SAN DIEGO – Mayor Bob Filner’s former communication manager said today that her boss made “crude and disgusting” comments to her, was told she should work without wearing panties, and witnessed other women being sexually harassed by San Diego’s top leader.
In an explosive news conference from the Westin Hotel downtown, celebrity attorney Gloria Allred introduced her client, Irene McCormack Jackson, who alleges that Mayor Filner sexually harassed her. Allred said that they filed a lawsuit [SEE BELOW] against Mayor Filner and the City of San Diego on Monday morning in San Diego County Superior Court.
Allred said they demand that Mayor Filner resign, but noted that the sexual-harassment lawsuit will go forward regardless. She said they are seeking “damages according to proof at trial,” meaning that they are not asking for a specific amount of money.
McCormack has held high-profile jobs in San Diego for decades, including a 25-year stint as a local journalist and as a vice president with the Port of San Diego. She described her appointment by Filner as communications manager as the “best day of my life” because she believed in his message. She said she took a $50,000 pay cut to work for the mayor because she was convinced that the mayor would bring positive change to the city.
She said she thought she was going to work for a “progressive administration dedicated to improving the lives of San Diegans,” but instead found she was employed by a boss who had little regard for women even though he had appointed a sizable group of women to his team. McCormack described the six months on the job as the "worst time of her life."
Known as an expert on civil-rights law, Allred minced no words in describing the alleged sexual harassment, describing both verbal and physical abuse. She referred to previous news conferences where former City Councilmember Donna Frye, a longtime Filner supporter, talked about an alleged victim who had been told she would work better if she was not hampered by the wearing of panties.
“Irene is that woman,” Allred said.
The celebrity attorney said McCormack had to endure the so-called “Filner headlock” in which the mayor allegedly grabs a woman around the neck and whispers things in her ear. McCormack also talked about the "Filner headlock" and said he made lewd comments to her.
“Bob Filner wanted her to work without her panties. He wanted to see her naked. He wanted to consummate their relationship, and he said he wanted to marry her,” Allred said.
At the time, the 70-year-old Filner was engaged to Bronwyn Ingram, 48, who broke off her engagement to the mayor just before the sexual harassment allegations became public.
McCormack stressed at the news conference that she did not have a personal relationship with Mayor Filner, and that his sexual advances were unwanted. She said she pushed him away on more than one occasion when he demanded kisses.
She said she asked him to leave her office one time and he warned her against that. “I am the mayor,” McCormack said Filner told her. “I can do what I want.”
Mayor Filner “was told at a senior staff meeting that his behavior toward women was wrong, and possibly illegal,” McCormack said, noting that the mayor “laughed it off.”
“He is not fit to be mayor of our great city,” she said. “He is not fit to hold any public office.”
Mayor Filner has released a DVD statement in which he acknowledges that he needs help to change his behavior, without actually explaining what he meant by that.
"I begin today by apologizing to you. I have diminished the office to which you elected me. I have reached into my heart and soul and realize I must and will change my behavior," Filner said in the DVD.
"As someone who has spent a lifetime fighting for equality for all people, I am embarrassed to admit that I have failed to fully respect the women who work for me and with me, and that at times I have intimidated them,” he said.
"I am also humbled to admit that I need help. I have begun to work with professionals to make changes in my behavior and approach. In addition, my staff and I will participate in sexual harassment training provided by the city. Please know that I fully understand that only I am the one who can make these changes," Filner said in the DVD.
Allred addressed the DVD statement at the news conference today, saying that at age 70 the mayor should know better. She pointed to his years in Congress and at the helm of the House panel on veterans issues that looked into numerous sexual harassment scandals. She said he should know better, and she scoffed at his explanations in the DVD.
"You are treating women as a piece of meat."