Former Communications Director Sues Filner For Harassment
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Coming up the first woman to go public with sexual harassment allegations against Mayor Bob Filner holds a news conference. It is 12:26 and you are listening to KPBS Midday Edition. This is KPBS Midday Edition, I am Maureen Cavanaugh. A fresh round of news conferences downtown today focuses on sexual harassment allegations against San Diego Mayor Bob Filner. First to San Diego city Council members were held a news conference to address what they call the instability in the Mayor's office in light of the allegations against the mayor and we are awaiting a news conference where we expect a woman to go public with her allegations against Mayor Filner. The news conference in downtown San Diego has been called by high-profile attorney Gloria Allred who represents the woman. We expect to bring that news conference to you in the next several minutes. Joining me now is KPBS news editor Mark Sauer. Mark, welcome, MARK SAUER: Good to be here. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Also on the phone with us is KPBS news reporter. Claire Trageser. Hi Claire. CLAIRE TRAGESER: Hi, Maureen. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And you're at the news conference with Todd Gloria and Councilman Faulkner. Tell us what happened. CLAIRE TRAGESER: So city Council president Todd Gloria and Councilman Kevin Faulkner sort of had a mixed message where they were going to say city business will continue but it's hindered by the sexual harassment allegations. Todd Gloria says there's a shroud of shame over the mayor's office but the Council is still working and has not lost focus on city business at hand. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Did they elaborate on the instability that they mentioned in the press release for this news conference? What kind of instability are they talking about the mayor's office? CLAIRE TRAGESER: That's right but they said that the mayor hasn't been communicating with them or the city attorney and they are hearing that he's not returning phone calls from people in Washington. They feel like businesses can see the instability of the San Diego city government and so that's also affecting city business as well. MARK SAUER: Claire, did they renewed their call for the mayor to resign today? CLAIRE TRAGESER: Yes they definitely both renewed their call for the mayor to resign several times while reiterating that city Council businesses going forward. They said they will be working on police retention and infrastructure committee and water rate policies but Todd Gloria said any progress is made in spite of mayor folder, not because of him and one of them interesting things they said is the city Council can summon any city official or department head before the council to answer to answer questions hello? MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Yes we are still here CLAIRE TRAGESER: A reporter asked if that was going to be about sexual-harassment allegations of they might be before the mayor to answer that but he's taught Gloria said no they might bring him to talk about his parents trip or soccer development permit for the mayor's nominees for the pension board. MARK SAUER: Some other things swirling around besides of sexual-harassment allegations? CLAIRE TRAGESER: Yeah they said they're going to leave those harassment allegations to the city attorney but it looks like they will be stepping up efforts to investigate some of the other things that the mayor has done in the past month. CLAIRE TRAGESER: Now that press conference we are talking about West Towne Civic Center Plaza of course upstairs at the building on the 11th floor is the mayor's office. Any word from Bob Filner? I know you're going to try to get a response here in a little bit but have we seen anything from the mayor today? CLAIRE TRAGESER: No the mayor did not come to this press conference as he's come to a couple press conferences in the past that were about him. I'm to go check if he's in the office if he will respond and another thing to note is there weren't the level of protesters that we saw in rallies last week there were maybe two or three people holding people signs and that was about it. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Claire did either Todd Gloria or Kevin Faulkner explain why they thought it was important for them to hold this news conference today? CLAIRE TRAGESER: They said that they wanted to assure San Diego's that the government is still functioning that things are still being worked on and going forward but I think there were also taking the opportunity again to point out that things are being entered and what they say by what's happening so a chance to reiterate calls for the mayor to resign and say that city business will not be able to continue but at the same time saying that city businesses still continuing. