new heights are continuing.  I humbly ask that through this vicious storm of controversy, people take a moment and temper their rush to judgment. I do not believe these claims are valid.  That is why due process is so important.  I intend to defend myself vigorously and I know that justice will prevail.”

Filner initially apologized and acknowledged he had a problem, but later demanded an investigation and his due process rights.

Allred, who has represented several women in high-profile cases, is well-known nationally for her many TV appearances commenting on notable legal cases and issues, most often involving women's rights issues.

She said the suit filed today in Superior Court seeks unspecified damages for the anguish suffered by McCormack Jackson. But she seemed to suggest that if Filner agrees to resign, the lawsuit may be dropped.

Allred, true to her bare-knuckles style, cited Filner's video-taped apology after the scandal broke in which he said he was "clearly doing something wrong" and "I need help." Allred then directed a series of mocking rhetorical questions at the mayor, including:

Do you need help to know that putting a woman in a headlock and make vile, disgusting comments is wrong? Are you so out of control you don't realize how your behavior affects women? Sitting on the Veterans' Affairs Committee in Congress, were you awake during the years of hearings regarding sexual abuse of women in the military?

Allred said she and her client await word from the mayor and his personal attorney regarding their lawsuit and allegations.

City Attorney Jan Goldsmith said this afternoon that Filner's office has been cooperative since the scandal broke nearly two weeks ago and that the mayor has agreed not to meet with women on city business.

Goldsmith also said that since the city is being sued along with Filner, the City Council may hold a hearing seeking to counter-sue the mayor, and thus indemnify taxpayers against any legal fees that might accrue. In any case, Goldsmith said, his office has a conflict of interest representing the city in this matter and outside counsel would need to be hired.

The City Attorney also said the city charter should be revisited since a mayor can only be removed from office through an onerous recall process led by citizens.

Several of Filner's top staffers have resigned recently. Walt Ekard, a well-regarded former county of San Diego chief administrative officer, took over as the city's chief operating officer on an interim basis last week.

KPBS' Maureen Cavanaugh, Patty Lane and Peggy Pico contributed to this Midday and Evening Edition segment


Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | July 22, 2013 at 12:03 p.m. ― 3 years ago

I believe the right wingers will not be criticizing All Red on this one.

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | July 22, 2013 at 12:25 p.m. ― 3 years ago

How about Ms. Allred file the lawsuit, THEN hold her press conference.

The citizens of this town are tired of bloviating who only want to talk and who take no action (Gonzales, Briggs).

I will give Allred credit however, if she has a client willing to come on record publicly and directly accuse the mayor of sexual harassment, then is a hell of a lot better of a lawyer than Gonzales and Briggs are.

Now, finally, and HOPEFULLY - due process can start.

It's a shame that an LA tabloid lawyer had to step-in to get the ball rolling because our local legal and political hacks are too incompetent.

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Avatar for user 'llk'

llk | July 22, 2013 at 12:48 p.m. ― 3 years ago

She filed it. Now she's holding a press conference.

Irene McCormack is the woman that Bob suggested work for him without her panties on.

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | July 22, 2013 at 12:53 p.m. ― 3 years ago

Good to know, and I commend Ms. McCormack for having the courage to come forward.

This will help us move on to the next chapter.

The Frye-Gonzales-Briggs-Gloria approach would have left us in a quagmire indefinitely.

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Avatar for user 'DeLaRick'

DeLaRick | July 22, 2013 at 2:04 p.m. ― 3 years ago

"The Frye-Gonzales-Briggs-Gloria approach would have left us in a quagmire indefinitely."

Agreed. After listening to Gloria Allred frame the issue during her press conference, I can only hope she offers a Groupon discount for her next public speaking seminar to the four hacks listed above. That's how it's done in the big leagues whether people like her or not.

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Avatar for user 'jb1111'

jb1111 | July 22, 2013 at 2:28 p.m. ― 3 years ago

Good by, Filner.

You cost the city Millions.

You are nothing but Bad Rubbish.

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Avatar for user 'RLA'

RLA | July 22, 2013 at 2:39 p.m. ― 3 years ago

So much for fixing the potholes! Millions of $$$$$$$$$$$$ for the lawyers, none for city services. I guess making lawyers rich is the progressive way, congratulations to the voters of San Diego (well the 51% anyway). Anyone worried how Marco and Corey will be get their share from the city coffers?

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Avatar for user 'philosopher3000'

philosopher3000 | July 22, 2013 at 4:28 p.m. ― 3 years ago

Finally, one of the anonymous steps out into the light. Now, why did a professional woman, making hundreds of grand, put up with such unwanted behavilor for 6 MONTHS! Why didn't she report that behavior to HR immediately? Was she just trying to get ahead in her carrier using her femine form to get ahead? Or was there some other reason an intelligent and accomplished woman would put up with such behavior for so long?

Now, we go to court and find out what she said and he said, and if it ammounts to anything. Glad we finally have someone with the courage to stand behind their accusations, and bring suit. Too bad it we had to destroy the Mayor using gossip in the press, before finally getting some due process.

Now, THIS is how you deal with sexual harassment using due process:

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Avatar for user 'DieselMan'

DieselMan | July 22, 2013 at 4:50 p.m. ― 3 years ago

Once again I am embarrassed for our city.

I am not connected with any political party and put my trust in Filner over DeMaio.

