Ex-Filner Staffer Glad Sexual Harassment Legal Battle Is Over
Tuesday, February 11, 2014
Photo by Christopher Maue / KPBS
Ex-San Diego Mayor Bob Filner's former top spokeswoman, who became the first woman to publicly accuse him of sexual harassment, said Tuesday that the settlement of her lawsuit allows her to move on with her life.
Irene McCormack Jackson, 57, spoke to reporters a day after the City Council approved a $250,000 settlement in her lawsuit.
"It wasn't one incident that triggered in me something at the time, but watching what the whole office went through - not just the women, but the men. And the hostile work environment, the screaming, the yelling. The horrific way people were treated in that office, I think all of that combined and I just couldn't stand around and watch this happen anymore. So I did what I could do," McCormack Jackson said.
Attorney Gloria Allred said the settlement resolves all aspects of the case filed by her client against Filner and the city of San Diego.
"This settlement is a vindication of Irene's claims and it is an outstanding result for her,'' Allred said. "The law in California imposes strict liability on an employer if an employee can prove that she was the victim of sexual harassment. Irene did have evidence of her allegations.''
Allred said she believed a jury would have awarded her client -- who sought $1.5 million in her lawsuit -- a larger amount. But for McCormack Jackson, whom her attorney called a "profile in courage,'' it was more important for the city to put the case to rest.
"Irene was ready to go on with her life without the constant reminders in litigation of Mayor Filner and his unwanted and unwelcome sexual advances toward her,'' Allred said.
McCormack Jackson alleged the then-mayor told her she should work without her panties on, that he wanted to see her naked, and that he was eager to "consummate'' their relationship. She said he also demanded kisses and put his arm around her and dragged her along in a "Filner headlock'' while making sexual comments.
McCormack Jackson resigned after it had become apparent that Filner would not acknowledge or change his behavior, Allred said.
It was mediation over her lawsuit that led the then-70-year-old mayor to resign last August. The City Attorney's Office agreed to defend Filner in exchange for his agreement to step down.
Filner later pleaded guilty to to one felony count of false imprisonment and two misdemeanor counts of battery and was sentenced in December to three years probation, including three months of home confinement.
City Attorney Jan Goldsmith said Filner agreed to the deal on Friday. As part of the agreement that led to Filner's resignation, the former mayor will not have to pay any money to McCormack Jackson, who has been on unpaid leave.
Under the settlement, McCormack Jackson's employment with the city will end April 1.
The former reporter said she's unsure of what she'll do next, but that it will include writing. She also thanked those who have supported her.
"The emotional toll from the time I joined the mayor's office until today was more than I had reckoned,'' McCormack Jackson said. "But I've been buoyed by the support of family, friends and people I'd met along the way.''
Cases filed by two other women who sued Filner over his alleged misconduct are still pending.
Stacy McKenzie, a city employee, contends the ex-mayor grabbed her from behind, put her in a headlock and rubbed her breasts at an event at a city park.
Michelle Tyler was seeking help for a friend, a Marine veteran, when Filner demanded a personal and sexual relationship, according to her lawsuit.
To view PDF documents, Download Acrobat Reader.