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: One last question before you clear before we let you go for a minute or two was there any question from reporters today about what the city Council might do if they have any power to intervene in this and perhaps get the mayor to step down CLAIRE TRAGESER: One thing that Kevin Faulkner said is that the Council may pass a resolution calling for the mayor to step down, but beyond that I don't think there is any direct action that the Council can take that would force the mayor to resign his seat. Like Todd Gloria said they can bring him before to ask questions about some of these other issues, but again, they are leaving the sexual harassment allegations to the city attorney. MARK SAUER: That resolution would be nonbinding as we've reported on KPBS.org and television and radio there is no real legislative solution here. There is either a recall done by a citizens group or the mayor resigns himself. Those are really the only two options for him to leave office, right? CLAIRE TRAGESER: Right and even if the Council passes a resolution which it seems like it could because I think the six members of the city Council have individually called on the mayor to resign if they pass the resolution it would just be another sign, not an actual action that the mayor would have to follow. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Thank you, we've been speaking with KPBS reporter Claire Trageser, talking about a news conference held but just about a half an hour ago from San Diego city Council president Todd Gloria and councilmember Kevin Faulkner. There's another news conference is coming up scheduled to begin any moment now it should be already underway and waiting for this news conference to take place is KPBS reporter Sandhya Dirks. Sandhya, welcome. SANDHYA DIRKS: Hi, how are you doing? MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Great. Can you give us an idea of what's going on, what is it, the Westin hotel? SANDHYA DIRKS: It's the Westin hotel just a few blocks from the Mayor's office and City Hall. Basically what we are getting told there's a lot of reporters waiting around and we are waiting to see what happens. There are three microphones set up and Gloria Allred, the noted attorney for women's rights in cases similar to this is going to be here and we are hearing that a woman is going to come forward. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: This woman has been characterized as a city employee? Do we know anything more than that? SANDHYA DIRKS: We know nothing. We are just waiting for the actual news to happen and everyone is waiting with bated breath with a very small room with a lot of cameras in it. MARK SAUER: Imagine three microphones are mostly speculation of the third person is SANDHYA DIRKS: We're thinking it's another attorney from Gloria Allred's firm but everybody is a little bit taken aback by that. There was a moment of sort of panic in the room but we are thinking just one woman and two attorneys. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now I notice of course we are a little late to start it was to start at 1230 and they are talking about a lawsuit. Is there any indication they will be passing out copies of the actual lawsuit which presumably would have a number of details in it. SANDHYA DIRKS: I wish I could tell you and I will tell you as soon as we know but for now we are really in the dark waiting for them to come speak to us and bring a little bit of light to all of these accusations and speculations which the city had lived under the cover of for a couple weeks now. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now Sandyha, can you give us a little bit idea of what the situation looks like. Any idea why they chose this venue? There's a lot of interest obviously in this particular in story. Why this venue if it's not absolutely crowded with present cameras and so forth? SANDHYA DIRKS: There's been very careful about checking Ids making sure it's only press there I think they wanted to keep it controlled. It's also really close to City Hall so it definitely is in the city where all this action is taking place so it ties into the sea Street business that has been so under clouds everything that's going on in the mayor's office. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And when we last heard about someone who might have allegations against the mayor of sexual-harassment having retained an attorney, that attorney was Marco Gonzales. Do we have any idea, I know you are very much in the dark, Sandyha, but is this the same woman, is this another woman? What is the sense that you are getting? SANDHYA DIRKS: You know it is quite possible it is the same woman that was mentioned as one of the three women whose examples they give. Marco Gonzales is an environmental lawyer, Gloria Allred specializes in these cases it would make sense they could call in someone like this for something this high-profile. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Okay what we are going to do now is take a short break and we will interrupt the break if the news conference: starts but we will take a short break and when we return we will continue, watching and waiting for this news conference with Gloria Allred to begin in downtown San Diego. You are listening to KPBS. You are listening to KPBS Midday Edition and I'm Maureen Cavanaugh here with KPBS Senior News Editor Mark Sauer. We now join a news conference downtown San Diego with attorney Gloria Allred. GLORIA ALLRED: Ms. McCormack Jackson will be making a statement, then I will be happy to take a few questions. Irene will not be answering any questions. This morning we filed a lawsuit for sexual harassment against Mayor Robert Filner and the city of San Diego. On behalf of our client Irene