The recall should get going at once and he should be replaced by someone that respects employees.

Resign Filner!

- The Diesel Man

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | July 22, 2013 at 5:03 p.m. ― 3 years ago

Maybe Filner will hire Mark Geragos now.

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Avatar for user 'RLA'

RLA | July 22, 2013 at 5:18 p.m. ― 3 years ago

Good idea Duck. Dueling celebrity lawyers could guarantee San Diego hours of daily national news coverage. Think of the hotel and restaurant revenues as all networks converge on San Diego for the circus.

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Avatar for user 'RockDog'

RockDog | July 22, 2013 at 5:29 p.m. ― 3 years ago

I doubt it goes to court. It will settle out of court, with no terms publicly disclosed. But now that there us a real practiced attorney, Allred, in the process it's going to cost. SD doesn't negotiate very well.

How about the City Attorney today. His press conference talk of financial indemnification from the mayor sounded like hogwash designed to motivate the recall bunch.

The ball is now in Filner's court.

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Avatar for user 'MalcolmSanDiego'

MalcolmSanDiego | July 22, 2013 at 7:58 p.m. ― 3 years ago

Filner should take off his panties, put on boxer shorts, and resign!

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Avatar for user 'JoeWeil'

JoeWeil | July 22, 2013 at 10:12 p.m. ― 3 years ago

The only thing I have to say is

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Avatar for user 'Chip'

Chip | July 23, 2013 at 9:05 a.m. ― 3 years ago

Irene McCormack Jackson is a true hero.
Hopefully, more women will now file formal complaints.
All of Filner's responses so far have been self-incriminating (monster inside, etc.) or parroting "due process". It would seem that he has already dug the first couple of feet of his grave! Here's a Best of Bob "Huggy" Filner's recent babbling

Allred is already making him look like a dangerous, criminal fool. Game on, Bob!

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Avatar for user 'HarryStreet'

HarryStreet | July 23, 2013 at 9:25 a.m. ― 3 years ago

I want justice to prevail, but not at my expense. Suing the city of San Diego means we foot the bill for Jackson and others to become millionaires if they win. And make no mistake, their case is a long-shot. Without credible evidence the jury will be forced to rely on he-said, she-said stories. I believe Filner is probably guilty, but I don't believe we, the taxpayers, should be financially liable for a city official's personal behavior. We have a right to expect city workers to behave professionally at all times. If they deviate from this behavior, then they should be financially liable for it. Leave us out of it.

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Avatar for user 'bwaderunner'

bwaderunner | July 23, 2013 at 9:28 a.m. ― 3 years ago

Doug Manchester; didn't this accuser used to work for him?
A PR person no less and one who might know how to bang a drum?
As to costing this city millions I might agree but not yet. The bigger mistakes/corruption were those in the pension scandals. Just look to Detroit for examples.
Is Filner guilty? We'll find out.
Until then these are only opinions and not quite facts.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | July 23, 2013 at 12:19 p.m. ― 3 years ago

1) Why did it take McCormick-Jackson so long to step forward???

2) She left her previous Port job to become Filner's communications director with a $50,000 cut!!! My guess is that they knew each other pretty well long before!

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Avatar for user 'MarineRoom'

MarineRoom | July 23, 2013 at 3:32 p.m. ― 3 years ago

Bwade, I agree that have not yet heard any pertinent facts.

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Avatar for user 'PrdParent'

PrdParent | July 23, 2013 at 3:50 p.m. ― 3 years ago

The really disappointing thing here is that we all knew this about Filner BEFORE we elected him our Mayor. His assault of a woman 6 years ago is part of the public record, and he was even fined for it. Furthermore, his treatment of women who work for him has been nationally known for YEARS. And we still chose him.

I think the entire City of San Diego owes Ms. Jackson, and a lot more women, an apology.

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Avatar for user 'DonWood'

DonWood | July 23, 2013 at 6:12 p.m. ― 3 years ago

Why would a very successful women with a very well paying job as an executive with the Port District take a $50,000 a year pay cut to go to work for someone she apparently didn't know very well? And after getting the job, why would she maneuver to become his personal minder? I've never been to a public event Filner attended when Irene wasn't hovering at his elbow. If she found his behavior so awful, why did she work so hard to spend all her working hours with him, before she quit and filed a lawsuit? If we could get straight answers to these questions, things might seem clearer. Until then, something smells awfully fishy about this whole episode. Some basic journalism seems to be in order, instead of jumping onto the media bandwagon.

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Avatar for user 'CaliforniaDefender'

CaliforniaDefender | July 24, 2013 at 2:50 p.m. ― 3 years ago

Even wonder why women are reluctant to come forward with sexual abuse claims?

Just read the posts from Philosopher3000, Missionaccomplished, and DonWood who are attacking the victims with accusations like:

"Was she just trying to get ahead in her carrier using her femine form?" -Philosopher3000

"Why did a professional woman, making hundreds of grand, put up with such unwanted behavilor for 6 MONTHS!" -Philosopher3000

"She left her previous Port job to become Filner's communications director with a $50,000 cut!!!" -Missionaccomplished

"And after getting the job, why would she maneuver to become his personal minder?" -DonWood

Maybe they are reluctant because of people like each of you. You blame women first and assume it must be THEIR fault for the harassment. Is this the new face of the Democratic Party? Sure looks that way.

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