McCormack Jackson. Many of you may know Ms. McCormack Jackson. She was a journalist for 25 years in San Diego and then became vice president for public policy for the Port of San Diego. Because of her outstanding background and experience, she was appointed by Mayor Filner asked medications director and part of his core team. She began working for Mayor Filner in January 2013. There have been a number of press articles referring to Mayor Filner and suggesting that he asked a woman to work without her panties. The woman was not named. Irene is the woman. The day that Ms. McCormack was appointed as communications director, she was bursting with the combination of pride and gratification. To have an opportunity to support the vision that Mayor Filner had set forth during his campaign. She was honored to support what she believed would be an historic effort to improve the lives of the citizens of San Diego. She was willing to sacrifice a $50,000 pay cut in order to take this position because her experience and expertise particularly in the port area was of vital importance to the administration and that she would play an important role. Simply put, she believed in Mayor Filner's vision. She believed in Mayor Filner. At the press conference in which he introduced Ms. McCormack Jackson along with the other members of his core team Mayor Filner said that quote, they'll know what they're getting into.”. Irene thought that that meant that she would have to work hard and do everything she could to support the Mayor's program of change. Had she known what she was really getting into, she would have run in the other direction as fast and as far as she could. And I would never have given up her secure job at the port. Irene soon learned that what she was really getting into when she accepted the position as communications director was that in order to do her job, that she would have to endure the Filner headlock while he made degrading and humiliating sexual comments to her she also learned that her job required her to suffer Mayor Filner telling her that she should work without her panties on, that he wanted to see her naked, that he could not wait to consummate their relationship and that he wanted to marry her. Irene was shocked. Because they have never had a relationship other than work. And she never gave Mayor Filner any reason to think otherwise. Nonetheless it appeared that Mayor Filner felt that he had the right or the privilege to demand kisses. To drag her around in a headlock while whispering sexual comments in her ear. To continually tell her how much he was in love with her. To repeatedly ask her when they were going to be together. And consummate their relationship. And to request that she not wear panties at work. He apparently thought that he had the right to tell her that he wanted to see her naked. Because that is what he told her. On one occasion, when he tried to kiss her. And she told him to leave her office immediately. The mayor responded that he was the mayor. And that he could be wherever he wanted whenever he wanted. He told her that he was infatuated with her. In June, it became apparent to Irene that Mayor Filner did not have any intention to acknowledge or change his inappropriate sexual behavior. Under those circumstances, she felt forced to resign her position asked medications director for the Mayor. Our complaint alleges that Mayor Filner engaged in sexual harassment. We are seeking damages based on the sexual harassment that Mayor Filner directed at Irene. And the sexual harassment of others. That she witnessed. All of which created an intimidating and hostile work environment for her. We are seeking damages in an amount according to proof at trial. The Mayor in addition to our lawsuit, here is my message to you. On July 11, 2013 he publicly stated, quote I need help.”. You said: I'm clearly doing something wrong,”. Yes, Mr. Mayor, you most certainly have done quote, something wrong”. Not only to Irene, but too many women. When you stated quote I need help” you were unclear as to why you need help or what type of help that you need. Do you need help in order to know that it is inappropriate to place women in headlock's while making file and discussing sexual comments to them? Do you need help to know that you should not sexually harass women who work for you or anyone else, for that matter? Are you so out of control or so out of touch that you do not realize how your behavior affects working women? You served 19 years in the United States House of Representatives and for years as chairman of the House committee on Veterans Affairs. From 2007 two 2011. During that time there were countless stories and issues in the news about sexual harassment. Of females in the military. Did that help you to know that sexual harassment was wrong and also against the law? Were you paying attention during the sexual harassment scandals involving United States Sen. Bob Packwood and Herman Cain and Clarence Thomas? Were you awake during any of those scandals? What help do you think that you need in order for you to stop treating women as pieces of meat? Irene deserved your respect. Instead of being placed in the Filner headlock and attract around like a rag doll while you whispered sexual comments to her, what help will change your thinking so that you will no longer believe that it is acceptable behavior to ask Irene to work without her panties on? No, Mr. Mayor, it is not you, but your victims that need help. Because of the harm that you have caused to them. That is why this lawsuit, our lawsuit has been filed this morning in San Diego County superior court. Also, the people of San Diego need help. They thought they elected a leader of a progressive administration. What they got was you. Do you really believe that you would have been elected if you have stood before the electorate prior to the election and pathetically told them that you needed help to change your ways? The citizens of San Diego deserve more. Not less. They deserve a Mayor who stands for something, not someone who claims that at age 70 years old, he still needs help in order to discern right from wrong. And ask those that elected him to stand by while he gets help. And tries to figure out what he did wrong. No, Mr. Mayor, you do not need help. What you need is to resign immediately. You have disgraced yourself and the office that you hold. And now it is my honor and pleasure to present Irene McCormack Jackson. IRENE McCORMACK-JACKSONN: Okay. The day that Bob Filner introduced me as his new communications director for the city of San Diego was one of the proudest days of my career. I was thrilled to be given the opportunity to be part of a progressive administration dedicated to improving the lives of the citizens of San Diego. The team that Mayor Filner had put together had many women and I felt that I would be respected for my contributions. I gladly took a pay cut of $50,000 a year because I believed in what the mayor stood for and I wanted to be part of it. However the past six months turned out to be the worst time of my entire working life. I had to work and do my job in an atmosphere where women were viewed by Bob Filner as sexual objects or stupid idiots. I saw him place his hands where they did not belong on numerous women. I was placed in the Filner headlock and moved around as a rag doll while he whispered sexual comments in my ear. We did not have a relationship other than work. That is all I wanted and I never gave him any reason to think otherwise. Nonetheless, he thought that it was acceptable behavior to regularly make sexual comments that were crude and disgusting. I've had a 25 year career in journalism. I was an executive for nine years at the Port of San Diego serving in my last role there as vice president of public policy. The day that Mr. Alan Jones resigned as deputy chief of staff was the turning point for me in the Mayor's office. I knew then that Mayor Filner would not change. He refused to listen to someone who he had known for 35 years. And who told him explicitly during a senior staff meeting that his behavior with women was terrible and possibly illegal. Mayor Filner left it off. After I spoke up and supported Mr. Jones and went to leave the room, Mayor Filner challenged me to give him one example of how his behavior toward me was improper. I pointed out that he had asked me to work without my underwear on. He had no comeback. His behavior made me feel ashamed, frightened and violated. I wanted to keep what I experienced it in and compartmentalized. I felt that I could tough it out. However, my family and closest friends noticed my anxiety and how different and uncommunicative I had become while I was working for the Mayor. I'm coming forward today to lay the blame at the feet of the person responsible, Mayor Bob Filner. He is not fit to be Mayor of our great city. He is not fit to hold any public office. A man who lacks character makes a mockery of his ideas. He is it is time for him to take responsibility for the harm he caused me and for the damage he caused so many others who believed in him, supported him and elected him. GLORIA ALLRED: All right, I will be happy to take a few questions. We do have copies of the lawsuit on the way as well. NEW SPEAKER: Have you been in contact with any of the potential victims? GLORIA ALLRED: I have no comment on that. Obviously, though, you know, we are interested in hearing from any other persons who may be victims of the Mayor. NEW SPEAKER: Mrs. Allred, are there any criminal complaints filed as well? GLORIA ALLRED: You would have to ask the city attorney or the District Attorney's Office that question. NEW SPEAKER: Is your client one of the three alleged victims we have already heard about? GLORIA ALLRED: I can't tell you who you have or have not heard about. I'm sorry, you have a question? NEW SPEAKER: Yeah I was wondering, you said you want the mayor to resign, a lot of people have said that, you said he would not. If the mayor resigns, does the lawsuit go away, or does this thing stand? GLORIA ALLRED: We are looking forward to hearing whether the mayor accepts our challenge to resign. And at this time, we are planning to continue with our lawsuit to injustice for Irene. NEW SPEAKER: The Mayor has said that he would like to come forward to his alleged victims and apologize. Is your client going to allow that to happen? GLORIA ALLRED: We will also look forward to hearing from his attorney. And then we will discuss what would be an appropriate resolution of our lawsuit if that is something that the mayor is interested in resolving. However, apologies alone will not take care of this injustice. NEW SPEAKER: Has he apologized? GLORIA ALLRED: Well, we know there was a reported apology. However, we don't feel that there has been the outcome that we believe is justified under the circumstances. NEW SPEAKER: And what is that outcome? GLORIA ALLRED: He needs to resign. NEW SPEAKER: Did your client ever complain to anyone at the city, managers, anyone in the supervisorial position? GLORIA ALLRED: I don't have any comment on that. NEW SPEAKER: Was your client aware of any reputation regarding the mayor prior to taking the job? GLORIA ALLRED: No. NEW SPEAKER: Have you named the city as part of the suit? GLORIA ALLRED: Yes. I'm sorry I cannot hear your question. NEW SPEAKER: (Inaudible)? GLORIA ALLRED: I have not been in contact with the Mayor's attorney at this time. NEW SPEAKER: Has your client filed a claim with the city before filing the lawsuit? GLORIA ALLRED: No. NEW SPEAKER: Why is that? GLORIA ALLRED: We found the administrative complaint with the Department of fair employment and that is, and we received, we obtained a right to sue letter which was a prerequisite in order to file a lawsuit alleging sexual harassment. In the state of California. So, we have met that requirement, we have the right to sue letter, it is attached as an exhibit to our lawsuit and that is all that was necessary. Filing a governmental claim was not required under these circumstances. Only the DFEH claim and then obtaining the right to sue. NEW SPEAKER: In your opinion, did this behavior rise to the level of a misdemeanor sexual battery? Has your client filed a complaint with any law enforcement agency? GLORIA ALLRED: I have no comment on that except to say that I have not been in touch with a law enforcement agency. NEW SPEAKER: Is your current plan to go (inaudible)? GLORIA ALLRED: We don't have any comment on that at this time. NEW SPEAKER: You talk about seeking damages to further expand the comment GLORIA ALLRED: It will be according to proof at trial so we do not place a number on what that would be and that is just the policy of our law firm when we file a lawsuit. NEW SPEAKER: After the accusations came about before we know who the alleged victims were did the mayor ever try to reach out to your client? GLORIA ALLRED: You have to ask the Mayor. NEW SPEAKER: It is a hard thing to do, but why are you coming out--- GLORIA ALLRED: When you say reach out, he's obviously reached out in a way that was sexual and inappropriate for you to know how to answer NEW SPEAKER: We may have guessed who the Mayor victims could've been so I don't know if the mayor reached out to (inaudible)? GLORIA ALLRED: I just don't have any comment. NEW SPEAKER: It's a hard thing to do why is she coming out now? GLORIA ALLRED: The lawsuit is a public document and she wanted to speak out and to have the truth be known as she knows it, as she has lifted. As she sees it. And this is the time for her to do it. NEW SPEAKER: How soon after she took the job did the behavior on the Mayor's part begin? GLORIA ALLRED: Within a very short period of time. NEW SPEAKER: Gloria, is this all he said she said or is there going to be physical evidence? GLORIA ALLRED: You know we don't have any comment on what the evidence will be. Having said that, I will say that Irene is known by many of you to be an extremely credible person. And we will let everyone judge the credibility of Mayor Filner in this matter. NEW SPEAKER: Is there enough support for women at high levels like this in situations like this worker there need to be changes in the law. GLORIA ALLRED: I will just finish the answer to the prior question by saying that for some of what we stated there were witnesses. NEW SPEAKER: Thank you. GLORIA ALLRED: I'm sorry now what was your question, sir? NEW SPEAKER: Is there enough support for women at the highest levels of government to report situations like this, does there need to be more laws to protect them? GLORIA ALLRED: I think there needs to be more enforcement of the law and more serious consequences for those who take advantage of their position of power. And who abuse that position. Of trust. In our law firm we've been practicing for 38 years, primarily in the area of sexual harassment. We act, and many other plaintiffs lawyers act as private attorney generals to enforce the laws. Which were passed for the protection of our clients, for protection of employees, such as Irene. Sexual harassment is a barrier. It is an obstacle. It is an interference to the enjoyment of equal employment opportunity and that is why it is so serious. And that is why we filed this lawsuit. Because, it does interfere with a female employees and in some cases e-mail employees, we found those cases as well, enjoyment of the right to equal employment opportunity particular NEW SPEAKER: Ms. Allred, you say the employee from (inaudible) Mayor Filner your reaction covering harassment cases? GLORIA ALLRED: If that were all that was needed we would not be here today. NEW SPEAKER: Is it your expectation that now that Irene is pretty much broken the ice by coming forward that other women are going to do the same? Power in numbers? GLORIA ALLRED: Well, we certainly hope and expect that other women who have been victims, if they believe that they have been victims, will come forward to us or to anyone they think is appropriate and share what has happened to them either as witnesses for Irene, or in order to assert and vindicate their own rights. We think that silence only favors the wrong doer. And not the victim, so we would urge them at least to share their information with us if they are so inclined it would be completely confidential of course. NEW SPEAKER: Is Irene still working for the city? GLORIA ALLRED: Yeah she is, but not in her position as communications director for the mayor. NEW SPEAKER: Gloria, has Irene express to you how difficult it has been to come here and basically make this public ordeal in front of these cameras and all these reporters? GLORIA ALLRED: It has been a difficult decision, but she's very brave and really ironic in the situation. And understands that it is important that you do so. And, she hopes that that will help the mayor to make the right decision. NEW SPEAKER: Is the city a codefendant? GLORIA ALLRED: Yes. NEW SPEAKER: Has (inaudible) been involved in this case we have specific sources? GLORIA ALLRED: Very recently. And last week. And of course, she contacted us, God bless you, as thousands of others have. NEW SPEAKER: Other than the city and the Mayor is anybody else named? GLORIA ALLRED: No. NEW SPEAKER: What is the lawsuit asking for? GLORIA ALLRED: Damages according to proof at trial. NEW SPEAKER: That would be how much money? GLORIA ALLRED: According to proof at trial, in other words no numbers provided at this time it would be according to the proof that we put on at trial if and as when there is a trail if it is not resolved prior to trial. NEW SPEAKER: Has your client giving any sort of indication on how many women could be talking about? As alleged victims and the Mayor's office? GLORIA ALLRED: I don't have the number. But it's more than Irene. NEW SPEAKER: With some of the witnesses, are they victims or are they co-conspirators? GLORIA ALLRED: Yeah, I really can't comment on how to characterize the other victims, whether they would have legal claims or not have legal claims, I can't comment on that at this time. NEW SPEAKER: Earlier you said there were some people that witnessed--- GLORIA ALLRED: There are witnesses. NEW SPEAKER: Are those people also victims? GLORIA ALLRED: I'm not going to be able to engage in a legal conclusion at this time. NEW SPEAKER: Gloria we are just trying to keep tabs on what's been going on. Previously we heard about to non-employees. At a press conference. And then we heard about one employee, your client was previously represented by Marco Gonzalez, is that right? GLORIA ALLRED: I have no comment except to say that we represent her and we are the only ones represent her at this time. NEW SPEAKER: When you made the comment that there was one other person in addition to her are you talking about a city employee? GLORIA ALLRED: I have no comment on the status of that other person, and I'm unable to provide any information about that other person. Or persons. NEW SPEAKER: Gloria, can you comment on, Dick Mayor Filner actually kiss Irene, or just put her in a headlock? GLORIA ALLRED: I think we stated in the statement what he did. I would prefer to refer to our statement and to her statement. NEW SPEAKER: Gloria, were there--- MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: You've been listening to a news conference live in downtown San Diego featuring attorney Gloria Allred and the woman who has now come forward to actually press, say that she's been sexually harassed by Mayor Bob Filner. Turned out to be Irene McCormack, a former communications director for City Hall and Gloria Allred has said, distinctly Irene is the woman. MARK SAUER: She is the woman, and this is Mark Sauer, Senior news editor here at KPBS and Irene McCormack Jackson is well known as Gloria Allred said I worked with her many years at the Union Tribune reporters have gotten to know her because she worked at the port for nine years and was medication instructor for Mayor Filner here and these charges I regret for her statement we heard last week was introduced to Filner headlock into the lexicon and it appears according to Irene McCormack Jackson that she was the victim of the headlock, he would grab her, whispering, she said lewd thinks in her ears, try to kiss her, take her about the room, she witnessed other women undergoing similar sexual harassment and others witnessed her being victimized in this way. So, very powerful stuff and we now have a name and of course a face to give (inaudible) that had been anonymous until now. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: A news conference to say that a lawsuit has been filed this morning on behalf of Irene McCormack a sexual harassment suit against the city of San Diego and Mayor Bob Filner and in a statement Irene McCormack said she is calling on the mayor to resign, “he is not fit to be Mayor of our great city” another quote, “he makes a mockery of his great ideas”. And Gloria Allred said they are interested in hearing from other victims and they are hoping that the mayor accepts the challenge to resign. MARK SAUER: We're going to have of course Maureen continuing coverage of this, KPBS.org has a folder for comprehensive news of this story which KPBS broke about 10 days ago we have more information this afternoon on all things considered and this evening on KPBS television. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And now we join Fresh Air in progress.
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.
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.